For many of us, our daily job responsibilities don’t end when we leave the office. With the prevalence of smart phones, tablets, laptops and wireless connectivity almost everywhere, we are expected to be on call at almost all hours of the day and night, even for issues that aren’t time-sensitive.
We are constantly thinking about work, whether it’s reasoning through a difficult problem, thinking about how to discuss certain issues with coworkers or clients, or just making mental notes of everything we hope to accomplish the next day or the next week.
All of this might mean that we’re diligent employees or ambitious go-getters, but it also means we are putting unnecessary stress on our bodies and our relationships. When we’re too wrapped up in work, we can’t be mentally present at home with our families and friends. And stress can wreak havoc on our bodies. It has been proven to make our bodies more susceptible to everything from high blood pressure to the common cold.
Unwinding is hard, but here are 7 suggestions that might make it a little easier:
1. Make a to-do list before you leave the office
I am so guilty of leaving my mind at the office, even after my body is out the door. Whether I am at dinner with my boyfriend, tapping it back in spin class or watching Game of Thrones, in my head I am busy creating and reviewing to-do lists for work. I have found that the best way to avoid being preoccupied with work on nights and weekends is to spend 5 minutes writing a to-do list before you leave the office each night. This way, you can be sure you won’t forget anything because it’s all written down. Also, this will help you be more present whenever you’re not at the office. Instead of focusing on what you have to do tomorrow, you can enjoy being in the moment today.
2. Don’t neglect your social life
It’s so easy to get caught-up in the grind and work punishing hours, especially when you’re just starting in your career and are anxious to prove yourself. I have a single girlfriend who works at a small law firm and has been on one date in the last two years. It’s not because she isn’t interested in dating, and it’s not like she has any trouble finding a date. It’s because she simply does not have the time to spend on socializing, and at the end of a crushing work week, she doesn’t have the energy, either. I know we’re all trying to do the best we can at work, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of our social lives. Make a point of scheduling drinks and dates (even if you’re already hitched) in your calendar and don’t bail unless you absolutely have to.
3. Wine is always the answer
Any time we post a list about anything, it’s safe to assume wine is on it (“10 Things to do on Vacation!”, “How to Survive the Date From Hell!”, “How to Deal With A Difficult Boss!”, you get the point). For the purposes of this list, having a glass (or 4) of wine is a great way to unwind after work. If you’re feeling like treating yo’ self a little extra, drink that wine in a bubble bath or the jacuzzi. If you need more convincing, this post by Joanna Geiger Smith perfectly explains why having a glass of wine is the perfect way to chill out when life becomes too crazy.
This is my favorite way to de-stress after work, and I also think it’s the most important. Buuuut, it’s also the hardest. The easiest way for me to do this is to leave my phone, computer and ipad in another room, even if it’s just for a couple hours. I have found that most work phone calls and emails can wait until the next day, unless you’re in the middle of a major and urgent work crisis, in which case you should ignore everything on this list. In a perfect world, we would unplug from the moment we leave the office until we return, however I realize this is simply impossible for a lot of people (myself included). So instead, schedule at least hour a two per night and commit to ditching your screens. Recent studies have shown that the blue light emitted from our electronic devices can significantly affect our sleep patterns, so for the greatest benefit, schedule your screen-free time immediately before you hit the hay.
Admittedly, the last thing I want to do after a stressful day is go to the f*cking gym. I’m tired and cranky and starving after work, so the thought of changing into gym clothes and hauling my hungry ass to a gym/yoga studio/SoulCycle sounds absolutely horrid. However, once I finally start working out, I always feel invigorated and stress-free, even if it’s only temporary. Plus, going to the gym always makes me feel good about myself, no matter how tired I am. I have never said “man, I wish I hadn’t gone to the gym today,” but I can’t even count how many times I have said “I should have gone to the gym today” (usually while I am shoveling spoonfuls of ice cream down my throat).
6. Take a walk
If the thought of working out after work seems just-too-terrible-to-bear, then try taking a walk around the neighborhood. A lot of us spend most of our day propped up on an uncomfortable office chair, so it will feel great to get out and stretch your legs in the evening. Walking, especially in nature (as opposed to metropolitan cities), has been proven to relieve stress and improve your mood. Personally, I love just being outdoors in the evening, hearing the wind through the trees and smelling all of the wonderful smells. Bonus points if you take your dog with you.
7. Escape reality (temporarily, of course) with some mindless fun
Binge a few episodes of your favorite guilty pleasure TV show, or finish that book you’re reading. I try to keep whatever I’m reading or watching pretty light so that my brain doesn’t have to work too hard to follow the plot (however, I always make an exception for Game of Thrones…). With the never-ending pressures of our 9-5 jobs, and all of the senseless shit that’s happening in the world, taking a short break from reality can be a welcome reprieve.
These are just some of the many things we can do everyday after work to help relax and unwind from our hectic lives. What do you do to relax after work?