It’s not just me (or people like me, i.e. those who suffer from high levels of anxiety); we’re all stressed. It’s a symptom of modern life. We work ridiculous hours, we do high-pressure jobs, we’ve got crazy amounts of study to get done. I first knew real work-related stress in high school when I was sixteen (sixteen!) and navigating New Zealand’s inanely complicated secondary education certificate. This was before my anxiety had even struck in full force. It only got worse in my final year of high school, when I had to not only perform exceptionally in my schoolwork and exams, but also apply for university, halls of residence and scholarships. Most of my friends were not only doing all this, but also working part-time???? And then, of course, once you leave school, shit gets proper real.
In this kind of environment, it’s essential that we find ways to keep our stress levels down, for the sake of both our physical and mental health. That’s why I wanted to write a post about seven small, easy things you can do to take a bit of time out of your day for you, and just relax.
1. Take a long hot bath (or, if you don’t have one, a long hot shower).
While you’re bathing, try not to think about anything that you have to do once you get out of the bath, or anything that’s already stressed you out that day. Just focus on the water and on washing yourself, getting super clean. Dim the lights or light some candles. Do a face mask if you’re into that, wash with your favourite shower gel or drop a relaxing bath bomb such as this one which I can highly recommend. The most important thing is that you don’t rush yourself. Take as much time as you need to feel clean, relaxed and refreshed.
2. Go for a walk.
Make it an aimless one. Just leave your house, pick a random direction and see where it takes you. If your schedule affords it, don’t set a return time either. I like to walk while listening to music, because I find it relaxing, but you might enjoy leaving your technology at home and taking in all the sounds of your surroundings. Make the effort to really take in everything around you as you walk: not just what you hear, but also what you see and smell and feel. Start making your way back home when you want to, not because you have to. Unless you maybe left the chicken in the oven, in which case you better run home, dumbass. (Protip: before a relaxing walk, make sure you haven’t left anything in the oven.)
3. Listen to music.
Go into your room, turn off all the lights and lie on your bed. Put on your favourite relaxing beats and listen to them quietly through your headphones/stereo set/audio device of your choosing. If you don’t know where to start, you can find some great relaxing playlists on Spotify. A few songs I like when I want to relax are Youth by Daughter, Waited 4 U by Slow Magic, Get Good (Infinitefreefall Remix) by St. South, Magic by Coldplay, Buzzcut Season by Lorde and A Walk by Tycho. Also this beautiful remix of Ed Sheeran’s I See Fire.
4. Invest in a scented candle.
Light it for fifteen minutes each night before bed, turn all your lights off, and enjoy the natural light and warmth it gives. If you get a nice big one, it’ll last you ages and make your room smell amazing.
5. Brew a cup of tea.
My personal favourites are English Breakfast and jasmine green tea. Make it nice and hot (or however you like to take it, don’t let me tell you what to do), and drink it slowly while reading something good. As far as reading material is concerned, if you don’t know what to pick, it’s my opinion that you can never go wrong with a Nat Geo. Kate likes to read The Listener in the mornings while she has her breakfast.
6. Cuddle an animal.
When I’m home I like to cuddle my cat/princess, Comet, while I watch TV. If you don’t have your own animal (like me when I’m in Wellington), don’t despair! All you have to do is befriend someone who does. My friend Tess has a very fluffy cat who I get to cuddle with whenever I visit her. And if you don’t have any friends with animals, you can always go to the local SPCA and cuddle the animals there.
7. Sit outside in the fresh air for ten minutes.
No obligations, no deadlines, no worries or stress – just ten minutes of relaxing time with just you and the outside world. I do this a lot at uni when I’m between lectures. I like to sit on the grass outside the Student Union building and drink a chai latte while watching the city below. Alternatively, if it’s a nice day in Wellington there’s nothing I love more than taking a walk to the waterfront, finding a bench and just watching the world go by for a little while.
My challenge to you (as well as to myself, actually) is to try and do all seven of these things at some point in this coming week. Feel free to drop me a comment, too; I’d love to hear how you go with it. Happy Sunday, everyone!