The Art Of Recovering After A Long Day At Work — How To Get It Right

Photo: LauriPatterson, Delmaine Donson | Canva 
Woman watching Tv on her iPad alone, while binging snacks after work

In our fast-paced world, the pursuit of productivity often takes center stage in our lives. We diligently strive to excel in our careers, often sacrificing personal time and well-being in the process.

Yet, there's a significant aspect of this equation that we frequently overlook or misunderstand: the art of recovery after work.

Contrary to common misconceptions, true rejuvenation goes beyond simply clocking out at the end of the day, and it's time to debunk some of the myths surrounding this critical aspect of our lives.

RELATED: 12 Essential Steps To Help You Recover From Extreme Burnout, Fatigue & Exhaustion

So what do we get wrong about workplace recovery?

What We Get Wrong about Recovering After Work

In a recent poll done through my newsletter, I asked how readers recover after a difficult work day and the options that got the most votes were: 

  • 1. Binge TV shows or movies (46%) 
  • 2. Eat comfort foods (41%) 
  • 3. Keep to myself (31%). 

When we feel stressed or tired from work, we feel depleted—like our 'battery' is almost empty. We then default to 'resting' and 'withdrawing' in an effort to prevent further depletion and we opt for 'comfort foods' (unhealthier food options—a healthy salad is not considered 'comfort food') for, well, comfort—often while we binge screens.

The problem is that while some rest and alone time are useful, they aren't sufficient because (for most of us) the fatigue you feel at the end of the day is primarily mental and emotional, not physical. Rest is great for the physical fatigue you might feel but it doesn't do much for your mental/emotional fatigue.

Misunderstanding #1

We believe doing something active after a long day at work will make us feel even more tired. 

Incorrect. Doing something active that you enjoy and that 'makes you feel like you' after a long workday might take physical energy but it will leave you feeling mentally energized and refreshed. It will also make it easier for you to switch off and get a better night's sleep. 

RELATED: 6 Simple Ways To Boost Your Emotional Well-Being After Losing Your Job

Misunderstanding #2

We believe that when we feel overwhelmed or stressed after the workday, it's best to keep to ourselves because engaging with others will require too much effort and anyway, we're not 'at our best'.

Feeling a connection with those around us is an important component of recovering from the workday. Even 10-15 minutes of meaningful conversation with one person can enhance feelings of connection. Feeling connected is an important way to buffer stress. Withdrawing and isolating might feel like the right thing to do but when habitual, it increases stress and puts us at risk for loneliness (see the 3.23 edition about loneliness here).

In other words, what we get wrong about recovering from the workday is we need to do 3 things—rest and recharge and connect—and it's the recharge and connect part we neglect or get wrong. 

Recharging and Connecting Require Action

It feels counterintuitive to drag yourself to the gym, to a social engagement, or to do an activity when you're tired and your couch or bed calls you over. Yes, it's only 6 PM but why not just get in pajamas and call it a night?

Because you're not physically tiredit just feels that way. 

You're mentally and emotionally fatigued and you need to recharge. And that means you need to do something that makes you feel like you, that gives you the 'I totally wasn't in the mood but I'm so glad I forced myself to do that' feeling—because when you feel great after it means you've recharged. 

There is no amount of screen-binging you could do that would make you feel energized afterward—that only comes from doing something active or connective. 

If you're wondering whether binging screens with another person counts as connective—the answer is, yes, but only if you take time to discuss what you're watching, what you thought about it, and how you felt about it, in other words, you need to turn it into a shared experience and that requires a conversation that goes beyond small talk or minor commentary—you have to go a little bit deeper for the experience to feel connective.

Contrary to the misconception that withdrawing from social interaction is the best way to recover from work-related stress, meaningful connections with others play a crucial role in reducing stress and promoting overall well-being. So let's start connecting today.

RELATED: 7 Ways To Manage Your Emotional Health & Your Career — Without Giving Up On Either

Guy Winch is a distinguished psychologist and acclaimed author. His work has been featured in The New York Times and Psychology Today.

This article was originally published at Guy Winch's Newsletter. Reprinted with permission from the author.