Employee Wellness: 5 Ways to Mentally Refresh After a Stressful Week
We’ve all felt the stress of a busy work week, those that feel like they are never going to end. Those weeks when we have to worry about work projects and deal with deadlines, etc. We’re supposed to only deal with this while at work, but many of us tend to bring this stress home. This work stress gets combined with home stress which can make it feel like we can never catch a break. Some stress can be beneficial, however, it is important to remember that we should be able to go home from work and relax, instead of continuing to feel that stress.
Why is constant stress bad for us?
Feeling stressed frequently can cause ongoing harm to our overall health. Persistent stress can cause chronic inflammation, which can lead to higher risks of developing certain conditions and diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Stress symptoms can affect our bodies, mood, and behavior. Some common symptoms of stress include headaches, fatigue, sleeping problems, anxiety, irritability, social withdrawal, and alcohol misuse. Keep reading to find out 5 ways to help you unwind, refresh, and reset after a stressful week.
1. Practice conscious breathing and mindful meditation
This practice involves sitting comfortably and focusing on your breathing, taking long deep breaths, letting your thoughts go and focusing your attention on the present moment. This technique of slow and conscious breathing releases an anti-stress chemical called acetylcholine, which slows down our heart and relaxes us. This chemical is considered the chief neurotransmitter of our parasympathetic nervous system. According to Harvard Medical School Health Publishing, this meditation practice can be beneficial for those who have anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. You can find a short breathing and mindful meditation video here.
2. Get some fresh air
Spending time in nature can sometimes be referred to as forest bathing or ecotherapy. This practice has been proven to help relieve stress, anxiety, improve your mood, and boost your happiness. Getting outside on a sunny day will allow you to not only get some fresh air, but absorb Vitamin D, which boosts your mood. Spending time in nature can awaken your senses and open your mind. This study found that we associate the color green with happiness, comfort, and a sense of peace.
3. Listen to your favorite music
Music therapy can be an immensely powerful tool. It is used in medical settings for patients receiving cancer treatments and patients that are in recovery. It is important to be engaged and actively listening to the sounds that you are hearing, avoiding any distracting thoughts. Whether you are at home or on a walk, music will help you unplug and brighten up your day.
4. Spend time with your family, friends, and pets
Spending time with your loved ones is good for your overall health; your loved ones can be there to celebrate good times as well as support you during tough times. Adults with strong social connections have a reduced risk of significant health problems including depression and high blood pressure. Being able to communicate with your loved ones can function as a stress buffer, allowing you to avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms like misuse of alcohol.
5. Distract yourself by reading a book, watching a movie, or getting some exercise
It’s all about avoiding any stressful thoughts; books and movies can help you focus on the story in front of you and give you a small break from the “real world”. Reading books or watching movies fully engages your mind and imagination. These are activities in which the brain is solely focused on one task, which has been found to reduce stress and enhance relaxation. Exercise can also be helpful, without the need to get an intense workout; taking a 30-minute walk will “burn off” the stress hormones and release endorphins in the brain which promote relaxation.
The Bottom Line
Rather than choosing just one of these tips to focus on, try multiple and see which one works best for you. It’s all about allowing yourself to unwind and relax during your days off in order to start the following week with a fresh mindset.
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Written by Andrea Melgarejo, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern
1. Mayo Clinic