After a hard day at work you can feel like nothing but a night slumped on the sofa. But it doesn’t have to be that way - these tips can make the evenings yours again
Before you leave work
Your workday recovery strategy begins before you even leave the office. If you rush off, leaving everything in a state of chaos, it will be very hard to relax — and arriving at work the next day will be another nightmare! So…
Leave a tidy desk
Leaving your work area tidy and organised helps you to switch off mentally, and prevents you worrying about unfinished business. Leave yourself a ‘to do’ list, prioritising tasks for the next day — and if at all possible, avoid taking work home with you. Yes, it might be pressing stuff, but you’ll be far better equipped to handle it after a physical and mental break, rather than when you are already tired. If you work on a computer, switch it off when you leave — this reduces the EMG output, as well as giving you ‘closure’ on your working day.
If you are one of the 59 per cent of the population sitting down all day at work, stand up and stretch out when you’re done for the day. Slip off your shoes and rise up on to the balls of your feet and then back down to the heels, to boost the circulation in the lower legs. Wiggle your toes around to ‘wake up’ your feet.
You can also try these exercises to ease tension in the back, neck and shoulders:
With your arms crossed over your chest and feet on the floor, lean against a chair back and allow your mid back to curl back over it, lifting your elbows up to the ceiling and allowing your head to follow your neck. Hold for a moment; then return to an upright position.
If you use the phone a lot, and don’t have a headset, you’ll probably find that your neck flexibility is better on one side than the other — so focus more on the tighter side. Bring your left ear down towards your left shoulder to stretch the muscles on the right side of your neck. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat on the right, aiming for two to three repetitions on each side. Then, with your chin tucked in, slowly turn your head to the right and left, five times on each side.
Roll your shoulders to the back, and then to the front — then lift them right up to your ears, tensing the muscles, before allowing them to drop completely.
Arm and wrist stretch
If you use a keyboard all day, you need to stretch out your arms and wrists. This will prevent tightness and reduce the risk of repetitive strain injuries. Hold your right arm straight out in front of you with your palm facing up. Use your left hand to pull your fingers back and down to the floor. Feel the stretch on the underside of your forearm and wrist. Now turn the arm palm down, and draw the fingers back towards the forearm, keeping them straight. Afterwards swap sides and repeat.
Refresh your eyes
If your eyes feel dry or strained, cup your hands over your face, so that no light can get in. Hold this position for a few moments, breathing freely. Eye drops will also help to moisten and relieve tired eyes. But if they regularly feel this way, have an eye test and ensure that your computer monitor is set up correctly and isn’t flickering. On the move
When you get outside, take a few deep breaths. Okay, so you might be standing on a gridlocked street but at least it’s outdoors! For a really cleansing, energising breath, inhale for three seconds, hold for three seconds and then exhale for as long as you can. Repeat this four to six times.
Commuting to and from work
Whether you drive home or use public transport try to fit in a walk before you begin your journey home.
Otherwise you are simply going from one seat to another. Consider walking to a station or bus stop further away from work and, if at all possible, choose a route that takes you through green space, such as a leafy square, a park, churchyard or canal path. Research shows that the power of nature is incredibly nurturing and rejuvenating and that we have an inbuilt need to ‘experience’ the natural world on a daily basis. People who walk, cycle or run to work often say how much they appreciate their journey as a way of creating a divide between work and home. If your commuting distance allows it, consider giving it a go.
If you’re not going straight home
If you are going out straight from work make sure you rehydrate yourself with a large glass of water before you go. And if you are going to be drinking alcohol don’t do it on an empty stomach. Lunchtime was probably five or six hours ago so you definitely need a snack if you won’t be dining. Opt for something carbohydrate-based, with a little fat and protein. Good choices include a carton of yogurt and a piece of fruit, a bagel and peanut butter, a handful of dried fruit and nuts or a sandwich.