When something super embarrassing happens to you at work, or you flubbed a big presentation because your boss didn’t buy into your vision, it’s easy to want to crawl into a hole when 5pm rolls around. But multiply that feeling by many days, and you see your life slipping away into stress and anxiety. Why choose that when you can choose a happier path?
Here’s how to decompress after a rough day in the office.
Practice mindfulness on your commute
Chris Plehal writes about avoiding “distraction” in a Headspace article about practicing mindfulness on your commute.
“When you enter the train, listen to the sounds around you. Where are people talking? Where are they quiet? Do your best to find a place away from conversations, loud children, or music. Don’t worry too much about the train noises or announcements at this point. Just find the quietest place you can,” Plehal writes.
So what can you do?
Maria Gonzalez provides specific practices you can adopt while driving to and from work in a Harvard Business Review article.
“To use your daily driving commute to help you practice conscious thinking and improve your mindfulness, start by getting into the car and acknowledging the intention that you aspire to be mindful during the commute. Take a few deep breaths. Once buckled up, but before you start to drive, become aware of your body. Feel your hands on the steering wheel, the contour of your body on the seat, your foot on the pedal. Make an effort to be aware of the body and feel present. Start to drive and notice that you are ‘looking’ as you drive: through your windshield, into your mirrors. Now become aware that you are ‘listening.’ Notice the sounds you hear,” Gonzalez writes.
Crack open that book you meant to read
With all the staring we do at our computer screens everyday, we don’t get a lot of time away from technology.
It can be tempting to scrub Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat from top to bottom when you’re trying to distract yourself, but a good story can help take your mind off of whatever is stressing you out by getting you involved in emotions deeply. The catharsis helps you move on.
When you finally make it back home, head to a room where you can enjoy reading in silence. If your home is loud because the kids are running around or someone’s blasting music outside your apartment, consider heading to a local library or sitting in a park with a good read before the sun goes down.
Turn your phone off
Like Mark Twain said about the weather, we often talk about turning our phones off but we rarely do anything about it. Really: turn it off. Maybe even go an extra step and leave it in another room for more clarity, so that you have to walk to get to it.
We’re so into what our phones provide that we can emotionally connect to them, but we don’t have to after a rough day. Spending time away from your phone screen will give you the mental space needed to reflect and move forward.
Put things into perspective
One of our tendencies when things go badly is to assume they’ll go badly forever. We picture a future in which one mistake rebounds on us forever. This is rarely the case; nothing is permanent, and momentary pain or agony passes. Fahd Pasha writes about how “it’s not the end of the world” in an article for Monster Canada.
“This might be the most important thing I’ve learned from having a bad day. It may seem that everything is daunting and you might feel that you’re stuck in a rut. However, this likely isn’t the first time you’ve been faced with a challenge, and remember, you can get through it. It’s helpful to take a deep breath and remind yourself that tomorrow is a new day,” Pasha writes.
Seeing the bright side and changing your mindset is a practice. Instead of seeing every problem as “what fresh hell is this?” instead see it as an opportunity to learn and do better. Instead of personalizing everything as a referendum on your personal capability, stand back and evaluate what it all means. All of our experience is just information we can use.
And remember this: your state of mind is always in your hands. How you recover after a long, a tough day at work can set you up for either unhappiness or success the next morning. Why not choose success?
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