Ways to Slow Down and Decompress after a Fast Paced or Stressful Day: Mindfulness Techniques
By Sarah Boyle, MC, RCC | From Parallel Wellness
I aspire to meet the person, especially living in Vancouver or the lower mainland, that get’s home at the end of the day, every day, feeling completely relaxed and restful. A good song playing in the car, or in your headphones on the commute home, a calm walk home, a yoga class or gym session after work, or even meeting with friends for a tea or another indulgence, all have their natural ways of helping us to feel more centered and relaxed at the end of the day. But often times we don’t have an opportunity to do these things, and we come home still revved up from what the day has thrown our way. We struggle to wind down and feel relaxed. We also may have children which rev us up all the more when we get home, and leave us feeling extremely wired after we’ve finally put them down, now having to decompress from a very full day!
We know well now that our nervous system - the system that pumps adrenaline to wind us up when we need to get going or keeps us feeling alert in a situation that could be perceived as threatening – involves an interplay of both our mind and physical bodies. When put into context, this suggests that in most cases when we come home at the end of a high paced day, or try to ground and relax after a period of being highly aroused, it is most effective to use both mindful techniques and physical practices to support both to “wind down.”
I challenge you to try to practice some of these techniques, if you haven’t already, and be aware of the effects it has on your nervous system and ability to feel soothed, rested or and more relaxed.
- Meditate – Although many use meditation as a method to relax and clear their mind from the overload of thoughts and concerns throughout the day, meditation can also be used as a healthy way to process thoughts in a calmer manner. Positioning ourselves in any comfortable position, closing our eyes, and letting the thoughts come to surface one-by-one can allow us to “collect our thoughts” and create a more relaxed state of being. This often leads to the next technique.
- Journalling – The effects and mental benefits of lists, journaling, and externalizing our thoughts is highly effective for people that come home with an overload of information in their minds. With journaling, we again, can process, externalize and organize information often making it feel more manageable to us. Also, the sheer act of writing typically slows down and regulates the nervous system.
- Phoning a friend/family member/or support – the key here is to phone someone who has proven in the past to be “SOOTHING.” Vocalizing our thoughts or concerns, and being heard by a support person can support us to gather our thoughts and begin to feel more comforted from the connection to them.
- Read – if we are able to read in this state, reading can have a powerful effect to redirect our minds ideally to more soothing concepts. I remember a time period in high school when I wouldn’t go anywhere without my monthly subscription of a wellness magazine I loved. Regardless of how anxious or pressured I felt about an assignment I had to do that night or a future social outing, the magazine articles always changed my focus to something that felt healthy, and inspiring to me, allowing me to shut off from anxiety provoking thoughts I wasn’t able to deal with at that time. Reading a book, article, or poetry, may help us shift our thoughts away from the busy day we just had.
- Counting your Breaths – One simple and effective mindful exercise is counting our breaths to slow our exhales. The 4:7:8 method is well known for it’s relaxation affects. You want to breath in for 4, hold it for 7, and then exhale for a count of 8, and repeat it until you feel your mind and body come into a more easeful state. This Youtube video by gozenonline provides a tutorial on 4:7:8 Breathing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uxbdx-SeOOo
In my experience it is SUCH a strength and resilience factor to become aware of ways that we can effectively regulate and sooth our minds and bodies. One thing that is for sure, life is unpredictable. By building an inventory of skills and supports that help keep us balanced and wind down at the end of the day will support us to better manage stress and stay strong day to day!
Sarah Boyle is a Registered Clinical Counsellor with the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors (#14285). She has a Masters degree in Psychological Counselling from City University of Seattle with further training in Eating Disorders. She is currently a doctoral student in Clinical Psychology at Adler University and works privately as an RCC at Parallel Wellness.
Sarah has extensive training and knowledge in emotional, relational and physical health. She sees these as fundamental to one’s wellbeing and security, and often the catalyst for many to thrive. Sarah greatly values collaborating with her clients, empowering them to discover and develop their own awareness, goals, solutions, balance, knowledge, liberation and peace.