21 relaxing ways to unwind after work

Updated on May 2, 2023
How to unwind after work

Do you have a hard time unwinding after work? Well, have you ever noticed that what we call work-related stress actually happens outside of work?

It happens when you commute, when you are with friends and family, or when you are alone with your thoughts under the shower.

The explanation for this is simple: when you are at work, you are actually way too busy to be stressed out.

The intrusive work-related thoughts creep in when you are supposed to relax and disengage from work. This problem can be incredibly detrimental to your well-being. So this begs the question: how to unwind after work effectively?

NOTE: Generally, the best way to unwind after work is to develop your very own routine that allows you to disengage from work. You can form a series of habits that will allow you to reduce work-related stress and mitigate the negative effects of intrusive thoughts.

In this post, I will share with you some relaxing activities and a step-by-step strategy that you can adopt today in order to unwind effectively after work to get the rest that you deserve.

Why it is important to unwind after work

Why it is important to unwind after work

It is important to unwind after work because work-related stress can be detrimental to your well-being. Also, rumination is counterproductive and it doesn't actually help you to do your job better.

You need to realize that proper disengagement from work and rest will actually make you way more productive.

Let’s take a look at some of the negative effects that work-related stress can have on your mind and your body.

1. Mental burden

When you are consumed by stress, your mind will begin to suffer. This can bring forth a host of negative effects on your mental state. Here are some of them.

  • Excessive worry
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Concentration problems
  • Difficulty making decisions

2. Emotional toll

Stress from work can lead to changes in your emotions as well. This can affect your relationships with your family, friends, and coworkers. Here are some of the common negative effects.

  • Defensiveness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Anxiety and depressions
  • Irritability and aggressiveness
  • Exacerbation of mood disorders
  • Difficulty communicating your feelings

3. Physical consequences

The mind and body are connected. When you are stressed, your body produces a hormone called cortisol. This can affect how you feel physically and lead to negative consequences. Here are some examples.

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Weight gain
  • Sleep problems
  • Muscle tightness

Development of unhealthy habits

Stress from work can make you seek relief through habits that are not good for you.

  • Smoking
  • Binge eating
  • Substance abuse
  • Excessive drinking
STICKY NOTE: Stress from work leads to a host of negative mental, physical, and behavioral effects. It can spiral down and have serious consequences for your well-being and the relationships in your life. That is why it is important to take active steps to unwind from work.

If you are stressed out because of your work environment, it is possible that your toxic workplace culture is to blame.

Ways to unwind after work

We asked 396 professionals about their favorite way to unwind after work. Here are the top 9 results on how to destress after work according to them (made out of 338 votes).

How to unwind after work poll

1. Read / Watch visual content – 22.73%

One of the best ways to forget about work is to immerse yourself in the content you enjoy. Be it a good book, Netflix, or your favorite YouTube channel, it’s all good.

2. Spend time with family/friends – 14.9%

Quality time with your loved ones and/or best friends will surely take your mind off things. And the best part is that you can do any of the suggestions here with them.

If you’ve been lonely lately and you are attracted to one of your coworkers, you check out our guide on how to ask somebody you work with on a date in a totally non-awkward way.

3. Play video games – 14.39%

I am a bit surprised that gaming got 3rd place. The last thing I’d want to do after a busy day in the office is to sit in front of a screen once again. Still, I do it from time to time because it can be quite effective against rumination.

We can’t deny that those who love gaming with passion have mastered the art of unshakeable concentration. All thoughts of work are gone when you need to carry your team.

4. Consume alcohol / other substance – 10.35%

There is nothing wrong with having a drink or two after work. But when alcohol (and other substances) become a crutch, you can quickly find yourself dependable on a habit that is not entirely good for you.

It would be best for you to figure out how to unwind after work without alcohol so as not to be dependent. Besides, there are plenty of other relaxing and delicious drinks that you can enjoy.

5. Take a nap – 5.56%

A quick nap after work can rejuvenate you for other more exciting activities. If you feel like hitting the pillow right when you get home, you’ve totally earned it.

6. Work out / sports/ physical activity – 5.3%

My absolute favorite thing to do after work is something physical. Preferably, a workout. Be it hitting the gym, yoga, or going for a jog in the park, moving your body is a great way to release the stress, tension, and stiffness that has been accumulating in you throughout the day.

7. Engage in a very specific hobby – 5.05%

The things that you love to do with burning passion are a blessing. (I’d love to read about them in the comments.)

8. Go for a walk – 3.79%

Walks are great. If you are able to walk back home after work, do it! It’s a great way to burn calories and you can listen to music, audiobooks, or podcasts while walking. It’s a win-win!

9. Rotting in bed – 3.28%

I assume this suggestion was given ironically but still, some voters resonated with it. It would be better to change that to “thriving in bed” – if your typical workday leaves you absolutely destroyed, then you should consider making some major changes.

Now, let's explore additional relaxing activities that did not make it into the top 9 of the vote.

10. Take a relaxing bath or shower

A warm bath or shower can help you unwind after a long day. Add some Epsom salts or essential oils to the water for added relaxation. Use the time to disconnect from technology and focus on the present moment.

11. Listen to music or a podcast

Put on your favorite tunes or find a podcast that interests you to help you decompress. Music can be especially soothing and can transport you to a different headspace. Listening to a podcast can also be a great way to learn something new or hear an engaging story.

12. Do some yoga or stretching

Stretching can help relieve tension in your muscles and calm your mind. Yoga, in particular, is a great way to connect with your breath and find inner peace. There are many great yoga apps and online resources available for all levels of practice.

13. Cook or bake something you enjoy

Cooking or baking can be a meditative and rewarding experience. Focus on the process and enjoy the smells, textures, and flavors of the ingredients. Treat yourself to something delicious and nourishing.

14. Meditate or practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present in the moment, without judgment. Meditation is one way to cultivate mindfulness, but there are many other ways to be mindful, such as taking a walk in nature or savoring a meal. Mindfulness can help reduce stress and anxiety and improve overall well-being.

15. Watch a sunset or sunrise

Watching a sunset or sunrise can be a peaceful and awe-inspiring experience. Take a break from technology and enjoy the beauty of the natural world. You might even want to take a photo or paint a picture to capture the moment.

16. Journal or write in a diary

Writing can be a therapeutic way to process your thoughts and feelings. You might want to write about your day, your goals and aspirations, or your fears and worries. Writing can also help you reflect on your life and gain insight into yourself.

17. Take up a creative hobby, like painting or knitting

Engaging in a creative hobby can be a great way to unwind and express yourself. Whether it's painting, knitting, or playing music, find something that inspires you and brings you joy. You might even discover a hidden talent or passion.

18. Try aromatherapy with essential oils

Essential oils are concentrated plant extracts that can be used for their therapeutic properties. Lavender, for example, is known for its calming effects, while peppermint can be invigorating. You can use essential oils in a diffuser, in a bath, or even as a perfume.

19. Practice deep breathing exercises

Deep breathing can help calm your nervous system and reduce stress. Try inhaling for a count of four, holding your breath for a count of four, and exhaling for a count of four. Repeat several times, focusing on the sensation of the breath.

20. Have a picnic in a nearby park or outdoor space

Spending time in nature can be a great way to recharge your batteries. Pack a picnic lunch or dinner and enjoy the fresh air and scenery. You might even want to bring a book or a game to play.

21. Plan a weekend getaway or vacation to look forward to

Having something to look forward to can be a great motivator and mood booster. Start planning a weekend getaway or a longer vacation, even if it's just a day trip or a staycation. Research your destination, make a packing list, and get excited about your adventure.

How to unwind after work (4-step process)

Effective steps to unwind after work

So, how to relax after work? Well, here's a simple but highly effective routine that you can begin to practice to relax after work. It will help you to unwind after a busy day at work when you are overwhelmed with rumination.

1. Establish your “I am done for the day” time

Sometimes work follows us in the after-hours. But we are guilty of being our own enablers by constantly checking our phones and emails. Especially when dealing with bosses and managers who demand work to be done even when the workday is over.

It’s perfectly fine to do that for an hour or two after work if necessary. But at a certain point, it becomes counterproductive. It takes a toll on you.

So pick a time that works best for you and make it your “I am done for the day.” For example, tell yourself that when the clock strikes 8 pm, you are done.

You are not allowed to engage in any type of work-related activity. No email checking, no texting your colleagues, no research, no fact-checking.

2. Turn off the notifications from work

It would be harder for you to unwind after work if the notification just kept coming in. So turn them off and don't give in to the temptation to look. This is especially useful if you are dealing with annoying coworkers who bother you even outside of work.

3. Engage in activities that you enjoy

Do what you love to do. Immerse yourself in your hobbies and your interests. Or spend quality time with family and friends. Keep your mind occupied with things that you love and that excite you.

4. Transform the intrusive work-related thoughts into creative problems to solve

Unfortunately, intrusive work-related thoughts can appear even if you take all of the above steps. But here is a clever little habit that you can adopt to combat them.

For example, you might be worried that your company is not doing well recently and there will be layoffs soon.

When you catch yourself ruminating, think of ways to turn your thoughts into problems that need to be solved through creative solutions.

Keep a small notebook (yes, a notebook, don’t use your phone) where you write down your intrusive thoughts and rephrase them into questions that require an actionable response. Here are some examples.

Once you are done writing down your thoughts, close the notebook and return to your relaxing activities. When you are back in work mode, you can open the notebook and think more about the improvements that you can make.

How to unwind after working from home

How to unwind after work from home

The best way to destress after working from home is to quickly change your environment. Go to another room and engage in another activity that you enjoy or you can simply go outside for a walk or to run errands.

The best part about working from home is that you have immediate access to… well, pretty much everything that you own. You can quickly engage in your favorite activities, or you can…

  • Stretch and exercise
  • Prepare yourself a healthy meal
  • Take care of some domestic chores
Mundane activities such as domestic cleaning, decluttering, and hand-washing the dishes can be quite therapeutic and help you decompress after working from home.

How long does it take to decompress after work?

Usually, it takes a person at least an hour to become themself again. If your partner or another family member seems irritable when they come back home from work, then they have a hard time decompressing.

Try to talk to them about their feelings and needs when they are relaxed. Ask them what they need after work so they can unwind.

Intrusive work-related thoughts can remain with you for several hours after work. That is why it is important to develop a routine that allows you to quickly disengage from work and focus on other aspects of your life. Try our 4-step process outlined above.

If you have the feeling that your workdays are going slowly, then here are some tips on how to speed up time at work.

My experience unwinding after work

As an experienced project manager at a leading international tech company, my days were filled with high-stakes decisions, tight deadlines, and endless meetings.

I was no stranger to the pressures of the job, and I thrived on the adrenaline rush that came with it. But over time, the relentless pace began to take its toll on me, and I found myself struggling with chronic burnout.

I was always tired, irritable, and couldn't focus on anything outside of work.

Despite my best efforts to maintain a work-life balance, I realized that I wasn't effectively managing my stress levels. I needed to find a way to unwind after work and rejuvenate my mind and body.

That's when I decided to join a local gym, hoping that physical activity could help me break free from the overwhelming stress that had become my constant companion.

After my first workout session, I felt a difference in my energy levels and mood. I began to incorporate gym workouts into my daily routine, focusing on cardio exercises and strength training.

The endorphin release from exercising provided me with a much-needed mental and emotional boost, and I gradually noticed improvements in my concentration and overall well-being.

However, I knew that I needed more than just physical activity to combat my burnout effectively. I decided to explore yoga and stretching as a means to not only improve my flexibility but also enhance my mind-body connection.

Yoga taught me the importance of being present in the moment and allowed me to release the pent-up tension I was holding in my muscles. As I practiced deep, mindful breathing, I found that my stress levels decreased and I became more centered.

To further support my relaxation efforts, I began incorporating meditation into my daily routine. By setting aside just 10-15 minutes each day to sit in silence and focus on my breath, I discovered a sense of inner peace that had eluded me for years.

Meditation helped me develop mental clarity and resilience, which in turn allowed me to better manage the challenges and stressors that came with my high-pressure job.

As I continued to prioritize self-care and stress relief, I gradually emerged from the depths of burnout. My commitment to exercise, yoga, and meditation transformed not only my physical health but also my mental and emotional well-being.

I became a more effective and balanced project manager, and my personal relationships improved as well. I learned that the key to success in my career and life was to prioritize self-care and find effective ways to unwind after work.

And now, I can confidently say that I have the tools and habits in place to prevent burnout from ever taking hold of me again.

Frequently asked questions about unwinding after work

How much time should I dedicate to unwinding after work each day?

It's important to remember that everyone's needs are different when it comes to unwinding after work. However, setting aside at least 30 minutes to an hour daily for relaxation and self-care can be beneficial for most people. The key is to focus on the quality of the activities you choose to engage in during this time. Find what genuinely helps you feel refreshed and at ease, and make that a regular part of your post-work routine.

Are there any specific activities that are proven to help reduce stress after work?

Yes, there are several activities that have been shown to effectively reduce stress and promote relaxation. Exercises, such as walking, jogging, swimming, or yoga, can help release endorphins and alleviate stress. Meditation and mindfulness practices can increase self-awareness, reduce anxiety, and improve overall well-being. Engaging in creative or leisurely activities like painting, gardening, or playing an instrument can provide a healthy mental break. Reading can also help you escape from work-related stress while spending time with friends and loved ones offer emotional support and a sense of belonging. Feel free to experiment with different activities to find what works best for you.

How can I create a calming environment at home to help me unwind after work?

A calming environment at home can significantly enhance your ability to unwind after work. Start by decluttering your space, as a tidy and organized home can help reduce stress and promote a sense of calm. Opt for soothing colors like blues, greens, or neutral shades for your walls and decor. Incorporating natural elements, such as plants, flowers, or water features, can create a more peaceful ambiance. Use soft, warm lighting to establish a cozy atmosphere, and consider adding candles or essential oil diffusers for extra relaxation. Finally, designate a specific area in your home for unwinding, such as a reading nook or meditation corner.

How can I balance my responsibilities at home with my need to unwind and de-stress after work?

Balancing home responsibilities and personal well-being can be challenging but is essential for overall health and happiness. To achieve this balance, consider setting boundaries for your work and personal life, such as limiting work-related tasks or discussions outside of your designated working hours. Plan your time effectively by creating a schedule that includes both your household chores and relaxation activities. You may also want to consider delegating tasks or sharing responsibilities with other family members. Prioritize self-care and remember that it's important to make time for yourself to unwind and recharge in order to better manage your daily responsibilities.

How can I prevent work-related stress from affecting my personal life and relationships?

Preventing work-related stress from spilling over into your personal life and relationships requires a conscious effort. Establish clear boundaries between your work and personal life by limiting work-related tasks and conversations outside of your designated working hours. Make a conscious effort to "switch off" from work mode when you're at home, and focus on enjoying quality time with friends and family. Engage in activities that help you unwind and alleviate stress, such as exercise, hobbies, or mindfulness practices. Communicate openly with your loved ones about your work-related stress and seek their support and understanding. By taking these steps, you can create a healthier balance between your professional and personal life, ultimately enhancing your overall well-being.

Written by:
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co-founder / office worker
Alex has been an office worker for more than 10 years. He is dedicated to helping other office workers to achieve the perfect life-work balance through well-being, effective communication, and building productive habits.

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