One of the most common things clients come into my office with is chronic stress and tension from over-working. If you think about modern life, it's not set up for optimal health and well-being. Many of us commute to and from work in rush hour traffic, to then sit in front of a computer for 8 hours or more, to then come home and have very little time to reverse the negative effects of such a sedentary lifestyle. Often when we think of ways to de-stress and unwind, we imagine that these things must be super expensive or take too much time — money and time we'd rather spend on our families. If this sounds familiar, then this list is for you! I've compiled some ideas of affordable after-work ideas for you to try to relieve the day's stress.
1 | Practice mindfulness meditation
Research supports that mindfulness — bringing one’s non-judgmental awareness to the present moment — aids in reducing stress (as well as improving a host of physical ailments!) Simply find a guided mindfulness meditation on YouTube, pop in some headphones and follow along. Not interested in using tech? That’s fine, too! Instead, find a comfortable place and begin to focus your awareness on in-the-moment experiences such as the sounds in the room, your breath and the tactile sensations you feel. This simple practice will offer you a feeling of peace and relaxation. Here are some great online meditation resources and some resources local to L.A.
2 | Spend time outdoors
Don’t want to spend a pretty penny to get your relaxation on? Head outdoors! Nearby parks and natural areas provide plenty to do (i.e. hiking, picnicking, swimming, etc.) for free. Research suggests that recreating outdoors can reduce cortisol levels in the blood and help in stress-reduction. Not outdoorsy and wondering how to get started? Try joining a Meetup group for hiking to get your feet wet and learn some local trails.
3 | Get moving
We all know that exercise is good for our physical health, but don’t forget the effects in can have on our mental wellbeing! Evidence supports that exercise also reduces individuals’ subjective experience of depression and anxiety. Science also suggests that exercise can be as effective as an antidepressant! Think about that for a minute. Are you wondering how you'll motivate yourself to get your exercise in on a consistent basis? Check out my article for best tips to keep up a regular fitness program.
4 | Seek support
Studies show that those who have adequate levels of social support in their lives are more resilient to the stressors they endure on a daily basis. Keeping this in mind, seek support from those around you. If you’re stressed out, talk about it! If you need help, ask for it! Whether you rely on a significant other, a friend, a family member, a colleague or a mental health professional, make sure you're seeking emotional support on a regular basis. Not sure where to start? Check out my articles for how to better connect with those around you, and how to make new friends as an adult.
5 | Use self-massage
Scientific studies back the idea that massage reduces stress and lowers blood pressure. But what if you don’t want to spend an arm and a leg for a full-body massage? Give yourself one! Inexpensive foam-rollers serve as a great tool to give yourself a head-to-toe massage, without the cost. Here's a foam roller (if you don't already have one!) and an instructional foam rolling tutorial to get you into it. You'll be amazed at how much muscle tension resides in your body — even if you're not consciously aware of it — and rolling out these pressure points will have an immense effect on your ability to release stress and tension from mind and body.
6 | Try simple yoga poses
Some people can’t engage in vigorous exercise for one reason or another. But don’t let this stop you from getting the stress-reduction benefits of mindful movement! Science supports that simple, restorative yoga poses can provide amazing stress-relief without breaking a sweat. Don't know where to start? Check out YouTube for free instructional yoga videos to get you going. Here's a yoga for stress-reduction video to get you started. Restorative yoga is basically relaxing with intention which is going to have a much more significant impact on your ability to de-stress as compared with simply sitting on the couch watching Netflix (not that there's anything wrong with that!)
I hope that some of these ideas inspire you to amp up your self-care regimen. I know that this is an area that I continue to have room to grow. Remember that self-care is a practice. Start slow. Challenge yourself over time. Are you finding it difficult to picture yourself following through? Consider joining a self-care challenge, where there is some built-in motivation. Now I want to hear from you! How do you de-stress at the end of a long work day? Are there any practices or rituals that help you transition from a mindset of productivity to a headspace of rejuvenation and relaxation. I would love to hear them in the comments section below. As always, thank you for reading and be well.
about the author
Hi! I'm Natalie. And my passion is helping people live more peaceful, meaningful lives. Through holistic therapy in Pasadena and here on the blog, my mission is to provide people with the support and tools they need to live their best life.