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Evening Unwind: How to Decompress from Your Day

One unfortunate fact of life is that the more you succeed in your career, the more likely you are to bring your work home – and all the stresses that come with it.

A University of Toronto study (download the PDF here) found that professionals “with more authority, decision-making latitude, pressure, and longer hours” were the most likely to find work interferes with other areas of life.

But at the same time, too much stress can interfere with your work and hamper your career prospects: in the UK, stress is one of the main causes of working days lost to illness.

So, taking care of yourself after a hard day’s work could be the best thing for your long-term career. Here are some ideas on how to switch off and relax.


Establishing boundaries between work and home

Learning to switch off from work is all about creating a clear dividing line between home and the office. Many experts say creating a routine to decompress at the end of the day – whether it’s a walk, music, or meditation – can be the signal your brain needs to switch off.

“Think about what helps you unwind, and find space in your schedule for this habit — particularly at the end of a long day at work — so that when you return home you’re free of the baggage that’s built up throughout the day,” say Jackie Coleman, a counsellor, and business writer John Coleman.


Distract and relax

There’s no time to be stressed out if you’re too busy with other things. Occupying your mind with something that requires your attention but doesn’t add to your worries is a great way to decompress. Follow your interests and get absorbed by them.

“Develop a hobby or do something that distracts your mind. It needs to be something that requires your attention and something that you enjoy doing. For some people it could be ballroom dancing, for others it could be fishing,” says Mark Cropley, Professor of Health Psychology and author of The Off-Switch: Leave Work on Time, Relax Your Mind But Still Get More Done.


Tune into nature

Escaping into nature, even if it’s just your local park, can significantly reduce the stress of a hectic day. The calming effects of green spaces are well-documented, with studies showing they can lower blood pressure, alleviate anxiety, and enhance overall mood.

Spending even a short time in a natural setting, whether a leisurely stroll or simply sitting and taking in the surroundings, has been found to decrease stress hormones and boost mental well-being. Making time to connect with nature can be a simple yet effective way to refresh and reset after work.


The power of putting pen to paper

If your mind can’t stop replaying that argument at work or mulling over a weighty problem, give yourself a fixed time to write down your concerns and then move on.

“Studies have shown that writing down thoughts and feelings is a cathartic exercise and reprocesses memories,” Mark Cropley says. But don’t dwell on things: “Once you’ve got it all out, rip it up and throw it away.”


Give yourself a laugh

It’s often said that laughter is the best medicine, and when it comes to stress, that well be true: a body of research shows that having a giggle can have a powerful effect on short-term and long-term stress.

Jeffrey Brantley and Wendy Millstine, authors of Five Good Minutes in the Evening: 100 Mindful Practices to Help You Unwind from the Day & Make the Most of Your Night, recommend making a good comedy film or a phone call with a funny friend part of your daily routine.


Have a gratitude attitude!

Stress means focusing on everything that is worrying and challenging in your life. But taking the time to express gratitude for everything that is going well can have a major impact on your outlook, making you more optimistic – and even healthier.

“Research shows that gratitude has many benefits, including reduced stress. Before you get home, review your workday to identify one thing – no matter how small – for which you’re grateful,” says CEO coach Sabina Nawaz.

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