'Me-time' is important for our day-to-day functioning. "You need 'self-care' to function at your best," says psychologist Dr Jessamy Hibberd.
Self-care can means going for a walk, meeting a friend or staying in bed; whatever you need to reboot. The key is little and often.
Downtime gives us time to process unresolved tensions and to gain perspective. But most of us are too busy to nip off to a spa every weekend.
Don’t fret though – it is possible to wind down, even if you only have limited time. Here’s how…
How to relax in one minute
If you have one minute to spare at the bus stop or between work calls, put your phone on airplane mode and recharge with a hand massage. Stash a tube of your favourite lotion in your handbag and grab a moment whenever you can.
First, rub a few drops into your hand to soften the skin. Use your thumb to work into the fleshy heel of your hand, palm side up, then flip your hand over and work into the web of tendons between your thumb and fingers, moving gently up and down to release tension.
A hand massage is a really good stress-buster for anyone who taps away on a keyboard all day, but it’s also the perfect me-time hack if you’re standing in a queue or on public transport.
How to relax in 10 minutes
For a relaxing break, eat a square of dark chocolate with a cup of hot tea – and don’t do anything else.
Focus on the taste, texture and smell, relishing the experience – and no multi-tasking! If you really must do something, write a list of the experiences, relationships and emotions you are grateful for.
How to relax in 20 minutes
Make a “happy times” photo album. Try to think about what happened outside the frame, before and after the photograph was taken – research shows that this gives the most uplifting effect.
Then share the album with the family and friends you were with. This will spark an opportunity to reminisce and boost the bond that already exists between you.
How to relax in one hour
Block out an hour before bed to create a wind-down routine. Log out from social media, have a bath, listen to music or read.
“I write a list of the good things that have happened,” says Dr Hibberd. “It reminds you of what you have and helps you appreciate your life instead of worrying about what you don’t have or haven’t achieved.”
Alternatively, you could try an online therapy session to destress by sharing any worries or anxieties with a trained therapist, who will be able to help you process your emotions. Online services like Mindbox offer around the clock help for people struggling with a range of mental health issues – their mission is to “provide the best therapy, in the right place, when you need it the most”.
Or try this 9 minute relaxation hypnosis track, created for us exclusively by Mindbox’s co-founder, Anna Richardson, to help you relax and feel less stressed.
At woman&home we believe it’s important to be able to access support whenever and however you need it, which is why we have partnered with Mindbox to offer you an exclusive discount of up to 50% off their services.
How to relax in an afternoon
If you’re thinking you’ll use your free afternoon to clear that email backlog – stop! See a friend instead; it will be better for your health and happiness.
Don’t want company? Go somewhere green – and take your shoes off. Yes, really. There’s nothing like walking barefoot on the grass to put a spring in your step.
Alternatively, to still a racing mind take a trip to the cinema. “It’s virtually impossible to do anything else at the same time; you can properly switch off and become absorbed in the film,” Dr Hibberd says.
How to relax in a day
Block this time out in your diary and tell work and family that you’ll be out of reach except for emergencies. You can then meditate, journal, cook up a storm or relax on the sofa with an engrossing series – the choice is yours! That way – hopefully – they’ll think twice before disturbing you.
We’d argue a day of month of true ‘me time’ will have a big impact on your mental health.