At the end of a long and tiring day, it’s tempting to just plop down on the bed and sleep off the stress. But research has shown that doing so has the adverse effect of keeping you up at night because you did not give your body and brain the time to detach from work mode.
Instead of trying to go straight to sleep, do some fun and relaxing activities first to clear out the stressful and negative emotions that stayed with you throughout the day. Once you have sufficiently decompressed, you will sleep better and wake up the following day more refreshed and prepared for the challenges ahead.
Here are some suggestions for unwinding:
- Take a warm bath
A warm bath is perfect for relaxing because it activates the body’s parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for the rest-and-digest response that occurs in our body when we’re at rest) and it relaxes the muscles. Make sure that you give yourself enough time to truly enjoy the bath. A rushed shower will not help you feel very relaxed.
- Use aromatherapy
Aromatherapy uses aromatic essential oils medicinally to improve the health of the body, mind, and spirit. Oils like lavender and lemon in particularly are used to improve sleep. If you are hesitant about lighting scented candles, purchase a diffuser instead and plug it in your bedroom or bathroom.
- Listen to music
Music is a powerful stress management tool – it has been proven to help slow heart rate, decrease stress hormones, and lower blood pressure. Singing along to your favorite songs can also take your mind off your worries. So listen to your favorite playlist or CD while you get ready for bed.
- Drink tea
Tea contains L-theanine, an amino acid that reduces mental and physical stress and keeps us calm. If you have the time, brew a pot from loose tea leaves rather than simply dunking a tea bag in a cup.
Science has shown that controlled breathing can help manage stress. Find a quiet spot where you can sit properly, then take slow, deep, measured breaths that swell your abdomen rather than your rib cage. Stay this way for five to 10 minutes. You can even use meditation apps like Headspace or Calm to guide you.
- Indulge in some comfort food
If you have three or more hours to spare before bedtime, have a proper dinner. Avoid caffeine or sugary foods though, because these can mess with your sleep. Instead, fill your plate with whole grain carbohydrates, leafy vegetables, fatty fish, and fruits.
- Ignore your phone
Responding to messages and repeatedly checking social media can amount to a serious energy drain and increase in stress, so switch your phone to silent mode as soon as you get home, and put it someplace where you cannot readily see it so that you won’t be tempted to take a peek when temptation strikes.
Laughter is the best medicine for stress. It relaxes the whole body, triggers the release of endorphins, and reduces stress hormones. Watch a few episodes of your favorite sitcoms, goof around with pets or children, or go to karaoke bar with friends.
Always take time to relax after a long day at work. Simple things like taking a warm bath or eating a warm dinner with friends can rejuvenate your mind and body and get you ready for a brand new day tomorrow.