Since my time in the corporate machine, I’ve noticed that leaving work at work has become more and more difficult. Working at home seems to be the “norm” for the long foreseeable future, making it tempting to keep checking email and stay online late into the evening. 

And if I’m not online, then I’m thinking about what I’m missing. Sound familiar? It does to me. But there is hope for all of us! Here are 9 simple ways to unwind after work (without alcohol). Use these “how to” tips to help you leave work at work.

Beautiful Afro American girl at home relaxing after a stressful day at work

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How to unwind after work

Work environments can be stressful. Projects can be overwhelming. Coworkers can be difficult. For all of those reasons and more, knowing how to relax and destress after a stressful day at work is a must. 

Learning how to unwind after work should be considered an adulting skill. 

But before getting into some easy ways to unwind after work, here’s how to destress after work and how to stop thinking about work after you’ve left the building (or desk for our WFH family).

How do I destress after work?

  • Acknowledge the stress: You can’t deal with something that you ignore. Recognize that the stress is there.
  • Allow yourself to take a break from the problem: Oftentimes we put our brains into overdrive trying to solve our problems. But ruminating on a problem 24/7 ends up being counterproductive. Work on something else for a while then come back to it. 
  • Do activities that release tension and reduce stress: Find the activities or hobbies that are the opposite of “stress inducing.” Anything that calms your mind or helps exert the extra energy and adrenaline your body has produced in response to the stress. These activities will be different for every person, but you’ll want to have several tricks up your sleeve to use depending on the situation.
  • Manage the stress: Constant stress management is helpful for those moments when you feel overwhelmed. Even though every day may not be super stressful, build in some stress-reducing activities into your normal schedule. That way, you won’t feel like you have to carve out special time to do a “destressing” activity. By making them part of your daily life, you can rely on them when you may be too frazzled to think.

Related: Why Being Challenged at Work is a Good Thing

How do I turn off my brain after work?

  • Close your laptop: Getting constant pings, notifications, and emails will only encourage you to keep working. 
  • Keep chanting, “It can wait until morning,” to yourself. It really can. No company has tanked because a young professional didn’t answer an email. Or an employee for that matter. Unless you’re the CEO. And if you’re a CEO reading this, it can still wait until morning–you’re the boss after all.
  • Set up work boundaries: Establish team rules and protocols with your team to protect your time off. For example, make a rule that meeting requests can’t go past a certain hour and that you shouldn’t reach out in the evening unless it is a real emergency. If others want to work late into the night, let them. But they don’t have to pull you into their odd work schedule. In my other articles, I talk more about how to set workplace boundaries and maintaining a good work life balance

Also, check out “How to Be Productive on Your Day Off and Still Enjoy It” for more tips on not thinking about work when you’re at home.

9 Ways to Unwind and Relax After Work

Work already takes up a majority of our lives and brainpower, not only during the 8-5 business hours, but after the fact as well. So, sometimes, it can be hard to let go of the latest work happenings and enjoy our free time. If that sounds like you, here are 9 simple ways to unwind and relax after work without alcohol.

How do you unwind after a stressful day?

1. Dance Party: We’ve all got to let our hair down sometime. So why not doing it why playing your favorite music and dancing around your kitchen/ living room/ bedroom/ patio—wherever you may be! Don’t think about how you look because no one is watching, and be free to dance.

2. Stretching / Yoga: After a stressful day at work, yoga and stretching helps calm me down. It slows down my heartbeat and helps release the tension in my muscles, which are pretty tight after a hard day. This is a great way to unwind after work since it focuses on calming your mind, deep breathing, and slow movements. 

3. Watch an old Comedy: Laughter is medicine for the soul. Take a half hour and watch a funny TV episode. I find the older TV shows are funnier and more lighthearted. If you’re stumped, I suggest Friends as a great show to get some laughs. But I am totally biased here since it is my all-time favorite TV show.

How do I relax after a stressful day at work?

4. Working Out / Run: I put this one separate from stretching and yoga because though they are both exercises, they have very different effects. While static stretching calms your heart rate, more intense workouts increase your heart rate. Still, going for a run or doing a workout can also help you relax after work. It expounds your “stressful energy” and gives you a good distraction.

When I run, all the pent-up tension and frustration comes out with each stride.

5. Socialize with Friends: Seeing friends is a great way to unwind after work. You can share what made your day so tough, and have the other person validate or empathize with your feelings. Sometimes just hearing an “I understand” can make a burden at work easier to carry.

But no more than five to ten minutes on work stuff or else it can turn into a pity party. And there are definitely better parties to attend. 

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6. Hobbies: What do you enjoy doing on the weekends? Reading, Writing, Hiking, Crocheting, Knitting… Whatever it is, consider doing it after a long day of work. You may think you need more free time to commit time to your hobby, but even an half hour doing something you love can do wonders for destressing and improving your mood.

How to decompress after work

7. Take a Bath: There are two types of people: bath people and non-bath people. If you’re a bath person, take a soak in the tub to make your stress melt away. Light a candle, grab a book or magazine, and let the bath do its magic. 

If you’re not sure whether you’re a bath person or not, I encourage you to give it a try. It’s a really simple way to destress after work. The beautiful thing about baths is that you can’t do anything else while taking a bath. You’re forced to stop working, stop striving, stop pushing yourself, and just be. 

So you’re not a bath person? Try these other self-care and “me-time” ideas to help you decompress.

8. Brain Vomit: This way to unwind after work is essentially not holding back and getting everything that’s stressful out into the open air. Even if there is not a listening ear, it can be helpful to voice your frustrations and talk through what’s stressing you out. On the commute home, crank up the radio and just talk to yourself about work. When you get home, take out a piece of paper and scribble down what’s frustrating you. These don’t have to be full sentences or complete thoughts, just get it on paper. 

Once it’s out in the open air or on paper, it’s easier to let go of in our minds. We may even find a solution or better approach once we’ve talked it out. Either way, now you can relax after work. 

I talk more about this method in how to enjoy your day off while being productive.

9. Read Your Bible and Pray: Reading the Bible is another way to unwind after work, as it puts your focus back on God. When we get bogged down in work or stressed out over deadlines, the Bible reminds us that God is there with us through it all. Through prayer, we can connect with him and receive his comfort and peace in the situation

Related: How to Not Give Up – Dealing with Tough Work Situations

Healthy Ways to Relax After Work

All these are healthy ways to help relax after work. They release tension, give your mind a break, and encourage the processing of your emotions. Denying stress or ignoring problems only augment the stress. The better response is to realize and focus on the items that you can control. 

Look at the big picture, noting that tomorrow is yet another day. 

As Jesus says in Matthew 6, each day has enough trouble of its own. Leave tomorrow’s worries for tomorrow. And once you give yourself permission to do that, you can be present where you are and let go of what you can’t control. 

Be assured, what seems out of your control is always in God’s control.

Young woman sits on a chair and open her arms at the top of the mountain, Success in business concept

What to Do When You Get Home from Work

Building on what I mentioned above, one easy way to unwind and relax after work is to get your mind off of work by doing other things. Despite what we think about multitasking, we really can’t do it, certainty not well. So while your mind is occupied with something else, you can’t be thinking about… 

Wait, what were we talking about again? Oh yeah, you can’t be thinking about work. 😉

Things to Do After Work at Home

To fight the urge to open your laptop or answer a work text on your phone, try directing your attention to other things once you get home.

After Work Hobbies

Picking up a hobby that you can do during the week is an awesome way to relax after a stressful day. Here are some suggestions for after work hobbies:

  • Writing
  • Blogging
  • Gardening
  • Dancing
  • Singing
  • Crocheting
  • Knitting
  • Woodworking
  • Design (Fashion, graphics, interiors)
  • Sports 
    • Biking, hiking, baseball, softball, frisbee, golf, ice skating, hockey, soccer, running, basketball, swimming, etc. – See if there is an adult community team nearby.
  • Learn a language
  • Volunteer
  • Join a choir / orchestra 
    • Take instrument lessons

Relaxing Day Off Ideas

The self-care items, fun activities, and after work hobbies above are also great ideas to help you have a relaxing day off. I have more tips on how to enjoy your day off and more suggestions on fun, relaxing things to do.

How to Relax After Work without Alcohol

The best work life balance I ever had was during my time in government. I worked part time at an economic office, and no matter how pressed we were on a deadline, once the clock hit five o’clock, everyone left. Most didn’t even take their laptop with them. In fact, many of us, including me, only had desktops. 

Packing up at the end of the day was a cinch, and leaving work at work, was easy as pie.

Today, as a young professional in corporate America, it is a different story. My work always seems to be lingering in the back of my mind. Since I started working from home full-time, it has gotten even worse. 

I’m always looking for ways to unwind after work. If you are, too, I hope these 9 ways to relax after a stressful day sans alcohol help you destress and enjoy your evenings off. You’ve certainly earned it.

And you? How do you unwind after a stressful day?

Leave me a comment below!

Don’t miss this! More posts about Working and the Young Professional Lifestyle:

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