All things considered, the modern era is a remarkably comfortable, calm and peaceful time to be alive when compared with the Middle Ages (Bubonic Plague anyone?) or the Victorian period (most famous for corsets and consumption). So why is it that so many of us feel stressed out and overwhelmed by our everyday lives?
Part of the reason is our constant connection to the internet. Our smartphones and laptops might make banking, shopping and dating a doddle, but they also allows us to obsess over social media, question our self-image, and receive constant, terrifying glimpses into global politics.
Of course, learning how to switch off, relax and unwind after a stress-filled day is not just about turning off our devices – it’s about tapping into what makes us feel happy, safe and comfortable. If you’ve had a nightmare of a day and you’re wondering how to relax your mind and body, read on for some easy self-care and stress-relief tips.
Make the most of the journey home
After an unpleasant day, our top priority tends to be getting home in one piece. But why not start to unwind on your way home?
If you’re taking public transport, try doing some controlled breathing. Close your eyes and take long deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. It can be helpful to slowly count while doing this (an in-breath of five slow beats is something to aim for).
For anyone driving or walking home, even some relaxing music or a cheerful audiobook can make a difference to your mood.
Change out of your clothes
When you get home, resist the urge to collapse onto the sofa and go and change into something clean and comfy. It’s a great way of letting your body know that you’re officially out of that stressful environment and back in a safe, happy space.
Don’t forget your feet either – a pair of squishy slippers can work wonders after a tiring day.
Get those annoying chores done and dusted
It’s a sad fact of adult life that certain household activities have to be done every day. If you’re feeling stressed out, you may not want to engage with the washing up but ignoring this kind of task is not going to make it go away. And, as far as we’re concerned, a bit of cleaning and tidying can actually be fairly therapeutic.
Make your chores more fun by sticking on the radio and promising yourself a little treat when you’re finished. Once these duties are out the way you can relax and enjoy your evening.
Prepare a quick and nutritious dinner
Like cleaning and tidying, cooking can be a great way of letting your mind switch off, and sticking to wholesome ingredients will serve you better than junk food.
Just keep things simple by making sure you have a good stock of easy-to-prep ingredients – whether it’s a batch of soup, fishcakes or some frozen pasta sauce. Later on, you can indulge any cravings with chocolate, crisps or (the ultimate guilt-free alternative) a Fibre One bar.
Don’t forget that, after a stressful and tiring day, it’s OK to ask for help in the kitchen. You should also never feel pressured into cooking a huge meal just to please other people (that’s what the takeaway menu is for!).
Take some time for yourself
Part of the reason stress builds so easily in modern life is that we’re constantly surrounded by other people making demands of us. That’s why slipping away for some “me time” is essential when your stress levels are high.
How you spend that time is totally up to you, but some of our favourite stress-busting activities include:
- doing yoga or pilates
- taking a long hot bath
- curling up with a good book
- colouring in (trust us, it’s not just for kids)
Everyone’s different, so if your style of relaxation involves watching reality TV, that’s OK! The important thing is that you feel calm and relaxed. Having said that, if your unwinding session does involve a screen, just bear in mind the following.
Step away from the screens before bed
People who have trouble sleeping are often advised not to watch TV or use their computer, tablet or phone before they go to bed. After a long, hard day a good night’s sleep is essential – and it can be trickier if you’ve got a lot on your plate.
So make life easier for yourself. Around an hour before you plan to go to bed, switch off the TV, shut down your computer, and put your phone and tablet in another room. No matter how busy your schedule is, emails, work assignments and Friend Requests can always wait until morning.
If you struggle with insomnia of any kind, look into downloading a sleep app or – if you can’t tackle it alone – talk to your GP.
Keep track of your stress levels
The most important thing to do when you suffer from stress is to keep track of how you’re doing, and never let yourself become so overwhelmed that you can’t function. Keeping a diary can help with this, in part because you can write down activities that help you stay calm and relaxed. If you find you’re not coping well, get help from a doctor.