6 Ways to Instantly Reset After a Rough Day

In today's busy culture, a normal day at the office can be pretty draining. Between tight deadlines, work stress and other pressing obligations that just never seem to go away, it can be hard to get back home without plopping right on the couch. And if you have a bad day, it's challenging to find the time and energy to unwind.

Don't let a long, stressful day ruin your evening. (Image: Westend61/Westend61/GettyImages)

You might think there's no getting over it — you're stuck in the cycle of life that's tiring and hectic. Yet don't let that negativity stop you from trying a few healthy hacks that can instantly reshape your mentality and mood, turning that bad day into a pretty great one, after all. Try these simple and effective tips for getting over it quick and easy, where you can start your evening on a fresh, positive note.

1. Control Your Breathing

When experiencing stress, your autonomic nervous system goes haywire, according to Primer on the Autonomic Nervous System. "During an episode of high stress, the parts of the body regulated by this system begin to function irregularly: your heart may beat fast, you may over produce sweat, your mouth and throat become dry and your breath turns rapid, short and irregular," says Sharon Cleere, mindfulness coach and author.

But you can disrupt this process by consciously changing how you breathe, she says, which can help you unwind after a bad day. "Breathe in for four seconds, holding for four seconds and exhale for four seconds," Cleere says. "Then, once you feel you have calmed down, let your breath return to a normal, natural rhythm, once again trying to make each breath the same as the last."

2. Create a Positive Mantra For Yourself

If you had a tough day and you need help getting over it, recite a positive mantra that'll give you those happy vibes ASAP and bring back some self-love and confidence. "A mantra is a thought [you] have created with a particular intention and decided to think on [with] purpose," says Cleere. "I particularly like mantras that help you identify, acknowledge and accept how you feel while remaining positive."

You can follow this format to create your own mantra: "Even though, I feel [AN EMOTION] about [A SITUATION], I [LOVE MYSELF, AM SAFE, ETC.]," she says. Or you can have a few mantras prepared in advance that you know turn that bad day around fast. These might be, "I am confident and lucky in this world," or "It was just one day and tomorrow is brand new."

Get all your thoughts out on paper. (Image: Westend61/Westend61/GettyImages)

3. Try Journaling

Channel your emotions through pen and paper to reset after a long day. According to a 2005 study published in Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, writing down your feelings can improve mental and physical health, for both the short- and long-term.

"The unique thing about journaling is that when you write with pen and paper as opposed to utilizing digital media such as your phone or laptop, you're engaging a particular part of your brain that handles the creative side and releases specific emotions," says Cali Estes, Ph.D., addiction therapist, life coach, recovery coach and wellness guru. "Journaling will help you get rid of any negative thoughts and reset for positive very quickly and very easily." You can also keep a journal on you throughout the day, in case you need to unwind mid-day as well.

4. Squeeze in a Workout

If you're in a negative rut after a busy day, lace up your sneakers and get active. "Exercise — such as fitness training cardio and yoga — not only gets rid of all of your anxiety, anger and aggression, [but] it also releases serotonin and dopamine which assist with giving you a boost of the happy chemical and also make you physically feel better which in turn makes you mentally feel better," says Estes.

And while a one-off sweat session can help you blow off steam, a consistent fitness regimen helps you cope with anxiety in the long-term, according to a 2013 study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry. Plus, you're engaging your body and mind in releasing your emotional stress, she says, both of which can lead to getting over it fast and forgetting all about that bad day.

Citrus scents are energizing and mood-boosting. (Image: OksanaKiian/iStock/GettyImages)

5. Seek Out Citrus

If you're desperately trying to unwind, grab something citrusy and let the aromas work their magic. "One of the quickest ways to reset is to take orange essential oil with you in a decanter and rub it on your wrist and pulse points every time you feel stress," Estes says. "This will ground you and center you making you feel less stressed almost instantly."

You can also try lemon, which has similar properties. According to a 2014 study from the journal Nutrients, lemon balm and foods containing lemon can improve mood and cognitive abilities. Keep a lemon balm on hand so you can slather some on when you're in need of a quick reset. The same goes for yuzu, a Japanese citrus-containing fruit, according to a 2014 study from The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

6. Go Out in Nature

Take a brisk walk or meditate in a lush, green patch of grass or a nearby park when you had a bad day and need to unwind. Nature has a profound effect on easing anxiety and promoting greater health and well-being, according to a 2018 study in Behavioral Sciences.

And a 2015 study in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health showed that simply looking at trees and greenery in particular can enhance mood and mitigate stress, so if you're stuck indoors, take a peek outside your window and see what trees you can find nearby.

While you're out there, hug a tree! "As strange as that sounds, trees give out very positive energy, and if you were feeling down, angry or stressed, just being around or sitting near the tree with your spine against the trunk will make you feel grounded and more balanced instantly," says Estes.

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