When work stress rears its ugly head, it’s easy to slip into some less than healthy habits as a means of coping. A glass of wine, some cigarettes, and zoning out for hours of must-see TV can all take the edge off, but in the long run, they can do more harm than good.
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that doesn’t so much calm you down as bring you down, and long-term use can lead to sleep disturbances, health problems, and dependence.
Cigarettes are actually a stimulant, and each smoke has hundreds of chemicals – over 70 of which are known carcinogens. Also, if cancer doesn’t get you, then lung disease and cardiovascular disease are also strong possibilities.
Television is also stimulating, and spending hours sitting on the couch is probably the worst thing you can do for your body, especially after hours of sitting at your desk.
When it comes to unwinding after a long day at work, there are several options that are relaxing and can make you healthier.
3 Ways to Relax After a Long Day at Work
When it comes to relaxing after a hard day, exercise has two major benefits: it wakes you up, and it calms you down. If you have ever experienced the mid-day hump, then you know how tired you can get by the end of the work day. And you probably also wonder how you can be so tired when all you did was sit.
Well, when you sit for long periods your circulation slows, which can actually make you sluggish and tired. However, as tired as you are, you also have all this nervous energy, which is usually what causes your mind to race at 2 AM when you should be sleeping. Exercise gets your blood flowing, which boosts you out of those post-work doldrums, and it uses up that nervous energy so you can calm down and sleep better at night. High-intensity exercise also causes you to release endorphins, which causes a natural euphoric high.
Timing is key, however. Since vigorous exercise can ramp you up for a couple of hours, you don’t want to do it too close to bedtime. Otherwise, it could take you longer to fall asleep. If you must exercise later in the evening, consider doing low-intensity exercises like yoga or Pilates, or take a casual stroll around your neighborhood.
Those exercises will still get your blood moving, and release nervous energy, but without the serious endorphin high from more vigorous exercises.
Like exercise, massage can actually get your blood moving and release nervous energy. However, it also has the added benefit of activating your parasympathetic nervous system, or the relaxation response, so the effects are more like doing yoga than running wind sprints.
Massage also relaxes your muscles, especially in your neck, back, and shoulders, which tend to get over-tightened after periods of prolonged sitting.
If getting a professional massage doesn’t fit in your budget, there are several books and videos, as well as supplies and massage tables, which you can purchase to give each other relaxing massages in the privacy of your home.
Just as with exercise, timing is key. Massage can be initially invigorating, so you don’t want to do it too close to bedtime.
3) Take a Bath
Believe it or not, bathing can offer some of the same circulatory benefits as massage and exercise. Warm water relaxes your muscles, and it also causes your blood vessels to dilate, all of which improve your circulation and help you relax.
Add soothing aromatherapy scents, such as lavender or chamomile to the water, or Epsom salts, and you can further enhance the relaxing effects.
Baths have an added benefit because they force you to be still and calm your mind. During your bath is the perfect time to do deep breathing exercises, meditate, listen to relaxing music, or just zone out with a book or magazine.
The great thing about baths is that they don’t tend to have the same invigorating effects as exercise or massage, which means you can take one close to bed time.
The Relax Trifecta
For the maximum in relaxation, consider setting one day aside where you do all three – exercise, then a massage, followed by a relaxing bath. If you can’t do it once a week, aim for once a month, or once every six weeks. You’ll sleep like a baby, and it will make it easier to unwind on those nights when you can only do one of them.
Today’s post is written by Kevin, an account director at for a boutique investment firm and has been working within finance, marketing, and public relations for over eight years.
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