7 Ways To Fully Unwind After A Hectic And Stressful Day

fully unwindYou finally reach a place of calm and peace, and then it hits you:

You can’t escape the buzz.

The static won’t quiet down.

It’s like there’s a parade outside, but closing the window won’t help … because this parade is inside your mind.

You juggle through a dozen things at once every day, just to keep up. Coupled with the amount of distractions thrown at you by the modern world, you probably won’t have much chance to pay attention to your own thoughts.

But when it’s all over, and you sit down to take a deep, relaxing breath, you realize your brain has other plans.

Instead of slowing down for a restful evening, your overcooked noodle is still busy sorting through a barrage of information, memories, embarrassing moments, guilty feelings, and stress about work.

It’s like your own life is haunting you.

Some of us live our whole lives in this turmoil. But rest assured – you can calm your mind.

A natural mind in a world of artificial burdens

We live in a world where we can’t fail the social ladder because we need a good job to get more money — and because a fear-mongering media tells us to buy more and more useless stuff to feel satisfied.

We become engulfed in a reality that revolves around becoming increasingly selfish and disconnected from our humanity – our natural state of living in a community with our fellow person.

This is the core reason behind a busy mind. The further you are from your natural state, the more burdened you become with artificial concerns.

The following seven techniques only take minutes, but they’ll have a profound effect in calming down your overworked mind and helping you to fully unwind.

1. Ground yourself – Compliment a stranger

Making contact and meeting strangers is essential to keeping your perception of the outside world grounded in reality. This exercise is quick and simple, but it’s an incredibly powerful way of getting to know yourself and others.

On your way home, on your lunch break, or maybe at the grocery store, go up to a stranger and give them a compliment.

Smile. Tell them they’re awesome. Wish them a great day. Walk away and feel great about yourself.
Try to give an honest compliment – something you really feel is true. Then say it with feeling.

I realize talking to strangers might feel a bit overwhelming. Hey, I said it would be simple, not easy! I’ve been doing this for a few years now, and it still gets my heart pounding approaching a total stranger. If the idea of strangers freaks you out, you might consider warming up by first complimenting friends, family, or people at work.

Either way, you’re connecting with your fellow person in the most natural way. When you end up making someone smile, you’ll feel like a hero.

Warning: You might end up meeting a new friend too.

2. Reset your day – Brush your teeth

Your mind can’t quiet down because it can’t distinguish between your peaceful time and your hectic time. Like shaking down an etch-a-sketch, you need to get rid of the mess and start from a clean canvas to clearly separate the two. You need a restart. Don’t worry; it doesn’t involve applying a mallet to your temple.

You do it by brushing your teeth.

Don’t look so skeptical. See, our morning routines most often include, or should include, brushing our teeth. You do it every time you wake up. You’ve done it regularly for years. So without even realizing it, you’ve taught yourself to connect a certain physical activity to starting a new day.

Your mind takes this as a signal to shake off its previous state, i.e. sleepiness, and get ready for whatever comes next. Why not use this existing mechanism to achieve the opposite — getting your mind ready to accept a calm after-work environment?

3. Become aware – Check your tension

Being aware of your physical and mental state is key when looking for that inner calm. This exercise will help you understand the state of your body and its different extremities. You’ll be surprised at how tense you are without even realizing it.

Here’s your task: Sit or lie down, and mentally run through the different parts of your body. Make sure every part is relaxed and hanging loose. Stretch and flex when needed.

Start by wiggling your toes, then move upwards through your ankles and shins. Are your knees hanging loose? Do you feel tense in your thighs? Check your posture – stretch your back and swing your hips.

Then think about your shoulders. Are they resting easy? What about your neck? Let your head fall forward.

Are you clenching your teeth? Open your mouth wide, and then let it hang. Yawn if needed – it’s a sign that your body needs oxygen.

Did you find tension? Let’s shake it off. Stand up, and shake your arms and legs. Then shake your whole body. Shake it like no one’s watching!

4. Extra time – Massage your eyebrows

An eyebrow massage is a quick physical exercise that will literally soothe your aching brow. You’ll give your eyes some rest and alleviate possible headaches, but more importantly, you force your mind to a standstill.

Close your eyes and use both thumbs to press on the inner parts of your eyebrows, at the top of your nose. Breathe deeply, and slowly move your thumbs outwards until you reach your temples. Repeat.

5. Learn to screw up – Forgive yourself

Major causes of undue stress and anxiety are lingering thoughts about not being good enough or not saying the right things. In most cases, these thoughts result from setting impossibly high expectations for yourself.

What you need is to remind yourself that you’re only human. As humans, we screw up because it’s the only way to learn. Then we move on.

So, when you reach your peaceful place, grab a pen and some paper. Yes, a piece of paper and not your laptop. Trust me; it can even be a post-it note. Then list every little screw-up. Every regret and embarrassing moment.

Then go over each bit and tell yourself, “Well, I guess I’m just human.”

Throw the paper away.

6. Leisure mode – Shut down communications

This exercise is about forming your peaceful place into something radically different from the outside world. It is free of distraction and worries. It’s where your mind roams freely.

Make sure your friends and family know that you can be reached only for important calls. Everything else shuts off after your day — your smartphone, laptop, even the news on TV. If you must, spend no longer than 30 minutes on Facebook and various social media sites. Lacking the need to constantly check for new emails or instant messages will quiet your mind.

Remember to play. Board games, card games, reading, painting, writing, dancing – these are all your duties during playtime. This is the downtime your brain needs to process everything you’ve learned during the day.

7. Reflection – Meditate

If none of the above helped, it’s time to sit down and actively not react to whatever your mind is shouting about.

Meditating at its core means to focus on a single thing intensely. The easiest way to start is to sit down, close your eyes, and focus on breathing slowly and deeply.

Then let your mind shout. Like an unruly screaming child, it wants to be heard. So let it speak. Your real task here is to not react. Simply focus on your breathing.

If a fly lands on your arm, concentrate on not reacting. Even if the whole house crumbles from underneath you, do not react. Keep to your breathing. The real trick comes from not reacting to a thought or idea. You must stay a passive observer to whatever noise your mind tries to throw at you.

It might take five minutes, or it might take an hour, but eventually your mind has said what it needs to. This is when you can truly begin to build a relaxing environment.

Your unwind starts today

Imagine a breeze of fresh air rolling through as you open the windows in your mind. There’s no parade outside, just a serene bit of nature. It’s a place you gladly return to.

Imagine being in control of what lingers in your mind. It’s no longer a chaotic cacophony of intrusive thoughts, just a harmonious arrangement lead by you.

You’ve got the tools. You know the techniques. You can now take steps toward a more peaceful existence or just occasionally silence that extra noise. It’s all at your fingertips, and it’ll only take you moments from your busy day.

About the author:

Jay Pitkanen is a blogger who found happiness outside the box and is on a mission to help other non-conformists find and live their true passion. Do you have what it takes to become a Rat Race Maverick?

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  1. Ellen says:

    Love this post Jay! I find I have to do #3, check your tension all the time – I’m always amazed at how my shoulders have crept up to my ears when I’m not paying attention 🙂

    I think #1 is going to get me a bit out of my comfort zone, but (so?!) I’m going to try it today.
    Ellen´s last blog post ..From Burnout to Being on Fire: 5 Lessons That Changed My Life

    • I just laughed out loud reading the “shoulders up to your ears” line.

      So true, and I just noticed mine were creeping up as well!

    • Thanks, Ellen!

      It’s so easy to forget yourself in the same position and become stiff as a rock. Crept up to your ears indeed. =)

      Complimenting strangers, complimenting anyone is hard. But it gets easier over time, and it’s SO rewarding when you do!

  2. Lynn says:

    Hi Jay,

    Love your post! I especially like the tip of brushing your teeth to reset. Brilliant! Thanks for sharing your wisdom.
    Lynn´s last blog post ..Hello world!

  3. Scott says:

    Great piece Jay! The end of the day brain carnival is no fun, especially when all you want is to get some restful zzzzz’s. I really like tip #6 as it has helped me mentally unwind more than anything else. At least an hour before bed, shut off all devices, and open a book. Although I love the idea of playing a game, too. Will definitely try that!

    • Thanks Scott!

      Turning off the tech an hour before going to bed is pure gold, and almost guarantees a good sleep. Personally I still find myself falling asleep to a youtube-clip too many nights a week. A habit that definitely needs working on!

  4. Laurel says:

    Wonderful post Jay! Some great tips, a few I’ve never heard before like rubbing your eyebrows. I tried it and it felt terrific! I often find myself scrunching up my forehead especially if I’m doing something tedious. In October I’m going away and am going to have to go to sleep earlier than usual, These tips to relax and quiet the mind will definitely come in handy.
    Laurel´s last blog post ..Follow These Decorating Rules And You’ll Be In Deep Doo Doo

    • Heh, thanks! I totally know what you mean. Only after I began doing these exercises myself did I understand the strain we put our eyes through daily.

      Staring at a computer screen for hours on end probably doesn’t help either! =D

  5. Nicki Lee says:

    Amazing tips, Jay! I love that most of them can be done anywhere and quickly. The eyebrow massage worked instantly. The introvert in me is shaking at the thought of #1, but I guess that means I should really do it! Thanks for the help.
    Nicki Lee´s last blog post ..Setup Instructions for v2.41 Lite

    • Thanks! If it helps, I totally sympathize with your trepidation being an introvert myself. Most of your fear comes from their reaction or what you think they’ll think of you.

      A great tip is to focus not on them, not on the outside world, but on SPEAKING SLOWLY and rather loudly. You can even make it comically slow, that’s always fun!

      So basically just focus on the interaction. Forget their reaction. It’s completely irrelevant!

  6. Ahh technology, such a blessing. Such a curse!

    I made an experiment nearly 4 months ago, where i canceled my cell phone & data service.

    I was terrified I was going to miss some important email, or text message.


    My writing got better. I made faster progress in my business. My relationships deepened.

    Now when i am doing one task, I get into the zone much quicker. I no longer have the constant tug to check my phone “just one more time,” for a dopamine hit and distraction.

    I can get nearly everything I need via WiFI, including sending text messages and making calls with a service called Text Now.

    So, I’d say that shutting technology down is great for both leisure AND productivity. It’s all about being the master of technology, instead of the other way around.
    Mike Harrington´s last blog post ..How to Become Fearless with the Power of Accountability

    • Hey Mike! Thanks.

      That’s a great idea about shutting down your cell plan. Still haven’t gone down that route myself, but now that you mention it, I haven’t used my phone to make telephone calls in over 5 months. It’s all over wifi!

      Also, we had an internet shortage for three days. While frustrating, it was incredibly productive on the writing front. Honestly should focus on turning off access much more often. =)

  7. Sirkku Karo says:

    Jay, I love your points. First read them too hastily and then a second time with thoroughly thinking, enjoying your sense of humor in serious matters – and finding myself exercising already according to your suggestions. Thank you. Very good thoughts to follow up.

    • Hey Sirkku!

      Thanks for the comment. I think making light of serious matters is always the best way to cope with things. Otherwise nothing serious would ever be talked about.

      I’m glad you found the exercises useful! Do take note of one or two and remember to do them daily!

  8. Love these tips Jay! My pre- or post mediation ‘exercise’ might add nicely to this list: lie down on a yogamat (or rug), legs apart, feet fall to the side, arms away from the body with the hands open, eyes closed and just let yourself sink into the floor for 20 minutes (yogi’s know this a savasana or corpse pose). It’s the best for stressful days and shoulders 🙂
    Linda Coussement´s last blog post ..Insecurity & Judgment…Go Away, You Sneaky Little Bastards!

    • Hey Linda! Thanks!

      There’s probably tons more to say about yoga and meditation, but to meditation-newbies like myself, it’s best to focus on the basics.

      Having said that, I think your suggestion sounds excellent. I’ll use it as an excuse the next time I need to hog the double bed all to myself. =P

  9. Love the strategies in this post. #2 really shouted out to me, that’s a really creative but simple way to reboot your day. And you’re so right about the importance of making time for play to silence the day’s noise – painting is my go-to shut-the-world-up technique. Thank you Jay.

  10. sherill says:

    Hi great post. Thanks for sharing your techniques, I find it very useful and effective. Thanks 🙂

  11. “Major causes of undue stress and anxiety are lingering thoughts about not being good enough or not saying the right things. In most cases, these thoughts result from setting impossibly high expectations for yourself.” Do I relate to this? Hm, yeah, completely! Great reminder that being human is just that – being flawed and from time to time, we make bad decisions and we screw up. Thanks for a great post, Jay!

    • Hi Camilla!

      Thanks for the comment, and you are so completely on point with that. It’s SO important to give yourself the room to be less than perfect. Once you get there, it’s so much easier to be happy. =)

  12. harsha says:

    Its interesting and good way to unwind, nice article

  13. Kari says:

    Shutting down is definetly my biggest problem. I often peek at the computer to see what’s happening, and I always have my phone way too close to me. But, when I can disconnect, I feel the most grounded and relaxed.

    Actually, for one of my New Year’s resolutions, I wanted to shut down completely at the end of a busy week (on Sunday) because I knew that it would be good for my work-life balance, as well as my productivity. I didn’t stick to it though! I need to turn it into a habit.
    Kari´s last blog post ..Self-Esteem: Your Fundamental Power Review

  14. Erik Felch says:

    Thanks very much. This article helped me get present to my emotionals. Your words stand as a firm reminder that an out of touch, stressed emotional state is not permanent. I really needed to read this just then.

  15. It is a great article. Thank you for sharing this with us, it was very helpful. Thanks Jay.

  16. Lea Bullen says:

    I like to go puzzels and other mind games to unwind and let go of the day. I also mediate, which helps me to clear my mind.

    Lea Bullen´s last blog post ..Being Alone: 7 Benefits That Will Make It Worthwhile

  17. Hi Mary, I just love posts like this, I love the feeling of inspiration and call to action, humanity and unity when you write a post with the intention of helping others. Love it! I wrote a similar post last week about mindfulness and the reasons why we should give it a try (especially people who suffer of depression). Have a look, please. I would appreciate to link it to your post

  18. I loved this post, I love when people encourage relaxation, meditation….I particularly liked the “brush your teeth trick” – never thought about that! Smart. Please have a look at my post on mindfulness, thank you 🙂 Andra
    Andra Miclaus´s last blog post ..Mindfulness – break out of self-imprisonment

  19. I`m sorry did not mean to spam you
    Andra Miclaus´s last blog post ..Mindfulness – break out of self-imprisonment