How to completely switch off from work and relax
You finished work three hours ago, so why are you still anxiously checking email on your phone? And is it essential to hit refresh on Twitter every two minutes when you're supposed to be winding down?
If you feel as though you're always switched on, and are struggling to chill outside of work, then you're not alone. A recent study of 3,000 UK workers found that 69 per cent are often required to work outside of office hours. It's no wonder many of us have joined the hoards of the "overworked".
It doesn't have to be this way. You can be a successful freelancer or still impress your boss if you find the right balance and embrace your downtime. To help you relax, read the following tips, and you should get back on track.
Accept your limits
No matter how much work you have, there are never enough hours in a day to achieve everything. There will always be something else that needs to be tackled. Accept that you will have to down tools and go home. And that the world won't end. That clients will still be around. You're not a superhero. Just do your best every day.
Write a daily exit list
Before you leave your desk, write down everything you need to sort for the next day. Even if you already have all your jobs listed via an online task management tool. Doesn't matter. The act of writing things down will clear your mind and reassure you that you're in control. And if you feel like you're on top of things, you'll tell yourself that you deserve to relax.
Get some exercise
After a productive day in the office, I love to go to the gym or ride my bike. It provides a separation between work and life and helps me burn off any work stress – allowing me to go home and completely relax. I'm never worried about the next day because I've boosted my endorphins and put a barrier between my business and downtime. You should consider adopting a similar routine.
Get a hobby
Knitting, painting, sculpting, building stuff, gardening – whatever floats your boat, embrace a new hobby. Take a course on the subject, join an evening class, borrow a library book on the subject. Or pick up a paintbrush and go for it. The point here is to move your mind away from work and focus on something creative to relax.
Buy some colouring books
Colouring in isn't just for children; it's a tremendous meditative and creative activity for adults too. Buy yourself some colourful pencils, and check out our recommended grown up colouring books to crayon those stresses away.
Edit (and ideally ditch) your smartphone
Do you need access to your emails on your phone? Is social media adding value to your life? Do yourself a favour and delete anything that relates to work, and put your phone on charge in another room. If someone wants to speak to you, they'll call you – and you'll hear it. Otherwise, you do not need the constant merry-go-round of Google, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Email, etc.
Cook a fresh meal
The very act of organising ingredients and transforming them into a healthy meal is a great stress-buster. When you have nothing else to consider other than when to finish frying some onions, work will become a distant memory. What's more, you'll feel amazing for eating something good for you. In our house, we often get inspiration from Sainsbury's healthier recipes.
Don't rely on booze to help you unwind
Before you reach for that glass of wine, consider this – too much alcohol can cause anxiety and make you feel worse instead of better. Instead, save a few beers for the weekend and embrace green teas and water during the week. You'll feel less stressed, more in control and happier – ready to tackle anything that's thrown your way.
Get some fresh air
After dinner, if it isn't belting down with rain, why not take an evening stroll? The fresh air will further help you to relax and clear your head. Just make sure you don't discuss work, and instead turn the conversation to lighter topics. It'll help you gain a fresh perspective.
Read a book that's unrelated to business
I'm currently working my way through Cory Doctorow's Walkaway, and it transports me to another world: one that is utterly different from my own. With so much focus on something else, it's a kind of healthy meditation. Even better, I have no time to think about work. Stock up on lots of great fiction and aim to read a chapter each night. Opting for a book, instead of another screen, will help you unwind.
Have a bedtime routine
To end your day the right way, follow a bedtime routine that helps you drift off into a peaceful, restorative sleep. Pour yourself a hot bath, light some candles and listen to some chill-out music as you enjoy the bubbles. Then put on some fresh PJs and enjoy a little more reading until your eyes feel satisfyingly heavy. Just avoid any screens, and you'll fall happily into a deep slumber.