How to Relax After a Tough Work Week

Explore 11 ways to relax and relieve stress after a tough week at work

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Some people seem to have a natural ability to just chill. However, relaxation doesn’t come naturally to most people, and for good reason. Certainly, our culture of faster, busier, more and never enough tangles us into knots of anxiety. But we’re so susceptible to stress—in fact, we’re really good at finding it—because our brains have adapted to never be truly satisfied, but to always strive to improve our situation. Chilling was never evolutionarily advantageous.

Being permanently on edge may have helped early humans avoid being eaten, but it isn’t so useful now. In fact, research shows that stress can have super unhealthy side effects. No wonder stress management and learning how to unwind takes work!

Now that surviving saber-toothed tigers has been checked off the to-do list, we’ve replaced it with paying bills and the struggle to achieve healthy work-life balance. We’ve reversed course and to survive now we need to offload, manage and redirect the stress in healthy ways.

So that’s when we go looking for the best relaxation exercises and techniques. But it’s no secret that what’s relaxing to one person is misery for another. With that in mind, we offer you a variety of ideas for reaching maximum chillage.

11 Ways to Relax Your Body and Mind After a Tough Work Week

1. Yoga

Of course. The health benefits include stress relief and a slew of others contributing to a healthy lifestyle. Relaxing your mind is easier when your body feels relaxed. Check out some basic info about yoga. Check out these 5-minute relaxing yoga poses that are effective whether you’re a beginner or a pro. No yoga attire required. Just make sure to be safe.

2. Breathing exercises

It’s pretty simple: Research shows that “the way you breathe affects your whole body. Breathing exercises are a good way to relax, reduce tension, and relieve stress.” Science has spoken. Here are some different deep breathing methods to explore. See what works for you. Take a deep breath, feel your heart rate lower and exhale the stress from your body.

3. Progressive muscle relaxation

If you’re not into massages (the touching and/or the paying), progressive muscle relaxation techniques work wonders for relieving the muscle tension that builds up during a stressful day. Check out this info to see if it’s something that might work for you.

4. Take a break from social media

There are a lot of great things about social media. And maybe as many or more downsides, from the endless stream of bad news and constant judgement to FOMO-inducing photos of your former classmates. It gets to be an emotional drag and takes a toll on your mental health. A pandemic and social unrest can keep you glued to your smartphone, doomscrolling until the wee hours, leaving you drained for the next day. Practice self-care. Break the vicious cycle. Log out or delete the app(s) from your phone for a week and see if you notice a difference in your moods, blood pressure and stress levels. 

5. Organize (your space, your time, your to-do list)

The link between stress hormones and disorganization is strong. Your workspace, your calendar and your to-do list can be major sources of stress when they’re not in order. The sense of clutter and confusion slows you down and scatters the focus so vital to get through the day. There’s a reason Marie Kondo has tapped into the psyche of so many busy people seeking order, clarity and, of course, joy.

6. Practice self-compassion and give yourself permission to fail

Failure is part of life. It’s inevitable. And it’s tempting and easy to beat yourself up. If you’re your own worst critic, then you’ll get to it before someone else does, right? Well, maybe. But it gets ugly really quickly. The returns are diminishing and soon you’re just hurting yourself. Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, said, “If you haven’t failed yet, then you haven’t tried anything.” So next time, give yourself a break. Practice self-compassion if some of your to-dos don’t get done. You deserve it.

7. Make a list of what you’re thankful for and what gives you joy

Something weird happens to our perception when we get stressed out. It’s like all we can see is the bad and the negative in our daily life. Soon, all is wrong with us and with the world. How many times do we push something wonderful out of the way to go find and focus on the lack in our life? Make a list of people and things you’re thankful for, and it won’t take long to get a fresh perspective and find joy again.

8. Meditate

As with yoga and organization, meditation has major chops when it comes to helping you unwind, destress and relax your mind. Find what meditation techniques and relaxation strategies work for you. Lots of great apps are available as well, some free with optional subscription (The Mindfulness App) and others with a free trial period (Calm, 10% Happier, UnPlug). 

9. Be creative

Whether it’s knitting, journaling, making good food or simply getting lost in your favorite coloring book, creativity can be incredibly relaxing and rewarding.

10. Indulge (in moderation)

Chocolate. Wine. Whatever does it for you, assuming you’re of legal age to enjoy it. If you need permission from science to live a healthy lifestyle with chocolate, this may help (from Harvard, no less).

11. Take a warm bath

Light the candles. Diffuse essential oils. Make your favorite herbal tea. Run the bath. Put on your music. Drop a bath bomb. Feel the endorphins flow. Soak till you’re wrinkly.

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