By Suzy Glaskie, functional medicine health coach and founder of Peppermint Wellness
For many of us, the days of a clear delineation between work and leisure are long gone. Work now seeps into every moment of our day and continues to occupy our mind into the evening and up to bedtime.
For many people, the last thing they see at night is the latest flurry of emails from colleagues. We are literally taking our work stresses to bed with us. That’s a recipe for a poor night’s sleep and chronic stress that eats away at our health and mental wellbeing. It’s no wonder that so many of us are suffering from anxiety and are trying to self-medicate with cake, booze or Netflix.
It’s really important that we claw back some boundaries around our non-work life. Creating space for downtime in our day actually makes us more productive, creative and focused at work, as well as safeguarding our sanity and our relationships.
But when work is relentlessly stressful, it can seem like the only thing we have the capacity to do is collapse on a sofa and numb ourselves. Back in the days when I used to run a busy PR consultancy, I had my own way of rewarding myself after another stressful day at the office. I’d chomp through a family-sized pack of salt ‘n vinegar crisps and a packet of gummy bears. I know I wasn’t alone in putting a “full-stop” to the working day by rewarding myself with junk food. Work is stressful. Commuting is stressful. Family is stressful. And it can just seem like we need a bit of comfort to make us feel better. For many of us, that comfort comes courtesy of booze.
If wine o’clock is a nightly fixture in your schedule, it might be time to trade up to more helpful post-work habits. Although we might not view ourselves as having a “drink problem”, a daily wine habit can become very entrenched – our go-to coping mechanism that we reach for without really thinking about what we’re doing. And, over time, that can do a lot of damage to our wellbeing.
So how do we draw a line under the working day without hitting the bottle or gorging on sugar? Creating your very own post-work ritual will help you unwind after a stressful day. Here are a few suggestions that you can experiment with. We’re all different so play around with them and see what works for you – or make up some of your own.
- Breathing away the day: before opening your front door (or closing your office door if you’re working from home), stop and take a few deep, cleansing breaths. This will help you to adjust your mental state, shake off the work day and let you walk into your home-life feeling calm.
- Get comfy: swopping your work shoes for a pair of cosy slippers is a nice way to mark that you’re now officially in relax mode.
- Time for tea: making yourself a herbal tea can replace opening a bottle of wine. Maybe treat yourself to a special tea pot and mug and really enjoy the ceremony of leaving the herbs to steep and then pouring that lovely, warming drink for you to sip.
A scented bath: what could be nicer than luxuriating in a beautifully scented bath?
You’ll feel completely renewed when you step out of there and into a fluffy towel (preferably warmed up on the radiator first!).
- Essential oils: I love to use essential oils to help switch my mood. You can buy an inexpensive diffuser to have their gorgeous scents wafting through your home. Or you can put a drop on your wrist and inhale. Orange essential oil is my favourite to give an instant mood-booster. Lavender is very calming: take deep breaths of it and, as you exhale, imagine yourself letting go of all the stresses of your day.
- Go for a walk: getting outside for even a short walk will help shift your mental state away from the tension of your work day. Walking encourages feelings of calm – and, of course, has myriad health benefits too.
- Listen to music: not only one of the most enjoyable ways to unwind, but one of the most powerful too. Whether you’re into Beyoncé or Beethoven, put some music on that you love and let it wash over you, taking the stresses of the day with it.