5 Ways to Decompress After a Stressful Day
Nowadays, everyone and everybody they know feels the pressure to lead ultra-productive lives. But, even in the absence of mental disorders, constant production is a standard that’s impossible to sustain. Then, if mental illness does coincide, there’s no denying the ugly truth: burnout is inevitable.
Nevertheless, the modern professional’s situation isn’t entirely hopeless. When you arrive home after a stressful day, there are ways you can relax and decompress, even when your workplace stress seems to follow you home each day or if you’re struggling with a mental health condition on top of the stress of everyday living.
1. Breathe in, then breathe out.
Breathing exercises are a common holistic treatment option for no shortage of mental health conditions, including anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, PTSD, and OCD, and are used to support mental wellness more generally. As such, it should come as no surprise that these same intentional breaths can create positive change in your everyday mental health and stress relief efforts.
Like many people, you might turn to meditation for these benefits as you work through a stressful stage of life or a particular mental health problem. Or, you may choose breathwork, more generally, as a way of promoting relaxation. Best of all, you can use these tools in the moment, as you deal with workplace stress, as well as when you sit down to decompress after a long day.
2. Find ways to escape.
If you deal with poor mental health or wellness on a regular basis, you’ve likely discovered escapism as a coping mechanism well before this moment. Typically, this would involve a person relying on an outside activity or hobby to distract from their stressors. In less beneficial instances, these may be negative coping mechanisms, like alcohol or substance abuse or obsessions.
For a positive escape, turn to healthy coping mechanisms like exercising, music, or other hobbies. Even a glass of wine is fine in moderation! Just be sure to talk with your doctor before imbibing, especially if you take medications or have certain physical or mental health conditions.
3. Craft a better work-life balance.
When you’re in the throes of stress, it can seem as though a healthy work-life balance is little more than an unattainable ideal. In actuality, though, you may be surprised. According to Mental Health America (MHA), there are practical steps you can take both at home and in the workplace to walk the metaphorical tightrope that is work-life balance.
More specifically, you can implement goals, try new time management strategies, take regular breaks, and communicate with your supervisor and colleagues about your mental health care needs. Self-advocacy, in particular, is a crucial part of creating your own work-life balance. At home, you can unplug, leave your work stressors at work, practice healthy self-care strategies, and closely guard your “me time.” If you’re continuing to struggle, or you suspect more severe mental disorders to be at play, you may also consult a mental health care provider to further support your needs.
4. Sleep off your stress.
You probably know, or at least recognize intuitively, that a lack of sleep can contribute to your stress levels. You may not realize, though, that the relationship goes in the opposite direction, too—a bit of sleep can offer some much-needed stress relief. Of course, sleep is a crucial component of your physical health, but it’s crucial to your mental health as well. In fact, clinical research shows that sleep promotes emotional processing, letting you contend with everything from the stressors of everyday living to a serious traumatic event.
In addition to getting enough sleep in your regular everyday life, consider turning to a well-deserved nap when dealing with an onslaught of job stress. Much like meditation can act as a sort of mental health first aid, something as simple as resting your eyes after a long day can provide some necessary intervention to help you relax after a stressful day.
5. Treat yourself to something special.
Retail therapy may fall under the umbrella of escapism, but it’s not the only way you can use the idea of treating yourself to help decompress after a stressful day. Adults and adolescents alike may benefit from using self-care luxuries like massage, spa treatments, or even a good meal as relaxation techniques in their own right.
There are few feelings more fulfilling than making it through a stressful day with the promise of something special coming afterward. You don’t need self-improvement workshops or a full assessment of your mental health condition to tell you that. However, you might need a reminder—or, perhaps, subconscious permission—that you can take advantage of these treats to help promote better mental health and wellness.
Work-related stress or other pressures aren’t the only factors affecting Americans’ mental health today—everything from biological factors to a person’s ability to meet their basic needs through adulthood plays a role. But there is no denying the prevalent place of this job stress and the pressures of everyday living when it comes to one’s mental health concerns.
You wouldn’t let physical health problems fall to the side, putting off a cardiology appointment until it’s too late—there’s no reason we should put our minds through the same torment. If you had a high likelihood of heart disease or a physical disability, you’d take the time to learn about how the disease process works in your body and what you can do to fend it off, or at least treat its symptoms. The same is true if you’re prone to mental health issues due to your daily stressors or other factors. Early identification can give you room to apply prevention services and, ideally, avoid a mental health crisis with the help of a therapist at the most critical points in your action plan for treating your mental health disorder. Caught early, it may be as simple as unwinding after a hard day that fends off delusions, hallucinations, mania, or low mood.
When in doubt, consult your health care provider and mental health partners to determine whether a more serious mental health condition may be at play. As the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) explains, you can cope with stress and anxiety in different ways, but it helps to know which it is you’re dealing with as a first step. Whether you need to seek addiction recovery services from a local mental health association or you just want to be a better friend or family member despite your stress levels, taking the time to decompress and separate yourself from a stressful workload or work environment can help you avoid burnout, practice better stress management, and feel as though you have a little control over your life once more.