Millions of people unwind after work by hitting the local Happy Hour and knocking down a few drinks. Others smoke a joint or take a psychotropic pill. In fact, about 1 in 5 Americans (60 million people) are using or have used psychotropic medications. Whether prescribed or self-medicated, alcohol, cannabis, and psychotropics are all drugs that camouflage the problem in some way. Some are more dangerous than others – the pharmaceuticals being the worst – but the basic process is the same: Drugs are taken to “solve” a problem and sooner or later the drugs become the problem.
We spend most of our waking hours at work, and we can get pretty stressed out about it. Not only do problems and arduous duties get thrown at us every day, but we MUST do it to support ourselves and our families. We have no choice, or so it appears.
Approaches for Stress Reduction
There are three approaches to stress:
- Make what has been stressful into something less stressful.
- Employ remedies for stress.
- Stop doing the thing that is stressful.
Most of us can’t stop working just because work is “stressful.” Besides, some of the most miserable people you’ll ever meet are those that don’t work. Work, though stressful, keeps us sane. That is because we like being useful to our fellow man. We like knowing that others depend on us. We like the feeling of accomplishment. Even a child is working all the time while learning new things.
I’ll detail here some ways to reduce stress and unwind that cover the three points noted above:
Reduce the Stress in Your Workday
One of the ways to unwind is to make the workday less stressful to begin with. At the beginning of the day – or better yet, the day before – write down what you intend to accomplish over the next 8 hours or whatever your workday equates to. Even if you do the same thing every day, write it down and add anything else you feel should get done. Be sure to include some things that would make your job easier and more enjoyable. Look past the next day or week and into the future. What do you see? Add some things on your list that will make a better future for you and your associates.
When you are at work, focus on the tasks at hand. When you are done with work for the day, be DONE. The more you’ve accomplished, the easier it will be to do this – unless you are a CEO or business owner in which case you carry your job around with you 24/7. I’m only slightly joking. The truth is that the more responsibility you take, the more you BECOME your job, but it is possible to divide up your work and your personal life. It just takes some self-discipline.
At the end of the day, see how much you’ve gotten done on your list. If it is inadequate, resolve to do better the next day, but avoid taking your job home with you.
Some hit the gym after work as a way to vent their frustrations and stay in shape at the same time. Running or working out releases the feel-good neurotransmitters called endorphins. These have an analgesic effect and are associated with what has been called the “runner’s high.” Working up a good sweat is an excellent way to feel both energized and relaxed at the same time. Add a sauna or steam bath and you’re talking serious stress relief.
The Ride Home
The workday stress can be doubled if you’re caught in traffic on your commute home. But you can also utilize the ride home to decompress and clear your mind. Pick out some music that relaxes you and play it on the way home. Listening to the news can just get you more wound up. Some people listen to audiobooks in the car – another way to unwind.
Laughter is a remedy for much of what ails us. You may not have noticed this, but music streaming services (Pandora, Google Play, etc.) also feature comedy. On your ride home or when you get home, putting on your favorite comedian is a surefire way to lighten your spirits. If you can’t stream in your car pick up a couple CDs; comedy CDs can be purchased for very little. Some notable names: Steve Martin, Jerry Seinfeld, Mitch Hedberg, Chris Rock – but it will depend on your personal taste.
Instead of switching on your television the moment you get home, try talking with your spouse, your kids, or your friends. If you have none of the above, join a club or group of some kind. You can find enthusiasts for everything under the stars and you’ll have some friends in no time. Skateboarding, knitting, extreme mountain climbing, scrap-booking, Australian Football, trigonometry – if it exists, you can find it. Communication, like laughter, is a great cure for stress.
Learn a New Skill
One reason we dread work is that we feel out of balance. Most of our day is spent doing something we “must” do that is not necessarily our first choice. “I’d rather be…” is the tagline. You’d rather be playing the violin, but you don’t know how? Then learn. Sign up to learn a skill you’ve always wanted. This may be just the thing you need to put everything else in perspective. If you apply yourself, you can even make your new skill into a new profession (point three above).
When you get home, is your house a mess? Declutter! Have children? Toys everywhere? That is par for the course with kids, but you can teach them to keep it contained in their own room (to some degree). You can partition a section of the house as the “toy zone” and you can teach them good habits. Or maybe you need to teach yourself some new habits. Overall, having an orderly space to come home to can be quite therapeutic. Cleaning up and putting order in your house helps put order in your mind.
Taking a walk after work is great way to wind down. Walking through the neighborhood and looking around helps redirect your attention out of your own head and onto the world around you. It’s really simple: Walk around and notice things in the environment.
Find a New Place
Trying to avoid alcohol? Instead of the local pub, find a new place to hang out – a coffee shop, the library, a public square, the park. The point is to find a place that calms you down and where you feel at ease. The park, for example, is a good place for your kids to run around while you just chill out.
Make a Healthy Dinner
Grabbing some fast food after work is not particularly therapeutic. Look up some recipes. You can even find recipes for foods known for their calming effect. Pick up the ingredients and have at it – for yourself or your whole family. Then clean up the mess together. Chances are you’ll feel less stressed out.
There is no shortage of holistic remedies for stress. These include massage, hot stones, yoga, martial arts, acupuncture, aromatherapy, music therapy, Reiki (Japanese spiritual massage), and cognitive therapy to name just a few.
Make Your Weekend Count
Putting your workweek in perspective may boil down to your weekend. Just like your workday, write down what you want to get done on your day(s) off. All too often we waste our weekend doing nothing and spend the rest of the week wishing we had done something. On the other hand, you may intend to do absolutely nothing on your day off. The point is that you do what YOU want so you feel a sense of accomplishment – even if your primary objective is to simply relax.