6 ways to shake off the working day (so it doesn’t spoil your evening)

6 ways to shake off the working day (so it doesn’t spoil your evening)

Getting outside is huge: Being surrounded by swaying trees, chirping birds, and floating clouds –or, hey, maybe honking cars and screaming children if you live near me –is like “bathing in sensory input,” research suggests. The goal is to “get yourself in a space where there is some kind of sensory transition between work and home,” Dallas explains.

Basically, by activating your senses, you shift your attention away from the pressures and demands of your job to, say, how warm water feels on your face or how the wind hits your skin. “It tells your brain on a subconscious level that you are done with work,” Dallas says.

5. Let yourself completely tap out

Depending on your work schedule, it may be too late to take a nap (a brief 6 pm snooze can obliterate your chances of getting a restful sleep overnight, studies show) but you can still benefit from lying down in bed or on a couch with your eyes closed for 15 to 30 minutes.

This certainly does the trick for me – before I can get into a TV show or book after my workday, I need to lie down and decompress (i.e. not talk to anyone) for 20 minutes or so. If I don’t, my mind continues to buzz for hours. I have a much easier time shifting gears when I’m able to shut myself off from the world for a bit.

A short mental break – what some doctors call “waking rest” – can be mentally rejuvenating, evidence suggests. It may help you clear your head and stop stressing, for a little while at least, about tomorrow’s back-to-back meetings. As Dallas puts it, “It lets your body know you can rest—that it’s okay to rest.”

6. Create a personal post-work ritual

Another strategy that can liberate you from the grind: Create your own little ritual that you can look forward to after work. For example, if you still have the energy to be social (you’re doing better than I am), schedule something you have to show up for, like trivia, a ceramics class, or yoga. “Play and other activities send the message that we don’t have to be in ‘survival mode’ and we are safe to rest and connect with each other and ourselves,” Dallas says.

If you’re feeling particularly zapped, keep it low-effort: Brew a hot cup of herbal tea, listen to a chill but entertaining podcast, or change into supercomfy loungewear. These little habits serve as a reminder that your workday is buttoned up and you’re moving on, Dr. Smith says. Your mind will, over time, associate this activity with the end of your workday and you’ll automatically start to check out from the rat race when you do it.

One last, very important tip: If any of the above strategies feel overwhelming, skip them –you don’t want your wind-down routine to feel like more work (you know, the thing you’re trying to escape from), Dallas says.

I understand how bloody hard it can be to have a peaceful night if you’ve been grinding all day. As I near the end of this article – and, therefore, the end of my workday – I know I’m going to mull over the edits I want to make for the next hour or so. I can’t help myself! But, thanks to my chats with Dallas and Dr. Smith, I also know that for the sake of my evening (and well-being), I need to log off and forget about writing – until tomorrow at least.

So if you’ll excuse me now, my dog is demanding that I take him on a walk and pay attention to him instead.

This feature was originally published on SELF.

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