Most of us work quite hard, the average workday is around 8 hours, but it is usually longer and to that we must add the round trip transportation time. Considering that we regularly sleep an additional 7-8 hours, that doesn't leave us much time available.
As such, it is imperative to use the time we have to reduce stress and rejuvenate our bodies and minds. The best time to do this is at night when (hopefully) we have some peace and quiet.
So what do we do to promote this feeling of relaxation? Well, if you are like most Americans, you sit in front of the television. For almost 5 hours. Everyday. That's right, we spend almost as much time watching television (35.5 hours) as we do working each week.
The problem: television does little, if anything, for our health and well-being. In any case, watching television promotes a sedentary lifestyle, which makes it less likely that we will do physical exercise or some other activity that is conducive to health.
Worse still, television, playing video games, or participating in some other form of digital media seems to correlate with negative mental states. According to a joint study by German and Dutch researchers, we are more likely to interpret our television time as a failure of self-control, driven by feelings of ego depletion, guilt, and procrastination.
Most of us need to rethink our nightly routines if we are to gain the rejuvenation we so desperately need, not to mention we deserve.
Which brings us to the focus of this article: nighttime habits that can reduce stress.
7 HEALTHY HABITS THAT HELP YOU BATTLE STRESS
HABIT # 1: PUT YOUR MIND OUT OF “WORK MODE”.
Here's a sign that we work too hard: We can't stop thinking about it. We can't possibly unzip our overworked minds when we're still reflecting on what happened in the office that day.
So why do people have an alternative solution in their heads? There are many reasons. Maybe an interaction with a customer has annoyed us, maybe that annoying co-worker won't back down, or some urgent problem or task continues to intrude on our attention.
None of these are good reasons to reflect on work. Work is done for the day. You are not on the clock and no one is paying you enough money to bring your work home. So try not to.
Here are some practical ideas for managing the stress you bring home from work:
- -Take the last 15-30 minutes to complete every little task you can.
- -Turn off your business phone if you have one
- -End any work-related conversations before leaving the office
- -Set the expectation that you will reply to all messages and emails within 24 hours
- -Establish a rule not to discuss matters related to work at home
HABIT # 2: EAT AT THE SAME TIME EVERY NIGHT AND IN SMALLER AMOUNTS
This habit consists of preparing your body for a good night's sleep. There is an intimate and complicated relationship between what and when we eat and our Circadian rhythm ("sleep / wake cycle"). Making a dinner habit around the same time each night is more conducive to quality sleep.
Sleep researchers find a correlation between erratic sleeping and eating patterns and high-calorie diets. While they can't explain exactly why this relationship exists, it almost certainly suggests the intricate association between three things: nutrition, metabolism, and circadian rhythm.
Larger dinners also disrupt your circadian rhythm, which interferes with sleep. Rather than eating your heaviest meal at night, research suggests rescheduling it for the mid-afternoon hours and eating a light dinner of no more than 500 calories. You will fight stress by rebalancing your melatonin and closing your eyes tightly.
HABIT # 3: CHECK YOUR DAY
A day's review may be a good idea to help you keep track of your progress and ease your mind. It's also a great exercise to start the next day instead of rushing the next day.
A daily review is especially helpful if you are making some major life changes, or if you aspire to do so.
Here are some questions to get you started:
- Did I do what I set out to do? If not, why not?
- Which approach works best to complete my most important tasks?
- Did I waste a disproportionate amount of time on something or many things? How can I avoid this in the future? Did I leave some essential tasks unfinished? Why?
- Looking at how the day went, am I closer to or further from my goals and aspirations? Why? What can I do better?
Regardless of how you answer these questions, don't berate yourself too harshly. You are human, and the fact that you want to improve speaks volumes. Just resolve to do your best tomorrow and leave it at that.
HABIT # 4: WRITE IT BELOW
If you find yourself reflecting on the events of the day, it might be a good idea to have it all on paper. Keeping a journal for your nightly "brain discharges" can help solidify the habit. You may find it so relaxing that you want to keep a journal!
So what should you write? Anything! Your brain excrement needs no editing or foresight: it must be released. In this case, annotated.
All you need to do is look inside your mind. What is “on the surface” that is waiting to come out? This is the material that belongs to your journal, and it probably consists of concerns and fears for the most part. But don't forget to add some words of encouragement too!
There is also a scientific justification for writing things to melt away stress. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, "the diary helps control symptoms (adverse mental and physical) and improve mood by helping you prioritize problems, fears and concerns and giving you the opportunity to speak and speak positively by identifying negative thoughts and behaviors."
HABIT # 5: IF YOU EXERCISE, PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR BODY AT NIGHT
Perhaps you should refrain from going into your sweat session too close to bedtime. Why? Because the afternoon hours are to rest and rejuvenate. More specifically, the hours of sleep are essential for the recovery of the muscles in particular and the body in general.
For certain people, anything that makes exercise great (and healthy) can make it hard to fall asleep! An elevated heart rate, endorphins, and a fast metabolism do not appear to be compatible with a quality rest.
However, according to a study published in the Journal of Sleep Research, while "in sleep hygiene recommendations, intensive exercise is not suggested in the last 3 hours before bedtime," the authors found in their evidence that "vigorous exercise does not disturb the quality of sleep. "
HABIT # 6: CLOSE THE DEVICES
Listen, we all love our smartphones and tablets. They are super convenient and fun to play with. According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), the vast majority of us agree. According to an NSF article, 90 percent "admit to using a technology device in the hour before delivery."
But all this use of technology is disturbing our sleep, the reason: the stimulation of the body and mind.
Televisions, laptops, smartphones, tablets, and other electronic devices "slow down your body's internal clock ... suppressing the release of sleep-inducing melatonin," says the NSF.
The culprit, as you no doubt already know, is blue light, which, according to the American Ophthalmological Association, "has been shown to affect the body's circadian rhythm."
The solution, according to the AAO, is to limit screen time to 1-2 hours before bed.
HABIT # 7: MEDITATE FOR AT LEAST 15 MINUTES
Most of the “hippy-dippy” talk about meditation is totally wrong. No, you don't need to be a Buddhist, or even a religious one, to practice meditation.
Meditation is a skill practiced by people from almost every imaginable area of life. It is also a skill that, if practiced regularly over a period of time, can lead to long-term and healthy changes in the body and mind.
A publishing arm of Harvard University, The Harvard Gazette, states:
"Studies have shown benefits against a variety of physical and mental health conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, psoriasis, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder."
In general, the longer you practice meditation, the more noticeable the benefits, however even meditation teachers agree that 10-15 per day can provide much-needed stress relief, improved mood, less irritability and greater concentration.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON ADOPTING BETTER HABITS TO COMBAT STRESS
With the pressures of life, work, and family, it's no wonder that each of us has a heavy load of stress. However, the positive side is that we can adopt better habits to melt away stress. And with that stress release, we can lead healthier, more enjoyable lives.