How many of us come home from a long day at work, peel off every last layer of tight, uncomfortable clothing and flop on to the couch in a sad heap?
Imagine that feeling of unbuttoning your bra (if you wear one). The straps loosening, that tight awful lace giving you an itchy chest has been stripped away and it’s pure ecstasy. I don’t know about you guys, but it’s also the first thing I do upon returning home, about 32 seconds after unlocking the door.
Imagine the pure euphoria you feel when removing your jeans after sitting in them all day with the button pressing against your gut making you regret that second helping of pasta at dinner last night. The tight denim strangling your body is finally removed and your standing there like a newborn baby ready to throw on some sweatpants or your favorite leopard print onesie and binge watch Orange is the New Black while stuffing your face with Twizzlers and Ben and Jerry’s and Cheez-Its.
But, in all that lusty laziness comes a certain amount of guilt when Netflix condescendingly asks, “are you still watching?” You see your reflection in the black screen of the television, feral and wild with calories and trans fats. Sure, you may feel “relaxed,” but now you’re bloated, your muscles are stiff, and you’ve developed that smell you get from sitting on the couch for 6 straight hours.
It can be too difficult to chill out in a way that involves any level of mental or physical energy. I completely understand. I work in retail on weekends (horrifying, I know, and I gladly accept your pity) and by the time I get home from a long day on my feet, I’m exhausted and pretty much immobile, deaf, and blind to the world. I sometimes regress back to my preschool days and my husband can only throw a remote and some chips at me like I’m a wild animal ready to pounce on him.
I’ve realized in these moments though, that the things I do to relax are not healthy and actually leave me feeling worse afterwords. I’m sure many of you can relate. Below, are some ideas for you to relax and unwind that don’t require the amount of effort that a giant salad or a 12 kilometer hike does.
1. Yoga and other relaxing exercises
You didn’t think we would get through this list without mentioning yoga did you? The best thing about yoga is that you can choose any kind of stretch or routine that suits your mood and current energy level.
Maybe you need a routine that will boost your energy, or you might prefer poses you can do in bed, but either way, yoga is full of a variety of stretches that will suit you and your mood.
Studies have found that yoga can improve your mood and could be as effective as anti-depressant drugs at treating depression and anxiety.
2. Cooking and healthy eating
I was absolutely one of those people who used to think healthy food meant disgusting, bland, and vomit-inducing. However, after being diagnosed with PCOS, I had no choice but to change my diet from 4 Pepsi’s and a bag of chips everyday to salads, fruit smoothies, and lean meats.
After a ton of research, I realized that food doesn’t have to taste awful for you to enjoy it. You’re not required to eat quinoa if you truly don’t like it and it can be as simple as trading white noodles for whole wheat.
Not only that, but cooking can be enjoyable in itself. Put on some Italian dinner music, sip a glass of wine, invite friends over and make cooking an enjoyable event rather than a dreadful task.
3. Free writing
I constantly preach the powers of free writing, so of course I had to add it to this list. Writing requires nothing but a pen and a piece of paper. The best thing about free writing is that you don’t need to be creative, or come up with things people would want to read.
Free writing is all about you and your thoughts, no matter how dull, petty, or negative they may seem. Let it all out on the page.
4. Create a routine specific to your needs
You don’t have to wait for the weekend or after work to be able to relax. Create a morning and evening routine that suits you; your wake and sleeping times, your work hours, your hobbies, etc.
Do you have a hard time getting to sleep at night? Try some meditation and light a lavender candle right before going to bed.
Do you start work a little later or make your own hours? Start out the day with a long, leisurely, and healthy breakfast.
Find small things to add to your daily routines that suit your schedule and relaxation needs.
5. Spend time with dogs
I absolutely love my dog like nothing else, and I have always believed that dogs are too good for us. The second I walk in the door my dog is right there to wag her tail, bite my wrist, and bring me a stuffed animal like we’ve been apart for 10 years.
Dogs will listen to you without interrupting, cuddle you when you need it, provide you with peace, and teach you to live in the present.
Don’t have your own dog? Did you know there is a service that will allow owners to share their dog with you? The internet is an amazing place. Check it out here: https://www.borrowmydoggy.com/
6. Sit in a cafe and read or people watch
When you’re at home watching television or just sitting around the house, you can easily lose perspective on your life and your mental health goes into decline.
Sitting in a cafe and people watching gets you out of the house and out in the world without requiring so much energy. Sip something comforting, like a hot chocolate. You might even find a cafe with couches and cushy chairs!
7. Go to a movie by yourself
Another thing that gets you out of the house, but you’re not required to interact with other people if you don’t feel like it.
There is nothing more relaxing to me than sitting in a dark theater, and focusing on something other than my thoughts. Plus, it’s basically watching t.v., but you’re out in public so you don’t feel as lazy.
8. Indulge in a creative pursuit
Put on some of your favorite music and draw, sketch, color, paint, build or anything else that gets your creative juices flowing.
Art is a wonderful thing to do when you need to relax, especially when you’re stressed or have too many thoughts going on in your head. When your drawing or painting, you’re able to process your thoughts in a way you could never do with a t.v. remote in your hand.
Researchers studied a group of participants who were given some art materials and told to make something. About 75% of them showed a reduction in cortisol (the stress hormone) levels.
9. Have a chat, even on Skype
If you’ve had a long or stressful day, it’s easy to zone out with television or scrolling social media. However, sometimes talking through your feelings is the best thing you can do.
Who always makes you feel better after chatting with them? Your mom? Your best friend? Call them up, and have a little Skype date! Or, invite your friends out for dinner and some girl talk.
10. Organize something
I’m the kind of person who spends 50 Euros at Ikea when I’m feeling upset, and I think many others are the same way. However, even if organizing isn’t your favorite thing, having a clean environment keeps the mind free from clutter as well.
Think about how you feel in a messy room compared to a clean room? Even quickly making your bed can have huge benefits to calming your mind.
Sure, relaxing on the couch and eating junk food while you watch movies all day can be awesome once in a while but doing that every weekend makes it an unhealthy lifestyle. “Relaxation” can still be healthy and it will benefit you more in the long run.