Even if you just have a few minutes, knowing what to do after work to physically and mentally transition can help counteract tension and loss of focus triggered by all those hours spent grinding away, sitting through meetings, or staring at screens. "There's this saying that 'companies shouldn't have the right to get their employees fresh during the day and send them home tired at night,' but until the [working] world comes around to that reality, it's really up to us to do these mini resets for ourselves," says wellness and meditation expert Susan Chen, founder of Susan Chen Vedic Meditation.
Below, find seven expert tips for what to do after work in order to refresh your mind and body for your evening ahead.
- Christina Manian, RDN, registered dietitian and freelance writer
- Denise Chakoian, trainer and founder of CORE
- Kessonga Giscombe, MS, MSW
- Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LD, registered dietitian and prenatal and postnatal health expert
- Susan Chen, meditation expert and founder of Susan Chen Vedic Meditation
8 simple things you should do to reset after work
1. Separate yourself from your workspace
Whether you’re working from home or in an office, it’s key to create a buffer between your physical work and leisure spaces. “We really have to be intentional about leaving work where work is,” says Chen. If you work in an office, your commute home can naturally serve as that buffer. But if you work from home, you can also create this boundary by putting your laptop in a separate room (or drawer) from where you'll spend your evening once you're through working, says Chen.
“We really have to be intentional about leaving work where work is.” —Susan Chen, wellness and meditation expert
If your work setup isn’t easy to move at the end of the day, cover it with a pretty scarf or blanket to create that visual reminder that you’re off the clock, adds Chen. And remember: Checking work emails and pings on messaging apps like Slack and Microsoft Teams after your workday has ended will blur this boundary—don’t do it if you can avoid it.
2. Do some simple stretches
Taking the time to do a couple quick stretches, if you can, will help work out any stiffness you may feel from being locked in a few of the same positions for most of your day. Trainer Denise Chakoian, owner of CORE Cycle. Fitness. Lagree., recommends focusing on your spine and hips, "which are in flexion all day [if you're sitting] and can get very compressed."
If you're able to get down on the floor, Chakoian says a couple quick cat-cow yoga poses can help re-align the spine, and she especially recommends a figure-four stretch to open up the hip flexors: Lie flat on your back and cross your right leg over your lift, placing your right ankle on your left quadricep; then, reverse it. If you can't get on the floor, she suggests some hip circles to loosen the back and hips instead: While standing, place your hands on your hips, and rotate your hips in circular patterns.
People who work at a computer should be sure to stretch the neck and shoulders, too, given the tendency to hunch over a screen, adds Chakoian. To start, she recommends rolling both the head and shoulders in circles, alternating directions. Then, stretch the shoulders by "drawing the shoulder blades in towards each other," she says.
3. Make time for movement
In addition to stretching your body, Chakoian strongly advises making time for some movement at the end of the workday, even if it's just a few minutes. "If you can finish your day, put on your headphones, and just walk for even 15 or 20 minutes, you're stretching the body and getting blood flow back to your muscles," she says.
All the better if you can take the movement outside, where you may be able to reap the restorative benefits of green spaces and sunlight, too. Or, turn on your favorite song and dance it out for an extra hit of feel-good dopamine.
4. Focus your eyes on something that isn't a screen
Staring at a computer all day can contribute to digital eye strain, which can include symptoms like dry eyes, irritation, and focus issues. Part of the reason why? It's a natural impulse to blink less while staring at a screen (even if you don't realize you're doing so).
As a result, it's a good idea to ease off the screens post-work and to simply "switch the focus of your eyes," says Viktoriya Karakcheyeva, MD, director of behavioral health at the Resiliency and Well-Being Center at George Washington University’s School of Medicine & Health Sciences. By changing what your eyes are focusing on, you'll give them a chance to adjust to their new surroundings; Dr. Karakcheyeva suggests simply looking into the distance for 20 seconds, for example, "out the window at something green."
5. Use water as a “pattern interrupt”
Incorporating what Chen calls “pattern interrupts,” or quick practices to let your mind know it's time to transition between activities, can help you reset after a day of work.
"If you've been in the zone and in that task-oriented tunnel vision where you're singularly focused on work, doing something completely different can help you [shift modes]," says Chen. She adds that water can be especially restorative, which is why she often recommends her students make time for a quick shower to reset.
If you don't have the time (or energy) for a shower, "just splashing your face with cold water can help stimulate and reset your nervous system by activating the vagus nerve," says Dr. Karakcheyeva, which can bring on a state of calm.
6. Hydrate with a glass of water or tea
It's easy to get dehydrated throughout the day—particularly if you're so plugged into your work that you aren't regularly rehydrating—so, drinking water post-work can serve as a helpful reset. According to registered dietitian Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, "hydrating can also help you feel more energized," which is likely just what you need when you're emerging from a long work slog.
To switch things up and boost the health-supportive powers of your post-work beverage, try infusing your water with fruit or herbs. Registered dietitian Christina Manian, RDN, also likes to unwind with a cup of decaffeinated herbal tea, like antioxidant-rich hibiscus tea.
7. Nourish yourself with a nutrient-rich snack
If the gap between when you're signing off and when you're planning to eat dinner is more than an hour or so, it's worth fueling up with a nutritious, healthful snack after work to jumpstart your evening.
Manaker suggests a snack containing protein, complex carbohydrates, and/or healthy fats, which will provide energy and satiety. In that realm, cottage cheese is a good bet, and she also advises reaching for fruits because their combination of fiber and sugar makes them more sustaining than a processed snack item.
One of Manaker's favorite fruit-based snacks (that also has a bit of protein) is nut-butter stuffed dates. To make them, simply slice a date in half and stuff it with your favorite nut butter. "It's energizing and sweet, it has healthy fats, it has fiber, it has carbs, and it has magnesium [which can support your sleep that night]," she says.
8. Do a mindfulness exercise to shake off work stress
A simple mindfulness exercise can help you mentally shift out of work mode by turning your attention to the present moment. Once you wrap up your last work task, try a "check-in meditation," suggests Kessonga Giscombe, mindfulness and meditation teacher at Headspace. "Pause, and intentionally and deliberately check in with yourself," he says. Consider how you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally in order to prioritize yourself and your needs after a long day of doing things for your job.
This brief pause can help you "shift into that space of recovery and resetting in an easier way," adds Giscombe. But you can also try a quick micro-meditation, like a few minutes of resonant breathing (with longer exhales than inhales) or a supportive mantra, to make the mental transition from work-you back to leisure-you.
Loading More Posts...