The stress we experience when at work can, at times, infringe on our general state of mind. We dedicate a considerable amount of time and effort to our jobs, and this inevitably makes them a significant part of our lives. However, keeping stress levels to a minimum is crucial for our mental wellbeing and better health.
Most of us expect a little workplace stress every now and then, and fortunately our bodies and minds are well-equipped at dealing with stress in small doses.
In fact, stress can provide our bodies with the short term energy boost we need to get us through more daunting tasks. However, prolonged or intense periods of stress can start to take their toll and have detrimental effects on our health.
Let’s take a look at what techniques you can adopt to reduce your post-work stress levels.
Switch your commute
Your stress levels are bound to stay elevated if you step out of the office and onto a packed commuter train, tube or bus. The chances are high that your fellow commuters are also feeling the strain from a day’s work, and there is scientific evidence to suggest that stress is contagious.
After a particularly trying day at the office, look for an alternative way to get home. See if you can you walk part of the way or even include a brief pit-stop at a friend’s house for a chat. Simply switching even just a 10-15 minute stint of your public transport commute to a walk is great for your physical health. Plus it comes with the added benefit of clearing your head of office stress.
2. Walk it off
It is all too easy to fall into the same after-work routine day in and day out. When you return home it can feel as though there’s a gravitational pull towards your sofa. However, installing yourself in front of the television for the evening won’t necessarily allow your brain to wind down from office stresses. Instead, shake up your routine by doing some exercise.
Physical activity has many proven health benefits and stress reduction is just one of them. A gentle walk can provide the perfect opportunity for you to clear your head. If possible, choose a route which allows you to get closer to nature, as doing so is thought to harbour mental health benefits.
3. Enter ‘home mode’
Thoughts about your work to-do list can follow you all the way to bed, especially if your brain is still in work mode. It is important to make an effort to step away from the office and to physically and mentally disassociate yourself from the stress.
So make a symbolic gesture. Leave your office laptop at work and keep your work phone switched off. When you arrive home; take a shower and change into some comfortable clothes. A simple switch like this can indicate to your brain that you’re entering the wind-down part of your day or ‘home mode’.
4. Take some ‘you’ time
Refusing to take a moment to decompress your day can perpetuate stress levels. When you step out of of the office your brain needs time to adjust to the change in environment. Take five minutes to yourself and completely stop doing anything. Look out of a window and watch the world go by or close your eyes.
A popular stress-reduction technique is to concentrate on your breathing. You may find it helps to place a hand on your stomach so that you feel your abdomen expand, as you inhale deeply through your nose and slowly exhale through your mouth. These essential five minutes can ground you and prepare your mind for a period of calm.
5. Do something new
Adding something new to your weekly or daily regime can kick start your brain into a different way of thinking. If you work in an office or frequently use a computer then opt to learn a hands-on skill such as painting or pottery.
Alternatively, if you’re concerned about committing time and money to an art class, try picking up an adult colouring book. The task of colouring in provides enough distraction for your brain to stop thinking about office concerns without draining your concentration.
Dr Wayne Osborne is an independent physician and medical spokesperson who regularly contributes to international health and lifestyle publications and writes a medical blog.