How to Relax After a Long Day

Three Methods:Relaxing Your BodyChoosing Fun DistractionsRelaxing Your Mind

Feeling tense and worn out is common to many people who don't spend a lot of time relaxing. Without taking time out for yourself, the stress gradually builds up. Instead of getting frazzled and run-down, have a break and seek a few quick, tried and true pick-me-ups.

Method 1
Relaxing Your Body

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    Take a hot shower or bath. Warm water helps relax your muscles and increase circulation. It therefore offers some of the same benefits as getting a massage or exercising can, but is low-cost and won’t risk ramping you up for a couple hours like intense exercise can. Light some candles, play relaxing music and soak in the tub for at least ten minutes.[1][2]
    • The bath is a great time to do some meditation or practice mindfulness.
    • Make sure not to do anything that might make you fall asleep. Don’t try to meditate in the bath unless you are experienced and know you will stay alert.
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    Change into your most comfortable clothes or pjs.[3] Get out of those stuffy work or school clothes and put on something comfortable and soft, like cotton or linen. You will feel instantly more relaxed.
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    Get some light exercise. It may sound counterproductive to relaxation, but exercising helps you clear your head by burning off all the mental energy saved up during a long day at work or school. Regular exercise also helps your body feel more relaxed and stress-free overall, making the next long day easier to get through. Try going for a walk outside, doing yoga or stretching for at least 20 minutes.[4]
    • Walk around the block or a nearby park if it is still light outside. (Don’t walk by yourself at night.) Better yet, take your dog with you and you can both get some much needed exercise. Focus on enjoying the fresh air and sounds of nature instead of your speed or how far you go.
    • Do some yoga poses. Child’s pose, in particular, is great for relaxing the body after a long day.[5]
    • Stretch it out. If your body feels really tired, just spend 20 minutes doing some deep stretches to loosen your muscles from running around all day. [6]
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    Try progressive muscle relaxation. This exercise will help you relax both your body and your mind. If you do it regularly, you will start noticing when different muscles tense up during the day so you can relax them immediately and prevent compounding stress in your muscles.[7]
    • Start by laying down in a quiet room.
    • Pick one muscle, like your left hand, and tense it up as much as possible for 5 seconds. You should be making a tight fist that feels uncomfortable and may be tight enough to shake. Be careful though not to cause shooting or intense pain, which may cause serious damage.
    • Exhale as you relax the muscle quickly. Pay close attention to the difference you feel between a tense muscle and a relaxed one. Remain relaxed for 15 seconds.
    • Move on to the next muscle group and repeat. Do this for all muscles in your body.

Method 2
Choosing Fun Distractions

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    Listen to some soothing music or nature sounds. Buy or download a CD with instrumental music, like classical, or light jazz. Or try a recording of nature sounds. Birds chirping, waves crashing on a beach, a babbling brook, etc. There are many options.[8][9]
    • Any type of music you enjoy will work, as long as it promotes peaceful feelings and happiness. If rock is your favorite genre, you might try slow ballads or some classic rock over more dissonant, heavy sounds.
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    Watch your favorite movie or TV show. But don’t overdo it! Choose a comedy to get you laughing, which immediately promotes a relaxed attitude and body.[10]
    • Limit your TV and other screen time at night. Don’t watch 2-3 hours before bedtime because the bright light may activate, rather than relax, your brain.
    • Make it a treat by choosing what to watch carefully. The less often you watch TV, the better it makes you feel when you do it. Set aside 30 minutes or an hour to watch your favorite show at night, or save up time and watch a movie every Thursday evening, for example.
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    Get a pretty coloring book and nice art pencils or markers. Adult coloring books are a huge trend right now, and you can easily find one in most craft and office supply stores, shopping centers, or even online. They are more intricate than the coloring books you had as kids, and often printed on nice quality paper. Buy yourself some multicolored sharpies or nice art pencils for less than $20 to really make it a treat.
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    Read a book or magazine.[11] Reading is a great way to unwind and stop thinking about all the things you did or didn’t get done during the day. It’s also a wonderful way to get ready for bed, since a book doesn’t require screen time. Pick a novel you want to read and set aside 30 minutes before bed to read a chapter, or save up your magazine subscriptions for this time of day.
    • Listen to an audio book if you prefer. Visualize the action and setting in your head while you sit or lay comfortably.
    • If you prefer using an e-reader or tablet, try to use it without backlighting, if possible. A simple kindle screen looks just like a page in a book, and many tablets have a setting where you can adjust the lighting to look more like paper than a screen.
    • Horror books or intense mysteries might not be the best thing to read before bed. Use your own judgment: if it will keep you up thinking about it all night, save this title for a day off and pick something light-hearted instead.
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    Get outside if you can. Especially if you have been working inside all day.[12] Sometimes called “ecotherapy,” spending time in nature helps reset your mental energy so you can be productive again tomorrow.[13]
    • It’s best to get a little exercise if you can, but even sitting outside in a lawn chair or on your porch will help you unwind. Bring a cup of herbal tea with you, and an ottoman to put your feet up.
    • Get a rocking chair for your porch or deck, if possible. Turn on a small fan if it’s a warm night with no breeze.
    • Use some citronella candles to keep bugs away in the summertime. Having a fan blowing on you will also help keep flying insects out of your personal space.
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    Practice your favorite hobby. Whatever you love to do, have a short and long task ready to do on any given night to make yourself more likely to engage in something fun after a long or difficult day. If your day has been mostly physical work, choose a mentally-related hobby, and vice versa.[14]
    • Start a new sport by joining a league or taking a class. Martial arts is both fun and helps train your mind to pay attention to the moment. If you like Frisbee, find an Ultimate Frisbee league near you that practices a few times a week.
    • If you spend most of your day being active, try something like painting or woodworking. Build a model ship, learn to cross stitch, or paint an abstract scene focusing on colors and textures.
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    Spend time with your pet(s).[15] Pet therapy is popular for a good reason: bonding with your pet promotes relaxation and happiness. No doubt they missed you all day, so set aside some time to play with your dog or brush your cat.
    • Make this quality time both of you enjoy. Don’t try to give your dog a bath or clip your kitty’s nails now. That’s a chore, not a fun activity!
    • Do double duty by taking your dog for a walk. You’ll be spending time together and getting some exercise for both of you!
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    Call or spend time with a friend or loved one. If you have family at home, do something special together when you get home, especially if your time together is limited. If you live alone, set up a date or phone date with your BFF or mom or sibling just to check in and share some laughs.
    • Being in the same room with a family member does not mean you are spending time with them. Give them your attention and don’t stay glued to the TV or your iPad. .[16]

Method 3
Relaxing Your Mind

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    Try meditation. Meditating for 10-20 minutes a day can help you lower overall stress, and even a brief 5 minute meditation when you feel overwhelmed can help you refocus during a stressful situation or workday. You can do it sitting up or laying down, use mantras or guided imagery, or just concentrate on your breathing. The goal is simply to relax your body and calm your mind.
    • For a simple meditation you can do anywhere on your own, just lie or sit comfortably, close your eyes, and take deep breaths while counting each inhale and each exhale, up to 10. Feel the air in your body as it moves and release all tension with each exhale. If your mind wonders away, gently bring your attention back to your breath.
    • If you want to try guided imagery, do the same thing while imagining yourself in a calm, beautiful, or safe place. It could be your granny’s kitchen table, a beach on the Indian Ocean, a hot air balloon ride, or anywhere you want. Picture yourself there by using your senses, like sight, sound, smell, and even touch. The more completely you can imagine it, the easier to feel relaxed.[17]
    • Download a meditation app to your phone, like Headspace, for a free trial. Headspace offers 10 days of 10 minute meditations to teach you how to meditate. It’s amazing what just 10 minutes will do for you! Or try one of The Chopra Center’s meditation apps. There are several, many with soothing music, imagery and mantras to repeat during your session.
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    Practice mindfulness. Lay of sit comfortably in a calm environment. Play some relaxing music if you like, or open the window to listen to the sounds of nature if you live near a lot of trees. Light some scented candles. Focus on the sounds, scents, and sensations you notice and enjoy each moment as it passes.
    • Try focusing on a mantra. Say it over and over to yourself gently as you breathe.
    • Good ones for letting go of a long day include: “Sometimes things are the way they are for a reason;” “Tomorrow is a new day;” and “At this hour, you cannot do anything to change, so rest instead.”[18]
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    Have a cup of herbal tea. Try chamomile, lemon grass or lemon balm, or verbena. [19]
    • Be careful not to have any caffeine or it could disrupt your sleep.
    • Don’t ingest too much sugar close to bedtime.
    • Having a small piece of chocolate or another treat is ok, but don’t eat a lot within 3 hours of bedtime or it may disrupt your sleep.
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    Try aromatherapy. Lavender, in particular, is a great scent for relaxing before bedtime.[20]
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    Write in your journal. There are lots of options for what type of journal you keep, and it’s up to you! Write down your accomplishments for the day to remind yourself of how hard you worked. Or, start a daily gratitude journal. Just write about your day to get it all off your mind so you can relax. Plan for the next day so you aren’t thinking about tomorrow all evening and wasting your free time.
    • Writing down 3-5 things you are grateful for each day is a great way to keep your mood high and release stress. Read it the next morning if you wake up and feel dread about the day ahead.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Creating Pleasurable Experiences