At the end of a long day of work, it’s common to find yourself feeling simultaneously drained and charged up. Your body is tired, but your mind is still racing. In order to relax and eventually asleep, it’s helpful to unwind.
The Case for Unwinding
Work. Work. Work. Rest.
That’s the rhythm of life (on both a micro and macro scale). And in almost every culture, it’s a pattern that’s respected to the point that rest is held sacred.
But over time, rest has seemingly become a lost art in the United States. Yes, Sunday is still very much a lazy day for many, but even that time – which has largely been set apart for ceasing work and spending time with family – has been hijacked by busyness.
As Americans, we have this culture of incessantly grinding. We wear hard work like a badge of honor and seem to confuse downtime with laziness. But the reality is that we all need to unwind from time to time. This includes lengthy periods of unwinding, like weekends and weeklong vacations, as well as time to relax at the end of each workday or shift.
“We need to give ourselves a break, and a little downtime works well for almost everybody,” writes Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D. “It doesn’t really matter what the activity or inactivity is. The idea is to give your body, mind, and heart a chance to relax and recharge. If you keep going at full speed every day, it can be really hard on you, both physically and mentally.”
A failure to unwind after a long day, week, or month of work can lead to exhaustion, anxiety, and burnout. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll be more intentional about creating space – mentally and physically – for the stress to wash away.
5 Safe Ways to Unwind
If you’re going to unwind at the end of a long day of work, there are certain options that are safer and more effective than others. Here are a few that come highly recommended:
At the end of a long day of work, plopping down on the sofa and flipping on Netflix sounds great. But you might find it more effective to exercise first.
“Regular aerobic exercise will bring remarkable changes to your body, your metabolism, your heart, and your spirits,” Harvard Medical School explains. “It has a unique capacity to exhilarate and relax, to provide stimulation and calm, to counter depression and dissipate stress.”
You don’t need to run a marathon. Just 20 to 45 minutes of moderate exercise can help you burn off stress and put your mind in a better place.
2. Watch Something Funny
Laughter offers a long list of physical and mental health benefits, including lower stress hormones, decreased pain, relaxed muscles, lower anxiety and tension, less stress, more positive mood, and greater mental resilience. In other words, it’s a great option for unwinding.
Want to unwind at the end of a long day? Try watching a short episode of a funny sitcom or 15-minutes of your favorite standup comedian on YouTube. Watch, laugh, and feel your mind and body unwind.
3. Use Edibles
Many people find cannabis to be helpful in relaxing. It calms the mind and body, often leading to feelings of clarity and peace. But not everyone wants to end the day smoking, which can be a turnoff. The better solution is to try edibles. Whether it’s a relaxing green tea, a couple of peppermints, or a bar of dark chocolate, it’s possible to consume cannabis in a variety of ways. Find one that fits your taste buds and treat yourself.
4. Get Intimate
Need an excuse to get intimate? Consider that sex has the ability to promote relaxation in both men and women. According to one study, people who report more sexual intercourse have lower blood pressure when performing stressful tasks. Other studies support this finding, with additional research showing intimacy allows the mind and body to reach more relaxed states.
5. Take a Shower or Bath
Few things are more refreshing or effective at washing tension away than a bath. Water has an incredibly powerful calming effect on both the mind and body. If you don’t have a bath, a shower will do just fine. For best results, take a hot shower and then follow it up with a brief splash of cold water. This combination relaxes your muscles and then quickly reenergizes the cells in your body.
Adding it All Up
Which of these options stand out to you? Give one or two a try this week and see how they work for you. You’ll likely end the day calmer and more relaxed, while waking up feeling more refreshed and rejuvenated. In turn, this will allow you to tackle the day ahead and get more done in less time – all without feeling overwhelmed!