Post-work wind-down: 6 ways to feel human again
By Suzy Glaskie, Functional Medicine Health Coach and founder of Peppermint Wellness
In our post-Covid era, the boundaries between work life and home life have become alarmingly blurred. Every time I hold a corporate wellness workshop, anxious employees tell me about elongated work days, which begin the moment they wake and check their inbox. The last thing they see at night? Yes, more of their inbox as they reply to yet more emails.
This on-demand approach to work brings a slew of negative side-effects that chip away at our mental and physical health. It’s as disastrous for productivity as it is for our home life. We’re simply not designed to be on all the time. We urgently need to reclaim wind-down periods so that we can engage with our families, pursue our hobbies – and, crucially, gain the restorative rest we need to feel refreshed and mentally sharp for the next day.
Stress-busters aren’t always good for us
It’s tempting to veg in front of Netflix or scroll mindlessly on our phone after work. But this isn’t giving us the respite we need. Neither is hitting the junk food.
I’m going to share with you what used to be my way of rewarding myself after another stressful day at the office. I’d chomp through a family-sized pack of salt ‘n vinegar crisps and a packet of gummy bears. I loved gummy bears so much that even when I developed a horrendous toothache, I’m ashamed to say that I’d take a painkiller and chew them on the other side of my mouth. What finally cured me of my nightly sweetie habit? Sitting in a dentist’s chair having root canal treatment. (Even worse, a few years later, I had to have the whole thing extracted…not an experience I’d ever like to repeat).
I know I wasn’t alone in putting a “full-stop” to the working day by rewarding myself with junk food. Work is stressful. Family is stressful. And it can just seem like we need a bit of comfort to make us feel better. For many of us, that comfort comes courtesy of booze. If wine o’clock is a nightly fixture in your schedule, it might be time to trade up to more helpful post-work habits. Although we might not view ourselves as having a “drink problem”, a daily wine habit can become very entrenched – our go-to coping mechanism that we reach for without really thinking about what we’re doing. And, over time, that can do a lot of damage to our wellbeing.
A relaxing post-work ritual (that won’t harm your health!)
So how do we draw a line under the working day without hitting the bottle or gorging on sugar? Creating your very own post-work ritual will help you unwind after a stressful day. Here are a few suggestions that you can experiment with.
- Breathing away the day: before opening your front door, stop and take a few deep, cleansing breaths. This will help you to adjust your mental state, shake off the work day and let you walk into your home feeling calm. If you’re working from home, make a mindful ritual of closing your laptop and telling yourself that work is now done for the day.
- Go for a walk: getting outside for even a short walk will help shift your mental state away from the tension of your work day, particularly if you’re able to walk in a green space where the healing effects of being around nature will calm your nervous system. Walking helps you to process challenges and come up with creative solutions. And, of course, it brings so many health benefits too.
- Time for tea: making yourself a calming herbal tea can replace opening a bottle of wine. Treat yourself to a special tea pot and mug and really enjoy the ceremony of leaving the herbs to steep and then pouring that lovely, warming drink for you to sip.
- Essential oils: I love to use essential oils to help switch my mood. You can buy an inexpensive diffuser to have their uplifting scents wafting through your home. Or you can put a drop on your wrist and inhale. Orange essential oil is my favourite to give an instant mood-booster. Lavender is very calming: take deep breaths of it and, as you exhale, imagine yourself letting go of all the stresses of your day.
- Listen to music: not only one of the most enjoyable ways to unwind, but one of the most powerful too. Whether you’re into Beyoncé or Beethoven, put some music on that you love and let it wash over you, taking the stresses of the day with it.
- Legs up the wall: lying on the floor with your legs straight up against a wall is one of the most relaxing of yoga positions. It’s a lovely way to ground yourself (just make sure you’re not scrolling on your phone while you’re lying there!).
There are so many different ways to unwind after work – play around with what suits you and develop your own ritual that allows you to detach from work and reclaim some much-needed headspace.