Do you often find yourself ruminating about work in bed, failing to ever wind down and ultimately struggling to get to sleep? It’s not surprising when we consider that, in our post-Covid era, the boundaries between work life and home life have become alarmingly blurred.

Anxious employees will often discuss their elongated work days, which begin the moment they wake and check their inbox. The last thing they see at night? Yes, more of their inbox as they reply to yet more emails.

This on-demand approach to work brings a slew of negative side effects that chip away at our mental and physical health. It’s as disastrous for productivity as it is for our home life. We urgently need to reclaim wind-down periods so that we can engage with our families, pursue our hobbies – and, crucially, gain the restorative rest we need to feel refreshed and mentally sharp for the next day.

The benefits of this spill out into our work. We’re at our most productive and creative when we give ourselves permission to be fully “on”, followed by fully “off”. Oscillating between these two states keeps us mentally sharp and emotionally stable. The reality, though, is that “off” time for many of us consists of vegging in front of the TV with our eyes drifting to the inbox on our phone or scrolling mindlessly through our social media feeds.

Personally speaking, my own wind-down strategy used to be junk food. Back in the days when I ran a PR agency, I’d reward myself for getting through another stressful day with a family pack of salt n’ vinegar crisps and a packet of gummy bears. Even when I developed a severe toothache, I’m ashamed to say that I’d take a painkiller and eat the sweets on the other side of my mouth. What finally cured me of my nightly sweetie habit was sitting in a dentist’s chair having root canal treatment.

I know I wasn’t alone in putting a “full-stop” to the working day by rewarding myself with junk food. Work is stressful. Family is stressful. And it can seem like we need a bit of comfort to make us feel better. For many of us, that comfort comes courtesy of booze. If wine o’clock is a nightly fixture in your schedule, it might be time to trade up to more helpful post-work habits. Although we might not view ourselves as having a “drink problem”, a daily wine habit can become very entrenched – our go-to coping mechanism that we reach for without really thinking about what we’re doing. And, over time, that can do a lot of damage to our wellbeing.

Now that I’ve retrained as a health coach, I’m a lot more aware of my need for proper self-care. I make sure to put my own wellbeing to the top of my list – and that means winding down in a way that helps my health rather than harms it.

Here are a few ways that you can carve out some relaxation time and draw a line under the working day…without hitting the bottle or reaching for the biscuit tin.

  • Breathing in calm

One of the quickest and most effective ways to relax also happens to be free and accessible to everyone at all times: our breath!  The 7/11 breathing practice is very easy to remember, so you can call upon it whenever you feel stressed and overwhelmed. All you do is breathe in to the count of 7 and then out to the count of 11. Relax your tummy and breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose and out through you nose. Keep going for a couple of minutes and see how much calmer you feel.

  • Go herbal

The ritual of making yourself a herbal tea can replace opening a bottle of wine. Maybe treat yourself to a special tea pot and mug and really enjoy the ceremony of leaving the herbs to steep and then pouring that fragrant, warming drink to sip calmly.

  • Tap into the power or aroma

Essential oils are a wonderful way to instantly switch mood. You can buy an inexpensive diffuser to have their gorgeous scents wafting through your home. Or simple put a drop on your wrist and inhale. Orange essential oil is an instant mood-booster. Lavender is very calming: take deep breaths of it and, as you exhale, imagine yourself letting go of all the stresses of your day. 

  • Walk it off

Leaving your phone at home and getting outside for even a short walk will help shift your mental state away from the tension of your work day. Walking encourages feelings of calm, particularly if you’re able to access nature while you’re out. Being amidst greenery has been shown to induce feelings of peace and happiness.

  • The power of music

Not only is music one of the most enjoyable ways to unwind, but one of the most powerful too. Choose a track that you love and let it wash over you, taking the stresses of the day with it.

  • Legs up the wall

Lying on the floor with your legs straight up against a wall is one of the most relaxing of yoga positions. It’s a lovely way to ground yourself (just make sure you’re not scrolling on your phone while you’re lying there!).

There are so many different ways to unwind after work – play around with what suits you and develop your own ritual that allows you to detach from work and reclaim some headspace.

Suzy Glaskie
Founder at Peppermint Wellness | Website | + posts

Suzy Glaskie is a former burnt-out PR boss and now a functional medicine health coach, specialising in corporate wellness. She is founder of Peppermint Wellness and host of the Midlife Illuminated podcast.