For most of us, life moves quickly and it's not about to slow down. We're always taking on that much more, stretching ourselves that bit further. But in the midst of the madness of modern life, I think it's more important than ever to set time aside to relax. When I unwind properly, I honestly find I'm a lot more productive too. This is how I like to chill out...
1. Take a Spa Break
Of course the ultimate way to relax and treat yourself is to spend the day or a weekend at the spa. I recently visited Stratford Manor Hotel (which is part of Q Hotels, who have spa facilities across the UK) with my boyfriend and we were treated to massages (check out some snippets from our visit on Instagram). The hotel itself was tucked away out of the main town centre. The spa area has a lovely pool, which was nice and peaceful and had a sauna and steam room. For my treatment I went with the Hot Stone Massage* (my boyfriend opted for the Fit for Business - a back and shoulder focused treatment, so great if you're sat at a desk all day) which was amazing and went on for a good hour, so I was in total relax mode. The ladies who did the treatments were lovely and the music, fragrances and the overall atmosphere of the treatment room was so tranquil and undisturbed. I hate how quickly the time goes when you're totally relaxed because you never want it to end! I honestly could've gone straight to sleep afterwards...
We then went for a swim and used the facilities (there was also a gym) before we headed back home. We were so glad we took the time out to do this because even at the weekends I'm very guilty of always wanting to 'do' something, so it was great to get out of the house in a way that meant we could totally switch off. As well as feeling mentally zen afterwards, my upper back and shoulders felt much less tense. Before we went in, we discussed what we wanted to achieve from the treatments and, aware of my habit of hunching over, I asked them to focus on that area. The sense of wellbeing I felt going into the next working week saw me through until it was Friday again!
2. Try Meditation and Mindfulness
Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, don't dismiss the idea of casually practicing meditation and mindfulness. I used to struggle so much with sleeping, and the more I stressed myself out about it, the worse the issue became. I've had everything from not being able to get to sleep to not being able to get back to sleep, nights of waking up every hour or two, nights when I'd wake up at 2am, completely unable to switch back off. The most important changes I've made have all been to do with completely switching off before trying to sleep. I often 'empty' my mind of noise before bed - any ideas I have, I jot down, any niggling little tasks I have to do, I make a note of on the Wunderlist app. That leaves me free to relax.
There are tons of sleep-related meditation recordings on YouTube and there are also apps. A lot of people like to practice mindfulness in the morning, as a positive way to start the day. I haven't quite managed to build that into my life yet but I've been using Breathe and Digipill, usually to relax before bed. I probably struggle more than average with having my mind constantly buzzing with thoughts, feelings and ideas, so I find doing nothing is the best way to feel calm and ready for bed.
3. Read More
I now dedicate at least 20 minutes before bed to reading. I've learned over time that looking at screens keeps my eyes alert and therefore means I struggle to fully switch off for sleep. Another thing I've struggled with is picking the right book to wind down with. Sometimes that gripping page-turner isn't conducive to relaxation and I often pick books with quite heavy and/or complicated subject matters. They're best kept for the commute, in my experience. I love reading something like Pretty Iconic by Sali Hughes, which gives me a light-hearted, bite-sized dose of beauty before bed.
4. Get Away
When I was a student, I couldn't think of anything more boring than a beach holiday! When I went away, I wanted a jam-packed sight-seeing city break. However a couple of years into my full-time working life, I can really appreciate them. Whether it's abroad or a weekend in the country; sometimes it's nice to do nothing. When you're a city-dweller especially, it's good to get away from the noise and the hustle and bustle of corporate life.
5. Have a Chilled-Out Evening
Of course I'm a beauty junkie so I love nothing more than having a pampering night in. Usually on a Sunday, to prepare me for the week, I like to turn off my phone, light a candle and run a bath. These are the products I've been using recently to do just that:
Crabtree and Evelyn La Source Exfoliating Body Scrub* | £20 | The products from this new collection just smell of the sea and the spa to me - the scent is absolutely beautiful. I also really like the packaging; it looks so premium and I love the simplicity of it. This scrub contains tiny particles of pumice stone as well as wax beads. It gently buffs away any dead skin, leaving my arms and legs soft and smooth but not red or stripped. I really like taking my time to work this into the skin to get the best results and give myself a little massage in the process.
Crabtree and Evelyn La Source Hydra Marine Nourishing Oil* | £30 | This is a beautiful multipurpose oil that has the same gorgeous scent as the scrub and can be used on the body, face and hair. I love that it comes in an expensive-looking glass bottle and has a spray top for easy application. It's lightweight and nourishing, absorbing into the skin without making it greasy. Used on the body, it leaves my skin soft and smooth. It smooths out split ends on the hair and I use it for face massages as a skincare product. The scent is incredibly relaxing and really recreates that spa feel.
Janjira Spa Argan Oil Shower Gel* | £14 | A bath or a long hot shower is essential to relax and unwind, especially after a tiring day. This shower gel smells absolutely beautiful! I love the rich, deep, warm aroma of argan oil and the formula itself is so nourishing. I really like inhaling a relaxing scent like this as it fills my bathroom. This is nice and and foaming however instead of stripping the skin, it leaves it nice and soft (as well as the scent lingering nicely).
Janjira Spa Thai Lime & Ginger Body Butter* | £26 | This is one of the nicest body butter formulas I've tried. Unlike the thick and greasy offerings from other brands, this is a lightweight, almost milky formula (though a little thicker than most body milks) that feels lovely as you massage it into freshly-washed skin. The scent is slightly zingy and spicy but in a light and natural way. Despite being so fluffy in texture, it still provides my dry skin with the intense moisture that it needs. I also love the packaging of these products; they really do look like they belong on the shelf of some exotic spa!
Janjira Spa Pomegranate & Acai Facial Mask* | £20 | A skincare treatment is a 'must' for me on a relaxing night in. When I want to unwind, I don't tend to reach for intensive treatments that are going to harden or tingle on the skin or that I'll have to quickly rinse off once the time is up. Instead I want an all-rounder that's going to feel nice on my skin. This is a cream based mask that is full of antioxidants and nutrients aimed both at reducing the appearance of pores and hydrating the skin. It leaves my skin looking fresh and plump, as well as feeling softer and smoother. It also smells great! It's a good one to put on at the end of a long week when your skin is looking a bit lacklustre and needs a pick-me-up.
Kure Bazar Natural Pedicure Ritual* | £4.50 | This is a fab little single-use product; essentially there are two little pouches in here packed full of a moisturising foot treatment. I just popped my feet into this and chilled out, read a book and let the product sink in for half an hour. I then took off the pouches and massaged any excess into my feet. They felt so smooth, soft and looked after. It also contains a little file and cuticle pusher so you can look after your toe nails and follow up the treatment with a fresh coat of polish. Our feet take a bit of a beating, so it's nice to treat them every once in a while!
Bliss Glamour Gloves* | £39 | These are an interesting concept - essentially you get a pair of reusable fabric gloves, the interior of which are covered in a gel product. You can't use touch screens or tracker pads whilst wearing them and I use them for about 20 minutes at a time, so before bed when I'm reading, I often pop them on (which keeps me from looking at my phone). I've not tried these overnight yet but so far, I'm impressed! They leave my hands so soft and smooth. Whilst they can be used dry, I recommend applying your usual hand cream (I recommend Caudalie Hand and Nail) before putting them on to really boost the effects.
How do you relax, unwind and de-stress?