When you finally settle down at the end of a long, hard day, what do you find yourself reaching for? Your favorite glass of wine? A tub of Ben and Jerry’s? A big bag of potato chips? You may have that conflict in your head thinking, “I probably shouldn’t… but I had such a hard day. I deserve it, right?”. Well, I’m here to tell you that YES! Of course, you deserve it!
We all need to “check out” every once in a while, especially after a stressful day. We have our preferred indulgences that are easy to grab, pretty irresistible, and quick to bring on those soothing effects we’re craving after a crazy day. We want to escape our stressful reality to experience relaxation and pleasurable vibes. More often than not, these end of the day rewards involve alcohol or food. You think, “It’s been such a rough day - so why not?”.
Well there is absolutely nothing wrong with these types of rewards. They are not “bad” or something to feel “guilty” about. However - what I hear from women time and time again is that their default reward doesn’t “reward” them in the long run. The reality is that alcohol and food-related rewards can leave you with unpleasant after effects, such as low energy, dehydration, puffiness, and stomach upset.
When we feel these less than pleasant after effects, we start questioning our choices: “Did I really need that last glass of wine? A second bowl of ice cream? What’s wrong with me?!” This is where we can start to beat ourselves up for our perceived lack of control. This guilt, judgment, and criticism ultimately leaves us feeling even worse.
Sometimes what feels great in the moment can leave us feeling not so great afterwards – both physically and emotionally.
So, what to do? If you’re thinking that your usual indulging reward is not serving you in the long run, here are a few important reminders:
Let Go of the Guilt – It doesn’t help. Guilt, judgment, and criticism will only increase the likelihood of having another rough day and recycling the experience of feeling bad once again tomorrow. Let it go by meeting yourself with compassion and treating yourself as you would a child or friend.
Exercise Your Power of Choice – You can halt the guilt cycle by finding a healthier, more productive reward. We always have the choice to choose differently. You have control over this, you are not powerless. It’s isn’t always easy, but it is possible.
Stop, Ask, and Listen – It’s important to pause and ask yourself, “What do I really need in this moment?”. When we stop and listen, we can tune into exactly what our bodies are asking for and make an informed choice. We can then choose to give our body what it is really craving.
When we can meet ourselves with compassion and let go of any judgment and criticism, we are more likely to make empowered, healthier choices that honor what our bodies are really wanting.
I’ve listed below some non-food and alcohol-free reward ideas to try at the end of a hard day. Some may resonate with you, and some may not - and that’s okay. We all have our own personal needs and preferences for relaxation, so it is important to look within and explore what works for you.
Take A Bath – Drawing a warm bath for yourself where you can relax, zone out, and soothe your muscles invites the relaxation response. Whether you’re using bubbles, sea salt, or Epsom salt – a bath is a beautiful escape for your body and mind.
Hot Tea – I can’t think of anything more soothing and calming than a warm cup of tea. The Brits are on to something here. I can feel my body instantly relaxing as I pick up my nightly tea. After a tough day, try calming and stress-relieving blends with soothing herbs like chamomile and lavender.
A Good Book – Reading an enjoyable book is a wonderfully effective way to escape and check out. Reading reduces stress and all the mental clutter in our minds. You can curl up and get lost in someone else’s story. What could be better?
Yoga – An evening yoga practice whether it’s at home or at your favorite studio is a beautiful way to let go of a stressful hard day. You move your body, release tension in your muscles, soothe your mind, and connect spiritually. Most yoga classes end with a meditation, so you get two for one in the relaxation department.
Meditation – A quiet, restful retreat for your mind, meditation will allow your body and mind to escape the stresses of the day, rest, and reset so that you can enjoy your evening. If you don’t already practice meditation, you can choose from various guided meditations on an app or explore a simple practice like Yoga Nidra.
Connection – We all need connection and there’s nothing better than a good chat with a supportive and present friend. In the age of social media and modern technology, real connection is key to destressing. Whether it’s chatting on the phone or spending time in person, the mere company of supportive friends can often ease the stress of the day.
Laughter – There’s no question that laughter heals. I can’t think of a more delightful way to spend an evening after a rough day than laughing hysterically. Whether it’s hanging out with your most entertaining friends or enjoying comedy on your own. We are so lucky to live in a day and age where we have access to our favorite comedians and personalities with the literal click of a button.
Your Favorite Exercise – Moving your body and getting those endorphins flowing gets you out of your head and enjoying your body while releasing all the tension of the day. The key is to do something you love so this is an actual treat, not another chore.
Enjoying Nature – A simple brisk walk and some fresh air can do wonders for your mind and body. Being present with the beauty and marvels of nature can calm your mind and connect you to something greater.
Creative Arts – Getting in touch with our creative side naturally reduces stress, whether it’s drawing, painting, knitting, creating a vision board, or coloring, etc. Leave the judgment aside – you don’t have be Picasso to enjoy creative arts. You may have noticed the influx of adult coloring books lately – that’s because coloring has been shown to have a meditative effect.
I consider myself an expert in relaxation so I could go on and on here! Try one out and notice how you feel the day after. ☺