When you get home from work, all you want to do is relax. But, how? As you ease onto the couch and drift into your favorite streaming series, you wait for a sense of calm to wash over you, but it doesn’t happen. You wait and become restless, maybe even a bit panicky. What’s the problem here? How do you stop the work week from feeling like one long day? How do you relax?
If you’re having a hard time relaxing after work, the important thing is not to ignore it. It’s important to reflect on what's going through your mind. Once you understand what’s causing the inability to relax, it’s easier to find activities that calm your nerves.
Could it be that you have no “you” time or downtime after work?
Upon getting home, a rush of responsibilities may also confront us. Significant others, children, chores, cooking, preparing for the next day, emails (etc.). These things are also tasks, and if the remainder of your evening is committed to these things, when is your downtime? In the modern world, downtime is often discouraged, and it’s easy to hear someone speak proudly about how busy they are. They make it out to be a badge of honor. But, in reality, downtime is a necessity to the brain.
“Research has found that taking breaks can improve your mood, boost your performance and increase your ability to concentrate and pay attention.
When you don’t give your mind a chance to pause and refresh, it doesn’t work as efficiently. You might also be more likely to experienceburnout and the health problems that go hand-in-hand withchronic stress” (Cleveland clinic, 2022)
What is downtime?
Did you know “leisure time” is not always “downtime?” For example, reading a book, chatting with a loved one, or watching a movie can be leisurely and relaxing, but these activities are not always downtime. And although it allows you to check out, scrolling through social media does not always serve as mental downtime. It still requires you to process a lot of information, and part of the reason we need downtime is that we’re already processing too much information throughout our workday (Cleveland clinic, 2022).
For example, during your work day, have you ever wondered why you’re staring into space? Sometimes we just need mental downtime, to process less information. Likewise, downtime can mean giving yourself a chance, even if it’s for only 30 minutes, to not be very stimulated. For downtime, you can try the following:
- Take a walk
- Take a bath/shower
- Do your skincare routine
- Do your nails
- Meditate and breathe
- Go for a workout
- Do yoga
- Lie down
- Do a repetitive activity like vacuuming
Repetitive motion allows us to redirect our mental and physical focus away from anxiety-inducing stimuli. When we engage in repeated actions, it’s easier for our minds to slip from the conscious, active, aggravated state to a subconscious, passive, calming state (Center for Growth, 2022). Plus, vacuuming is white noise. White noise is a sound that contains all frequencies. It makes it easier for us to block out the world around us and find a sense of calm or meditation.
- Tending to plants
Schedule your downtime and practice consistency
Sometimes our schedules are so busy that we have to schedule downtime. Even if it's for only 30 mins, is there a time after work when you can have downtime? This will help you decompress and get better relaxation if you have the time. Decompression means to release tension. You have to release tension to achieve a relaxed state. So, downtime is a great way to do that. There's nothing wrong with snuggling in with your favorite streaming series, a game, or a good book. But, if you're struggling to feel relaxed during these activities, try to decompress with downtime first.
And furthermore, you have to be consistent in continuing to allow yourself downtime. Just the way you're dedicated to deadlines and finishing tasks, you've got to have the same dedication to downtime because it is a need, not a want.