4-step proven method to unwind after work

Published on March 27, 2022
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?

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 work-related thoughts.

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

How to unwind after work following an effective 4-step process

Effective steps to unwind after work

This is a simple but highly effective routine that you can adopt. 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 excite you.

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

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.

Here’s 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.

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

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

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.

How to relax after work as voted by nearly 400 professionals

From dealing with rude coworkers and customers to going through long commutes, there are all sorts of problems that stress out workers on a daily basis. 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

Read / Watch visual content – 22.73%

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

Spend time with family/friends – 14.9%

Quality time with your loved ones and/or your 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.

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.

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.

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.

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 have been accumulating in you throughout the day.

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.)

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!

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.

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.

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.

Key takeaways on how to destress after work

  • Develop your very own routine to unwind after work.
  • Engage in activities that you enjoy, either alone or with friends and family.
  • Turn your intrusive work-related thoughts into creative problems to be solved.

Written by:
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Galin Kolev
co-founder / office worker
Galin has been an office worker for 8+ years. He has dealt will all kinds of situations at work, so he knows a thing or two about management, co-worker relationships, and productivity. Galin specializes in digital marketing and dabbles in web development.

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