Decompressing after a long day is as much about managing yourself throughout the day, as much as it is about fixing stuff afterwards. Try to stay fed throughout the day. Eat at regular intervals and try not being very hungry, because if you are very hungry and you eat a lot, then you are going to get into a food coma.
Spend an hour or two together with your family. Spend some time outdoors. Lay down in the grass and relax. Play video games! Watch some TV.
A lot of people think that you should do self-care after a long day. However, self-care requires mana. It is effortful to meditate, exercise, do yoga, etc. Make that a part of your work day and treat it like a job.
Sometimes, just be silent by yourself. It is important to let your mind decompress and process. We often just jump from one distraction to the other, whereas it is important to just give your mind some time to process. It might seem boring at first but if you stick with it, you will find how amazing that can be.
During our evolutionary stage, the main source of stress was finding food, fighting off dangers, and creating shelter. From a neuroscience perspective, the sympathetic nervous system is designed to help the body endure these stresses. Our body is designed to run from a tiger for a short period of time. Part of this design is the secretion of the hormone cortisol, which is used to put glucose into our blood in times of danger.
As cortisol increases, it gives us energy for the next 12 hours. This energy is intended to be used to relocate after running from a threat. However these days, even though all our bodily needs are mostly met, our mind has been left behind.
In the present day, we don't have to worry about running from tigers. Our stresses include paying off mortgages, ensuring a promotion at the end of the year, and finding meaning and purpose in our lives. The advancements in technology that brought us food and safety also brought new struggles into our lives. Technology and social media have exacerbated the negative emotions we feel — our mind is constantly under assault from these emotions.
The moment we wake up, we open the door to these negative emotions. Social media constantly tells us that there is always someone better than us. As a result, the stresses we deal with right now, do not last at most a day — they last for months and even years. This problem can be observed in those that are obese.
Most of our time is spent in states of inactivity, sitting on a chair, worrying about a lack of purpose, paying rent, or getting a job. We experience stress and worry even when we are not running from a tiger. So our body releases cortisol, and it starts to break down our muscle to give us more energy.
However, our body gets confused by our inactivity and blood sugar increase from having a meal and responds by releasing insulin, the hormone responsible for storing energy as fat. Therefore, the energy gets converted into fat. Due of these long periods of stress, people get a cortisol tumor and develop a buffalo hump.
The United States has an obesity rate of 30% from sugary foods and our relationship to those foods and how we deal with stress. That is why stress eating is not a psychological problem, it is a physiological one.
Plans and events can sometimes bring out the worst in people because makes them to balls of stress. Small things like appointments or parties become monoliths of stress and you can find yourself unable to do anything all day until the appointment or party ends. Because the mind can only hold one thought at a given time, when your mind attaches to the thought of your appointment or party, the thought will not leave your mind unless it is over and prevents you from doing anything else. There are a multitude of reasons for people to be attached to the thought such as how severe the consequences are. If you miss an appointment, there is no worry and you can reschedule, but if you fail an final exam, there are no retakes. As a result, your attachment to the plan or event dictates how your mind works and feels.
The solution to this problem is to learn how to let go of the thought rather then stay attached. This requires you to first acknowledge and understand what about the event creates your worries and stress, whether it is the consequences, expectations, or fears of what will happen. By acknowledging, you create distance from the feelings you get from the thought and hopefully you are able to act despite the stress you feel. One way to strengthen your ability to relax is a Trataka meditation, which trains your mind to focus where you tell it to focus.