Scrolling on your phone or pouring a drink to help you relax after work may provide temporary relief, but these scientifically proven strategies will make you happier and healthier in the long run.
After a long day at work, we all have our go-to stress relievers to help us unwind. Some of us zone out in front of Netflix while others dive into a packet of biscuits or pour a glass of wine. But, despite the quick boost these strategies seem to give us, research shows they may actually make things worse.
Sugary snacks have been found to not have any lasting beneficial effect on mood and can lead to increased fatigue 30 minutes after eating them, while regular drinking can increase stress. As for watching TV, the research has shown mixed results when it comes to stress relief.
So, how can you relax when you’re feeling wound up after work? These five science-backed strategies will not only help you relieve stress in the moment, but they’ll also improve your health and wellbeing in the long term.
1. Go for a walk or a run
There’s a huge body of evidence demonstrating the beneficial effects of physical activity on mental health. Exercise has been shown to reduce negative mood, anxiety and depression and improve self-esteem and cognitive function.
The good news is you don’t have to train for a marathon to reap the benefits of being active. A 30-minute walk or two 10 to 15-minute strolls per day can be enough to combat stress.
2. Listen to relaxing music
Relaxing music reduces stress hormones such as cortisol. One study even found that listening to music we love for at least an hour a week can help fend off depression.
Try listening to your favourite playlist on the drive home from work, or switching off your computer and playing some relaxing tunes at the end of the day if you work from home. You could even combine your walk with music for a double stress-buster.
3. Switch off screens
As tempting as it is to flop on the couch and scroll through social media to unwind, it can actually increase stress rather than reduce it. A recent study found that people who depend on screens for entertainment and social networking have up to 19 per cent more emotional stress.
When you finish work, give yourself an hour of screen-free time – especially if your job involves staring at a screen all day. It’s also best to switch off screens at least an hour before bedtime, to ensure you get a good night’s sleep.
4. Call a friend
Social connections are crucial for our mental health and research shows that simply hearing the sound of a familiar voice can help reduce our stress levels.
Setting up a weekly phone date with a friend or calling a family member you trust after a hard day at work can do wonders when it comes to relieving stress. Better yet, meet up with them in person for a coffee or a walk if they live nearby.
5. Get creative
Engaging in creative pursuits, including expressive writing, drawing, painting and music, has been linked to reduced stress, anxiety and depression. If you were creative when you were younger, you could try picking up a paintbrush or an instrument again to help you unwind when you finish work. You don’t have to be great at it as long as you enjoy it!
If you’ve never engaged in anything artistic, start small and build up. Writing down your thoughts in a journal at the end of each day is a simple and effective way to release stress and negative emotions.
While you might not connect with every strategy on this list, choosing two you think you’ll enjoy and establishing a new after-work routine will help you manage your stress and boost your wellbeing.
Article sources and references
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