Updated: Oct 10, 2020
I think we’re all in agreement that the past few months have been pretty stressful for everyone involved. There’s been so much to worry about and not enough to do to take your mind off it.
Personally, I’ve felt exhausted. Since January I’ve been working as a teaching assistant at a special needs school and have worked throughout lockdown. There’s been so much change in that time and it’s been really tough on both the children and staff. There’s been quite a few days where I’ve wanted to come home and cry. (Who am I kidding? I mean I have come home and cried) and that’s the problem right there.
I imagine many others have this issue? How do you switch off when you’re at home? How do you turn your mind away from everything that’s happening right now? Even worse, how do you stop worrying about whether little ‘Jimmy’ is going to eat all of his packed lunch tomorrow? (I don’t actually teach a child named Jimmy but this is genuinely something I came home and worried about. Ridiculous, I know.)
What I needed was a self-care routine. Simple, easy, inexpensive ways to help me relax at home and unwind. It’s taken me a while to figure out what really works for me, but here is a list of my current favourites. I hope some of these suggestions help you too.
An obvious choice. But before lockdown I never really enjoyed having a bath. In fact, it actually had to take the shower breaking for me to fully appreciate the benefits of the tub. I’ve always questioned people who choose baths over showers. Why would you want to sit in a pool of your own dirt? What I have now realised is I’ve been doing baths wrong this whole time. It isn’t a quick in and out, plunge your head under the water and close your eyes for a minute in the hope of feeling a little more at peace. Nah. A relaxing bath has to be an event. I’m talking bubbles, bath bombs, candles, music (maybe even throw in a face mask). The whole shebang! Otherwise (for me) it’s just not worth it. I appreciate this is a lot of effort, but you deserve it. Take that little bit of time for yourself.
Current favourite bath products: Dirty works 'Soak It Up' coconut bath soak, 'Coco Bango' Coconut bath bomb and 'Cube Tropicana' bath fizz bar. Face/eye masks: Garnier SkinActive 'Moisture Bomb'.
Current favourite bath playlists on Spotify: 'Mood Booster', 'Comfort Zone' and 'Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording)'
Again, an obvious choice but reading for pleasure is one of the most relaxing things you can do. At university, I often had to read three books a week to write essays on, which I found very stressful. It actually put me off reading for a whole year after graduating! It’s only recently that I’ve regained my love for it. I’ve discovered a good book before bed always helps me to fall asleep, unless it’s too good and then I want to stay up all night reading it!
Currently reading: ‘10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World’ by Elif Shafak. A novel told from the perspective of a dead/dying prostitute. I know this doesn’t sound like the most relaxing read before bed but I would highly recommend. It’s so creative and thought provoking. (I may do a book review blog post when I’ve finished it.)
If, like me, you enjoy being creative, then this is a good one for you. Taking some time out of the day to sit down and write your thoughts or ideas can be so helpful. When I say write, I don’t mean on your phone or laptop. I mean actual good old fashioned pen to paper. There is nothing relaxing about tapping away at a screen. Writing on paper, however, slows you down and forces you to think a little bit longer about what you’re doing. My best ideas have always come from brainstorming in a notebook. I also hope I’m not the only one who gets really excited about buying and writing in fresh new notebooks. I’m starting to gather quite the collection and realistically don’t need to purchase any more for quite a while. Will that stop me the next time I see a pretty notebook in any stationary or homeware shop? Absolutely not.
I appreciate this may not be for everyone, as it can have the reverse effect and stress you out, but I love making lists. I am in fact queen of ‘to do’ lists. I’ve got them in my notebooks, on my phone, even on my watch. If I’m feeling anxious or overwhelmed, just the act alone of making a to do list allows me to feel so much calmer. Often, seeing the list in front of me makes me realise that I actually don’t have that much to do and should therefore stop stressing. On the off chance I do have a boat load of jobs, then the list helps me to gradually work through it. (There’s nothing more satisfying than ticking them off when you’ve finished.)
Whoever decided adult colouring books could be a thing, I love them. I purchased my first ‘adult’ colouring book at the start of lockdown and I love it. It stops me from getting restless and often cheers me up when I feel down. It’s even inspired me to start drawing my own pictures on the blank pages! Again, if you enjoy being a little arty, I’d highly recommend.
Watch a film:
Often when my brain is completely fried, my favourite way to relax is by watching a film. Some might argue that watching films late in the evening isn’t beneficial but I’ve found a specific set of films really help me. These films are the ones that are easy to watch and familiar, in other words, nothing too heavy- kind of like comfort food!
Current film list: Anything Disney, Clueless, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Sex and the City, Love Rosie, Bend it Like Beckham, She’s the Man, 13 Going on 30, About Time, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Legally Blonde, Little Miss Sunshine, Crazy Rich Asians & The Princess Diaries.
Take time off socials:
This is difficult, I know, but sometimes it’s just necessary. If social media isn’t making you happy, then take a break. Delete the apps for a few days and breathe. I’m also a big believer in unfollowing/unfriending accounts that make you feel unhappy or inadequate. You don’t owe anyone a follow or friendship, so put yourself first. My Instagram feed used to make me feel so uncomfortable in my own skin. Then I realised I was following the wrong accounts. Gone are the celebrities pushing diet pills with photos of unattainable bodies. Instead I’m following other small bloggers like me, I’m supporting small businesses and I’m following a lot more cute doggo accounts. Now when I look at my feed, I smile.
Go for a walk:
A nice walk is definitely the only form of exercise I find relaxing. It’s easy to do and requires no money, classes or equipment. I’ve tried yoga and various other things but sometimes the best way to unwind is just by keeping it simple. I’m lucky enough to live near some beautiful scenery which makes it all the more worthwhile. (I’ll also pop into the shops for snacks along the way.)
What are your favourite ways to relax? Let me know! I'd love to add more to my list.