There’s nothing worse than ploughing through a stressful, demanding day which leaves you drained of all energy. Finding ways to relax after hours of hectic errands or emotional turmoil isn’t easy - but being able to unwind at the end of the day is essential for mental and physical health. From colouring books to DIY facial treatments, here are some of the best ways to relax and improve your mood when you’re feeling tired, stressed or irritated.
Do some light exercise
Take a stroll outside, along a scenic or peaceful path. Or sit in the forest and be among the trees. The fresh air will help clear your head and the time alone will give you an opportunity to collect your thoughts and reflect over the day. If the weather’s bad, do some light exercise indoors instead. Just ten minutes of yoga and stretching can relieve tension in your muscles and leave you feeling revived and relaxed.
Turn off your phone
...and any other communicative devices, for that matter! We’re so used to regularly checking emails, social media and online news that we don’t consider the implications of being constantly plugged into technology. Allow yourself a couple of hours to mentally and literally ‘switch off’ from smartphones, smartwatches, tablets and laptops.
The demand that 24/7 social media puts on us can led to a great amounts of subconscious stress. Studies have also indicated time after time that using electronic devices before bed can interfere with our sleep, as the light from our devices and the content on which we are focusing leaves our brains alert and reluctant to enter ‘sleep mode’. Since the best cure for stress is so often simply a good night’s sleep, let both your mind and your devices recharge for a while!
Whether it’s for a period of calm contemplation, or as a way to clear one’s head and practice mindfulness, there’s no denying that meditation has helped humans disengage and achieve inner peace since ancient times. Play some relaxing background sounds to ease you into a peaceful trance or, if you struggle to reach a meditative state, listen to an instructive tape. Turn your surroundings into a tranquil environment, moving all distractions out of sight and lighting some candles or incense.
Get into your comfiest clothes or PJs
If you remain in your work clothes, you remain in work mode. Throwing on warm, comfy PJs can function as a mental trick; a reminder that you are putting the day behind you. A fluffy pair of slippers doesn’t hurt, either.
Enjoy a warm bubble bath
Treat yourself to a nourishing and therapeutic soak in the bathtub. Soften and scent your skin by pouring a little natural floral water into the tub, and give your eyes a rest by covering them with a mask or a couple of chilled cucumber slices. To make your bubble bath even more relaxing, dim the lighting and create a comforting ambience with some aromatic candles.
Freshen up with aromatherapy
Rather than pop another painkiller for that headache, see what natural remedies can do for your mental and physical health. Certain scents, such as that of natural rose and lavender, are known to induce calmness. Massaging essential oils into muscles will help relax your body, whilst spraying a natural floral body mist over your face will instantly leave you feeling revitalized.
You can also make a cooling facial mask from everyday ingredients such as avocado, banana, honey and milk. Chill the mixture in your fridge for an hour to make for an especially soothing application. An exfoliator refreshes your skin be removing dead cells, so it’s a particularly suitable treatment for when you’re in need of livening up. You can make your own exfoliating scrub with some coconut oil and brown sugar.
Play your favourite music
Relaxing music doesn’t just mean music that is ambient, classical or acoustic in nature. Any music which enhances your mood can be described as relaxing, whether it’s upbeat jazz or hard rock.
Songs have a powerful ability to provoke memories and feelings - we strongly associate sounds with certain sensations - so one way to unwind is through playing music that reminds you of times you’ve felt happy, relaxed and empowered. Studies show that listening to our favourite music increases dopamine (the neurotransmitter associated with pleasure) - so keep a good playlist handy for times when you’re feeling stressed out.
Call a friend or loved one
When we’re emotional or overwhelmed, we can forget to take a step back and put things in perspective. Talk to a trusted friend or family member who can help you arrange your thoughts and rationalize. They might even provide you with some insight or useful advice that you had not considered, helping you deal with the stress at hand.
In either case, it always feels good to get things off your chest after a long, busy day. If you’d rather avoid talking about the source of your negative emotion, then let your friend or family member help take your mind off things with a conversation about something fun and trivial.
Spend time with your pet
Studies have indicated that spending time with animals works wonders in relaxing humans, helping alleviate depression and feelings of loneliness whilst also lowering blood pressure. Simply talking or playing with your pet can increase serotonin and dopamine. Activities such as walking your dog or cuddling your cat will also help you relax as you focus your attention on something socially rewarding.
Do something creative
When you’re looking for a stress-free distraction, doing something creative is an excellent way to unwind. Whether it’s water colour painting, colouring in book or knitting project - a repetitive task which results in an artistic creation can be immensely relaxing - not to mention rewarding!
Cosy up with a warm drink and book
Make yourself a cup of hot chocolate or herbal tea, cosy up in an armchair or sofa and indulge in the mental retreat that is getting lost in a good book. According to The New Yorker, “Reading has been shown to put our brains into a pleasurable trance-like state, similar to meditation, and it brings the same health benefits of deep relaxation and inner calm. Regular readers sleep better, have lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of depression than non-readers.” In other words, some enthralling fiction and a warm beverage sounds like a winning combination, right?
Get an early night!
Things always seem better after a good night’s sleep. You might feel overwhelmed in the moment, but a minimum of eight hours sleep will put you back on track and at peak performance once again.