The American Institute of Stress notes that Americans are the most stressed out group in the world. In fact, the stress level in this country is 20 percentage points higher than the global average. The same report found that a whopping 94% of workers say they feel stressed at work.
Many people today battle intense stress and pressure given the professional requirements that are demanded of them daily. Needless to say, discovering how to de-stress after work is critical for anyone who wants to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
If you struggle with knowing how to relax after work, you’re not alone. Keep reading to learn why your job may be a significant factor in your stress level and to hear effective strategies guaranteed to help you de-stress from even the most taxing day, including physical activity, self-care, and online therapy.
Why Am I So Stressed After Work?
Work-related stress or feeling overwhelmed at work is common more often than not. Understanding the reasons why this is true can help you learn to manage work stress in healthier ways. Take a little time to review the following common culprits of work stress — see if any resonate with you.
“Common reasons for being stressed at work include poor work-life balance, taking work home, inadequate social support, poor time management, unmanageable goals, inability to delegate home duties/responsibilities, not setting boundaries, and work overload.”– Talkspace therapist Famous Erwin, LMHC, LPC
- Heavy workload: Managing an excessive workload or trying to meet unrealistic expectations from your employer or superior can increase the pressure and stress you feel on a daily basis. Be open about your limits and what you can feasibly take on.
- Lack of control: Feeling like you have little or no control over your tasks or decisions at work can result in feelings of helplessness and frustration that may be hard to let go of at the end of your day. Talk to your boss about ways you can find autonomy.
- Poor work-life balance: Struggling to maintain a healthy balance between your personal life and professional responsibilities can contribute to increased stress levels. Make sure that you’re leaving enough time in your days to make you a priority.
- Toxic workplace environment: A hostile or toxic workplace atmosphere, including conflicts with colleagues or supervisors, can make it difficult to relax even after leaving the office. Dealing with toxicity can be incredibly challenging, especially if leadership is part of the problem. Do what you can to create a healthy environment, but know that boundaries might be your best defense.
- Inadequate support system: Lack of emotional support from friends, family, or coworkers may exacerbate feelings of isolation and anxiety that result from job-related issues. Find a support system you can count on.
- Taking work home all the time: Attempting to bring work home may seem like a wise choice, but it can cause an endless loop of strain and exhaustion. Instead, try setting boundaries and leaving work at the office.
- Lacking time management skills: Feeling like there aren’t enough hours in the day? Focusing on time management skills might help. Try to arrange your tasks in order of importance and break them into more achievable chunks.
- Unattainable goals: Setting goals is important, but when they’re too lofty it can leave you feeling stressed and defeated. Try setting realistic goals and celebrating small victories along the way.
11 Ways to De-Stress from Work
Here are eleven proven, effective ways to unwind and decompress after work, so you can leave the stress behind.
Get moving — working out releases endorphins, improves mood, regulates blood pressure, and reduces stress levels. Turns out, sweating off the tension with some exercise is beneficial for more than just your body.
Workouts that are good for stress relief:
- Cardiovascular exercises: Get your heart pumping by running, swimming, cycling, or dancing. These exercises will improve blood circulation and reduce stress levels.
- Strength training: Lift weights or do bodyweight exercises like push-ups and squats to build muscle strength, release tension, and improve mental health.
- Flexibility exercises: Stretch it out with yoga or pilates to improve flexibility and promote relaxation. Research shows that stretching can reduce anxiety and depression.
2. Talk to friends and family
Socializing and spending time with loved ones for emotional support can be a great distraction that helps you decompress after work. Spending quality time with the people you care for lets you connect, process emotions, and gain new perspectives.
Benefits of social support:
- Improved mental health: Social support can help you maintain sound mental health and reduce anxiety and depression.
- Better coping mechanisms: A robust support system can offer encouragement, advice, or an empathetic ear during work challenges.
- Quality time: Increase your happiness by spending quality time with those close to you, which triggers the release of hormones like oxytocin and serotonin.
Journaling is an excellent coping tool that promotes mental health and relieves stress and anxiety. When you write in a journal, you can process emotions, let go of negativity, and gain new perspectives. Journaling as a regular practice can be an effective way to unwind after a stressful day at work.
Helpful tips for journaling for mental health include:
- Pick a format: Choose between pen-and-paper or digital options, like an app — there’s no right or wrong way. Just use whatever format feels the most comfortable.
- Create a routine: Set aside time each day for journaling — even just 10 – 15 minutes can make a difference. You can journal first thing in the mornings, during your midday break, or before bed…the benefits are the same regardless of the time of day.
- Write freely: Don’t worry about grammar or structure — just let it all out.
If you want to know how to de-stress after work but don’t want to have to make much effort, meditation might be just what you’ve been looking for. Bring awareness to the present moment, ease your mind, and promote relaxation. De-stressing after a long day of work with meditation is a proven practice that reduces stress, increases focus, and supports mental well-being. Combine meditation for stress with deep breathing exercises to further reduce stress hormone levels.
Benefits of meditation:
- Reduce stress and anxiety levels
- Improve concentration and focus
- Promote emotional health and self-awareness
- Enhance sleep quality
- Increase feelings of calmness and relaxation
5. Color in a coloring book
Engage in creative expression without decision-making or problem-solving tasks. The process of coloring activates the brain’s frontal lobe and can help you focus on one thing so you can relax, making coloring one of the easiest, and maybe most fun, ways to de-stress from work.
Coloring can help:
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Improve sleep
- Decrease heart rate and slow your breathing
Improve overall mood and energy levels to cope with work stress by using essential oils of soothing fragrances like lavender or chamomile. Using essential oils for stress can generate a calming atmosphere, and research shows it can aid in reducing stress levels.
Essential oils that help reduce stress:
- Clary sage
7. Eat a well-balanced diet
Eating nutritionally balanced foods helps your body get essential nutrients to battle stress and maintain general well-being. A proper diet can improve mood and energy levels so you’re able to cope with work-related anxiety.
Foods that help fight stress:
- Whole grains
- Dark chocolate
- Herbal teas
- Omega-3 fatty acids, like avocado and salmon
8. Try online therapy
Seeking professional help through therapy can allow you to develop coping strategies for managing stress. Online stress therapy makes the process as easy as possible — it’s convenient, affordable, and effective. A licensed therapist can share effective stress management techniques.
Best types of therapy modalities for stress:
9. Get adequate sleep
Adequate rest is crucial for maintaining mental health and recovering from work stress. Research suggests that getting even just 60 – 90 extra minutes of sleep per night could result in being overall happier and healthier. Aim for around 7 – 9 hours of shut-eye each night to wake up invigorated.
Get a better night’s rest by:
- Creating and sticking to a sleep schedule
- Having a strict no-cell phones or electronics in bed policy
- Getting up at the same time each day, even on the weekends
10. Engage in fun activities
Engaging in fun activities with loved ones can provide a much-needed break from work-related worries while strengthening social bonds.
According to studies, participants who engage in leisure activities had higher levels of positive psychosocial states and lower levels of depression. Another study found that people who partake in leisure activities have lower stress levels and better stress-management skills.
Ideas for fun activities:
- Play video games
- Play cards or board games
- Read a book
- Watch a movie
- Go out for coffee with a friend
- Go to a park or on a picnic
11. Take breaks during your work day
Be aware of what causes your stress and take breaks during your work day. Taking short breaks can recharge you and reduce stress levels.
“Some effective ways to de-stress after work might be exercising, talking to friends and family, journaling, meditating, coloring, finding an awareness about what’s causing your stress, using aromatherapy, maintaining a healthy diet, engaging in therapy, getting at least 8 hours of sleep, or playing video/board games with friends and family.”– Talkspace therapist Famous Erwin, LMHC, LPC
Learn to De-Stress with Talkspace
Unwind after work with Talkspace, the online therapy platform that connects you with licensed therapists who are experienced in stress management techniques. You can access Talkspace from the comfort of your home or wherever you are.
Talkspace offers convenience, flexibility, affordability, and anonymity. It’s the perfect solution for busy individuals seeking professional help managing their work-related stress.
Benefits of Talkspace include:
- Convenience: Connect with your therapist from anywhere with internet access.
- Flexibility: Schedule sessions at times that suit your busy lifestyle.
- Affordability: Online therapy often costs less than traditional face-to-face counseling services.
- Anonymity: Maintain privacy by connecting with a therapist through secure messaging or video calls.
By engaging in online therapy through Talkspace, you can learn valuable skills and ways to de-stress from work so you can take charge of your mental well-being. Don’t let post-work stress control your life — seek professional support from Talkspace today.
- 1. Stress research. The American Institute of Stress. April 1, 2022. Accessed June 2, 2023. https://www.stress.org/stress-research.
- Montero-Marín J, Asún S, Estrada-Marcén N, Romero R, Asún R. Efectividad de un programa de Estiramientos sobre los niveles de Ansiedad de los Trabajadores de una plataforma logística: Un estudio Controlado Aleatorizado. Atención Primaria. 2013;45(7):376-383. doi:10.1016/j.aprim.2013.03.002. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23764394/. Accessed June 2, 2023.
- Cho M-Y, Min ES, Hur M-H, Lee MS. Effects of aromatherapy on the anxiety, vital signs, and sleep quality of percutaneous coronary intervention patients in intensive care units. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2013;2013:1-6. doi:10.1155/2013/381381. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3588400/. Accessed June 2, 2023.
- 1. More sleep would make us happier, healthier and Safer. American Psychological Association. Accessed June 2, 2023. https://www.apa.org/topics/sleep/deprivation-consequences.
- Pressman SD, Matthews KA, Cohen S, et al. Association of enjoyable leisure activities with psychological and physical well-being. Psychosomatic Medicine. 2009;71(7):725-732. doi:10.1097/psy.0b013e3181ad7978. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2863117/. Accessed June 2, 2023.
- Lagunes-Córdoba E, Yoldi-Negrete M, Hewson T, et al. A better way of life: The role of leisure activities on self-perceived health, perceived stress, confidence in stress management, and satisfaction with social support in psychiatrists and psychiatry trainees in Mexico. Frontiers in Psychiatry. 2022;13. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2022.1052275. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2022.1052275/full. Accessed June 2, 2023.