How to Unwind from a Frustrating Work Day

Unwind from a frustrating situation

We all have less than ideal moments, but how we handle them can go a long way in our overall wellbeing and productivity. When something goes awry at work, like a bad interaction with a coworker or customer, a bad review from a manager, a technology challenge that directly impacts your job, it can be easy to dwell on the frustrations. Recognizing the value of separating from the disappointment of these instances and learning how to unwind can help you not only enjoy moments outside of work but make you a more effective worker who is not deterred by impeding stressors. 

Why you actually NEED to unwind

There are a lot of different things that can go wrong on a given day, leaving you frustrated or upset. Typos in important documents, missed deadlines, coworkers whose work you constantly have to correct, supervisors who micromanage your time, and arguments that occur as a result of all the aforementioned instances. When moments like this happen, you may find yourself needing to take a step back in order to process the situation and the various outcomes — we call this unwinding.

Unwinding can look very different to different people, depending on the day, situation and/or your personality. Ultimately, the goal of unwinding is to be able to: constructively reflect (on the situation), assess (your possible reaction, various outcomes) and then decide (on a resolution or possible solution to the issue).

Whether you are arguing with a colleague or dealing with a self-inflicted crisis, it is important to recognize the amount of stress and distraction that harboring resentments and/or frustration can create and the significance of knowing how to decompress. Without taking the time to unwind, stress and anxiety can build up and seep into other areas of your life, like time with your family. Or, it can stay buried until the next conflict and ultimately cause you to overreact to a situation that may not have warranted such a big reaction.

Where you can unwind

Whether you have had a bad day at the office and need to immediately unwind, or have taken the evening at home to think about a frustrating work moment, a good place to mentally unwind is on your commute — whether it is to or from work. This allows you the time to really think through the scenario, without added distractions. But a commute isn’t the only place you can unwind – you can unwind at home, in your bedroom or den, too. It’s best to have somewhere, like your car or a room at home, to separate yourself from others to focus on your personal unwinding process.

3 ways to unwind after a frustrating day

When you have a bad day, or even just a bad moment in an otherwise good day, it can be challenging to move on from. Because we are sometimes emotional and anxious beings, we have the ability (and often tendency) to overthink and internalize that which makes us uncomfortable. When we do this in a certain situation, it can impact the rest of our day, week or even month, depending on how serious the situation is. Here are three ways you can try to help you decompress:

  1. Take a deep breath. This may seem obvious and maybe even unhelpful, but breathing exercises help with the physicality of our reactions. When something frustrating happens, it can literally affect our heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing. By reminding ourselves to take a deep breath in, hold it and then slowly release it, we can tackle the moment from a physiological perspective. Focusing on your breath in a moment of high stress or tension will help calm your mood and make you feel more centered.
  2. Write it down. We all understand the premise of diaries and journaling, and while this can be a great way to document our feelings, it is not always a viable option in terms of time. That being said, it can be an extremely therapeutic exercise to actively write down how you are feeling — even if it never gets sent or said out loud to anyone. So, if your commute is not the best place for you to decompress, (because you have to stop for groceries or gas or pick up kids from school) consider reflecting on a bad situation via the writing down your recall of the situation and how it made you feel. The idea is to garner some perspective and get out your raw feelings so you can better address the issue in a productive fashion. This is also an effective tool is trying to cite your gratitude — which can also be helpful in the process of unwinding from a bad moment that you are probably not grateful for.
  3. Take a walk. Exercise and fresh air can help you literally feel the distance from the frustrating moments and gives you some time to process the events that made you upset. If you need to unwind before your workday is over, taking a quick walk can help you take a few moments to yourself to unwind, think through what’s happened and take some deep breaths. You can also walk once you get home – either on your way or after you get home. Take a quick lap around the block or a park before going home or after all your necessary chores are done.

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