Today’s topic is something I’ve been meaning to talk about and I feel that as we are still in the middle of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, a year after the pandemic hit; now would be a good time to talk about relaxing after a long, stressful day. I mean, the logical side of my brain argues that it has already been over a year since we are in this weird situation so I should be getting used to being confined to one place, working from one corner of my home. That is the new norm after all! To be honest though, it is having sort of an opposite effect in my case and I’m sure a lot of you would be able to relate. What I’ve noticed is that at the end of the day I’m a lot more tensed and tired and find it increasingly difficult to unwind compared to those pre-COVID days.
And so, I did some research and made a list of activities I can do (well, we all can) to help me unwind after a long day, some of which I’ve been exercising since long ago and some I’ll be trying from now on to see if they work.
1) Lie down
I know, it sounds like a common sense and you already knew this lol! But, it is one of the best way to relax your mind and your body as you come down from the high of your daily buzz. One important thing to keep in mind though, and this is something that I struggle with is to devoting this relaxing time to doing absolutely nothing. I know it’s easier said than done. Personally, even when I’m lying down, my mind keeps racing with the day’s events making it difficult for me to just be. Somethings that have helped me achieve the state of ‘doing nothing’ is- not looking at my phone and avoid scanning my room for things to do. Instead, I just close my eyes and take deep breaths one after another and soon I feel tension leaving my body.
Again, a very well-known, straight-forward method to unwind, especially your mind. Research says that meditating for about 10-20 minutes a day can help reducing your stress. Fun thing about meditation is that it can be whatever you want it to be! Whether you want to do it sitting up or laying down, the goal is to just relax and calm your mind.
I have this special little 5-7 minutes routine I do when I feel that just lying down was not enough to relax my mind. First I start with sitting crossed-legged on the ground and take deep breaths. After each inhale I wait for 2-3 seconds before exhaling, trying to release all the tension with each exhale. I repeat the same thing about 10 times. Another thing that I like to do during my meditation sessions is going to my happy place in my mind. I try to recall the happy, content feelings I experienced when I was physically there. The stronger my imagination, the more relaxed I feel with time.
3) Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This is a new method I learned about while doing research for this post and I’m quite excited to try this out. My day is mostly spent sitting on a chair in front of my computer, and more often than I like, with my back hunched over 😦 . And so, at the end of the day my neck and shoulders are all stiff and my back is killing me! Turns out progressive muscle relaxation is the perfect solution for this.
For this method, start with sitting/lying down in a quiet place. Now pick one muscle to work on and tense it up as much as possible for 5 seconds. for example, take your left hand, make a tight fist. Make the fist tight enough to feel slightly uncomfortable or till you start to feel it shake (However, STOP immediately if you feel shooting or intense pain in your hand). Now after 5 seconds of clenching, exhale as you relax the muscle. The important bit here is to notice the difference in how a tense and a relaxed muscle feel. Remain relaxed for 5 seconds and then move on to the next muscle to repeat the same process.
Apparently, doing this regularly will help you take notice of different muscles that tense up during the day and you can immediately relax them, preventing compounding stress in your muscles.
Another related exercise you can do, and this is a fun one trust me is making funny faces haha!! According to Dr.Oz in a piece for Prevention, looking ridiculous can help reducing tension that you’re inadvertently holding above the neck. There is no proper directions for this really, just scrunch up your whole face, make funny faces for about 15 seconds, release and then repeat.
This is one of the methods that work quite well for me. I’m not proud to admit this but I’m sometimes an overthinker and more often than not, I find myself spiraling down the hellhole of ‘what ifs’. So I find writing down the emotions I feel when I’m stressed or tensed helpful in relaxing. I know some people take journaling quite seriously, unfortunately I do not have the time required to invest in serious journaling. My journaling is quite informal and often inconsistent lol. It’s just me writing about how I feel in the moment or what’s troubling me that particular day. I’ve found that many of my problems seem a lot more manageable when I write them down on a piece of paper haha!
Plus, sometimes I also like to use journal to plan my next day so that I’m not thinking about what I need to do tomorrow all evening and failing to relax!
5) Cleaning and de-cluttering
This is another go-to method of mine. Studies have shown clutter can have negative effects on our mental health including higher stress levels. So whenever I’m feeling a bit restless or overwhelmed, a quick cleaning and de-cluttering session is all I need. I try to keep my focus on the task at hand which in turn grounds me! Added bonus is a clean room and a clean house so everybody wins!
6) Music and ASMR
Who doesn’t like music? I think many will be able to relate to this when I say that listening to music is a great way to unwind after a long day. It doesn’t matter which type of music you like, as long as it gives you a sense of peace and happiness, you’re golden.
My choice of music to unwind to varies depending on the day I’ve had. But I find instrumental music (especially a piano or cello or even jazz) quite relaxing. Sometimes I also stream nature sounds (birds chirping, waterfall, thunderstorms etc.) on platforms like YouTube or Spotify.
Another option is to listen to ASMR sounds. ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response and is basically the relaxing, tingling sensation people feel while listening to relaxing sounds or voices. To be honest, this is not my cup of tea haha! I find the idea of someone “whispering” into my ears a bit weird but hey, if it works for you then why not?
7) Self-care and pampering yourself
I think after a long day of work or studying for your exams everyone deserves a little bit of pampering. There are a lot of ways you can relax and unwind by just treating yourself with care. My most preferred option is of taking a warm bath 🙂 It always helps me relax and especially nowadays, it gives me some time away from all the technological devises that demands my attention throughout the day. Sometimes I also like to treat myself by ordering in my favourite food or just some desserts (though I’ve not explored much since I moved to London) to celebrate the end of a tiring day.
Another one of my go-to methods of self-care is a head massage! Good thing is you don’t need anyone’s help with this. Back at home, I used to have this head-massager that worked like a charm and I’m definitely getting a new one for myself haha. Trust me when I say this, these little massagers are incredible, you can literally feel the tension melting away! And, they are super inexpensive! After some exploring, I also found this short but pretty awesome video by Michelle Ebbin, showing some simple foot massage techniques to reduce stress which I’m excited to try out.
8) Doing something you love
Again, this is a no brainer. Choosing fun distractions can also help with unwinding and relaxing after a tiring day. Personally, my go-to distractions are either drawing, gardening, or cooking comfort foods (I might make a separate blog about this!). These activities never fail to cheer me up. There are many other options available as well, such as spending time with your family and/or pet, watching your favourite movie/show, reading a new book! Additionally, I’d recommend connecting to nature as much as possible. It could be a short walk in a park or just sitting in your backyard, listening to the birds. Research indicates that natural blue spaces helps us relax more and brings us happiness. So if you are lucky enough to live near a river, a spring or a lake, spending some time there could be exactly what you need to relax.
9) Tea… always Tea 😀
This one is one of my favourite ways to help me relax (because I love tea haha). Mostly, in order to relax, I stick to teas that do not contain caffeine and I also try to avoid putting sugar in it, especially close to the bedtime. According to an article on calmclinic.com, some of the teas which work like wonders in stress-management are: valerian root tea, passionflower, kava, chamomile, lemon and peppermint. Among which, kava and chamomile are my personal favourites.
And that’s all from me for now 🙂 See you next time!