After a long hard day of work, the first thing most of us want to do is go home, lock the door and plop down on the sofa.
But if you really want to unwind, you should know there's more to relaxation than mindlessly watching TV in your underwear.
Why does relaxation matter? Isn't it just a desire to be lazy and not own up to responsibility?
Well, not quite.
Stress – which is the absence of relaxation – is actually one of the single biggest health concerns in the world. It's been connected to everything from seizures and high blood pressure to the common cold and depression.
So no, relaxation isn't laziness. It's actually the best prescription for a long, happy and healthy life.
You aren't going to find relaxation at work, as much as you may try.
The very definition of work stands in contradiction to the definition of relaxation. That means your relaxation has to take place after work and on the weekends.
With that being said, let's take a look at a handful of practical tips and strategies that others use to stop overthinking and unwind after a tough day.
1. Create a serene space in your home.
Your home or apartment should be viewed as a retreat from the stressors of the outside world. However, this isn't always true.
Depending on who lives with you and what sort of things happen at home, it may not be an entirely stress-free place. From kids screaming at each other in the living room to overflowing dishes in the sink, it can be challenging to relax.
This is why you need to create a designated serene space where you can unwind and relax. How do you create such a place?
The three most important things we'd go for while creating our serene spot? Versatility, comfort and style. We'd like our lounge space to be both magical and functional.
This means your serene space isn't just a place to lie down and nap. While this may be part of it, the space should also be functional.
Do you find writing relaxing? Include a writer's desk. Enjoy listening to music? Splurge on a nice record player.
You get the picture.
2. Leave work at the office.
The reason most people find it challenging to ever enter a state of relaxation is that they bring work home with them. This happens both physically and mentally.
If you can help it, leave work at the office.
Physically leaving work at the office is pretty straightforward. Turn off your email, don't bring documents or computers home and cut yourself off from communication until the morning.
Mentally abandoning work is slightly more challenging for some folks. This means forgetting about the fact that your boss scolded you earlier that morning or choosing not to think about that looming project deadline next week.
Train yourself to do this, and over time you'll find it easier to unwind.
3. Spend some time meditating.
If you've never tried meditation, then you're missing out. While some people think it's a bogus technique that makes you look ridiculous and weak, research continues to tout the benefits of mindful meditation.
As psychologist Robbie Maller Hartman says,
Research suggests that daily meditation may alter the brain's neural pathways, making you more resilient to stress.
That means you aren't just putting yourself in a relaxed state of being, but you're actually better preparing yourself to avoid the stressed state of being in the future.
4. Spend time observing your surroundings.
Here's a tip that requires some practice, but yields pretty astounding results. If you're finding it difficult to unwind after work, you need to turn off all unnecessary stimuli and harness your thoughts for a few minutes.
Sit on your sofa and look at different objects in the room.
This could include something as simple as a lamp or as intricate as a painting. The key, though, is to focus on one item at a time.
While focusing on each item, try to zoom in even further and focus on an individual element of the item. So, if you're looking at a lamp, try just focusing on the lampshade, then the switch, etc.
As you're looking at various elements, notice all of the details, ridges, textures and colors. Once you lose focus of one item, move to the next.
This forces you to drown out other thoughts and rein in your mind.
After doing this for a few minutes, you'll find it easier to relax for a longer period of time.
5. Get everything done immediately.
Just because you're off work doesn't mean your responsibilities are done for the day. We all have things that need to be done at home, including things like household chores.
Since you're already a little high-strung in the minutes after work, go ahead and get these chores done. This may include unloading the dishwasher, making dinner, getting the coffee pot ready for the morning, bathing the kids or anything in between.
By getting these things done earlier in the day, you'll be able to relax for the rest of the evening without thinking about what has to be done prior to bedtime.
Remember if you're chronically stressed, then something is wrong.
You either have too many stress triggers in your life or have some sort of physiological issue that isn't allowing you to move out of the stressed state of being and into the relaxed state of being.
Once you learnt the art of relaxation, not only will you be more productive, but it could actually save your life.