The Positive Pensive

An anxious pessimist tries to find the positive
7 stones balancing on a river

7 ways to find your zen after a stressful day at work

After a day of dashing around the office, frantically responding to emails and wondering where the hell the time is going, I find it difficult to switch off and return to my usual ‘zen’ mode (ha…ha…).

I’ve never been quite sure if this is just because I probably care a bit too much or just a symptom of being a big ball of generalised anxiety. Possibly both. Either way, on those days I often find myself feeling tense and edgy long after I’ve got home. Given that we already spent about a third of our day at work, the ‘switching off’ thing becomes quite the priority when it comes to restoring work-life balance.

Since I’ve been signed off work for stress once already – an experience I’d prefer not to repeat – nowadays I’m extra vigilant about looking after myself. The funny thing is, as is usually the case when it comes to ‘self-care’ in general, it’s not rocket science.

Even so, more often than not we need to be reminded to give ourselves room to breathe. These are just some of the ways I do exactly that.

Take a long shower/bath 🛀

Hey, I told you this isn’t rocket science.

The reason I start this obvious suggestion is because it ticks a lot of boxes. The hot water can reduce the tension in your body, you get some much-needed ‘me’ time to decompress and – so CBT tells me – you should get a better night’s sleep if you do it a couple of hours before bed.

I also like to think of it as a nice way to separate my working day from my home life – a neat little gateway into relaxation.

Make yourself a good meal – and have that glass of wine 🍷

I don’t know about you, but on the particularly demanding days, I barely even find time to eat. After working hard, your body is likely going to be craving some energy after carrying all that stress.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting going to town on a whole pizza and array of carby sides (though that sounds fun). By all means make yourself your favourite meal – something comforting and nutritious – but the emphasis here is on looking after yourself and recuperating a bit.

The same goes for the glass of wine. It’s a small reward, not a coping mechanism.

Have a good old-fashioned rant 😠

I am a full believer in the therapeutic properties of the rant. To your friend, a parent, your other half, a journal – whatever floats your boat. Sometimes we just need to vent and get the stress out of our systems. My poor mother probably doesn’t get most of what I’m saying – but she’s chill and she listens and she’s totally on my side. That in itself can be reassuring enough to move on with your day.

It’s also an excellent way to get some perspective, which is especially great if you’re anxious or feeling overwhelmed. It also works both ways; it’s nice to know you’re not being unreasonable, but it’s also a wonderful feeling when you see the bigger picture and your stressful day isn’t the be-all-end-all of everything.

Ahh. That’s better.

Write it down ✍

This can work in much the same way as the previous point – but I tend to focus more on what recurrent thoughts I’m having. So that can range from any unanswered questions I have from the day, any action points I didn’t get around to or any other niggles that might play on my mind.

The key here is to prevent yourself from spending the rest of your day ruminating on things. Not only is that a one-way ticket to Stressville, it’s also a great way to give yourself a terrible night’s sleep while the same thoughts tumble around your head.

Don’t let it happen. Write it down and put it away until you’re being paid to deal with it again.

Schedule a chat with your manager 📅

A bad day is one thing. A bad project is another thing. Having a generally shitty, stressful time at work is altogether different – and it deserves to be talked about. If you see a pattern forming, it’s a good idea to nip this in the bud nice and early – but it’s up to you.

I really can’t emphasise this enough. If you’re regularly losing sleep, dreading work, feeling stressed – open up that conversation. People can’t help you out or offer a solution if they don’t know how you’re feeling.

Don’t cancel on your plans ❌

So you get home and you’re shattered. Then you remember you promised you were going to hang out with your friends. Or you have a meal to go to. A catch-up planned. You are <this> close to cancelling.

Don’t do it. For your sanity, go.

Not only is cancelling not fun for the people you’re meant to see, it also comes with pretty horrible feelings like guilt, loneliness and uh, more stress. Because you let work ruin your plans.

For all the times that I’ve cancelled, nine times out of ten, I wish I’d gone. I have rarely ever got back from seeing people that make me laugh and thought ‘I feel worse than I did when I got home’.

Plan things to look forward to – and don’t wait til Friday night. You’re an adult, you can DO WHAT YOU WANT. Within reason, obvs 😉

Remember there’s more to life than work 🌄

It’s awesome that you care about your job. It’s great that you want to do right by your colleagues. But (prepare for morbidity) on your deathbed are you really going to be worried about that one report you messed up one time? Or are you going to wish you hadn’t spent every waking hour stressing over it?

Don’t get me wrong, being career-driven is totally cool – but it shouldn’t get to the point where the career you’ve strived for becomes a negative aspect of your life.

It’s 6pm, man. Watch some Netflix. Go for a walk. Have that bath I mentioned earlier.

The likelihood is you can’t do much about the stuff causing you stress once you’re home. Write that stuff down, deal with it tomorrow and enjoy your evening.

1 Comment

  1. “Plan things to look forward to” – Reason why I LOVE having plans. Something to look forward too, focus on, count down towards. Helps give a crap day a positive when you think “Ohhhh this is in 4 days!”

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