Lots of people have a favourite midweek night; pizza night, movie night, I’ve even heard rumours of child-free night courtesy of the grandparents (if you’ve managed to wangle this one then I salute you!). Well my chosen night is… relaxation night. In fact as a working mum with a hectic life and two small children in tow I’m not sure I’d be able to get through my week without it.
Often our idea of a relaxing evening involves a glass of wine in one hand and the TV remote in the other. And yes, we all need nights like this sometimes. But actually there is much more you can do to help yourself wind down after a busy day and experience a sense of deep calm and relaxation.
So if you’re in the middle of a hectic week and you like the idea of a cheap, easy way to enjoy an evening of relaxation and pampering then here are a few ideas to get you started.
TURN OFF THE TV...
and your phone, tablet, laptop, etc, etc. Research shows that these devices used late in the evening can actually disrupt our sleep patterns so it's a good idea to close them down at least an hour or so before you go to bed. Plus you don't want your relaxation evening being interrupted by your phone pinging every few minutes.
SOAK IN AN AROMATHERAPY BATH
A warm, soothing bath with the sublime scents of your chosen aromatherapy blend can be incredibly relaxing.
Essential oils can be great for treating all sorts of conditions and can be particularly effective for helping with feelings of stress, anxiety, tension and mental exhaustion. Lavender, roman chamomile, frankincense and ylang ylang are all good oils to use for some gentle relaxation. Or why not ask an aromatherapist to make you up your very own personalised bath oil blend? This is a service I'm always very happy to provide to my clients.
The trick to an aromatherapy bath is to make sure the oils disperse in the water so instead of dropping them straight into the bath, you need to first mix them with a few teaspoons of full fat milk to help them break up. Essential oils are very strong and for a bath you really only need 7 or 8 drops of your chosen oil blend.
As this is for relaxation don’t be tempted to flick through magazines, go through your mental to-do list or start streaming repeats of Strictly (just me? oh, ok). Instead try closing your eyes and simply letting yourself relax or quietly focus on the sound and sensation of your breath.
Note: As with all use of essential oils, there are some safety precautions to consider. Essential oils are extremely strong and should NEVER be applied neat to the skin or taken internally unless advised by a fully qualified aromatherapist or health professional. If you have sensitive skin it's a good idea to perform a patch test with your chosen oils, making sure they're properly diluted in a base oil. If there's no reaction after 24 hours then you can safely use the oils.
If you are pregnant or have underlying health issues it's always a good idea to seek the advice of a qualified aromatherapist to find out which oils are suitable or even speak to your GP for advice. Extra precautions should be used when treating the elderly or the very young. Once again, it's best to get advice on the most suitable oils to choose.
Ok, so the chances are you do quite a bit of this already but by using some simple breathing techniques you can really help to increase your feelings of calm and well-being and reduce any stress and anxiety. Here's an easy technique you can use just about anywhere:
· Stand, sit well-supported in a chair or lie down on the floor or bed. Make yourself comfortable and loosen any tight clothing if possible.
· Take a deep, easy breath in, letting the breath flow deep into your abdomen then gently breathe out again. You could try placing your hands gently on your stomach and feel it expand as you breathe in then contract as you breathe out. To begin with, try breathing in to the count of 4 then breathing out, once again to the count of 4. You may not manage the full count at first but with regular practice you will find it gets easier. In time you may be able to extend this so you're breathing in for a count of 7 and out for a count of 11.
· Continue for around 3 to 5 minutes, focusing on the feel and rhythm of your breath.
· For best results use this exercise on a daily basis.
Note: If you're not used to breathing into the abdomen you may feel a bit lightheaded when you first use this technique. If this happens just stop and return to your normal breathing pattern. With regular practice you'll find it much easier.
USE YOUR IMAGINATION
Your own imagination is an amazing thing and by using it to conjure up a place where you feel safe, calm and at peace you can really help yourself to feel deeply relaxed.
There are all manner of guided visualisation and guided imagery scripts available to help you. You can find loads of free downloads and printouts online or you can purchase whole collections on CD or as downloads.
RELAX TO MUSIC
"Music influences respiratory rate, blood pressure, stomach contractions, and the level of stress hormones in the blood," according to David Sobel, M.D. Director of Preventive Medicine at Kaiser Permenente, the world's Largest HMO.
There are all kinds of relaxation music available so try a few different kinds to find what works best for you. A soundtrack that is soft and unobtrusive works well for many people.
You could look out for meditation music, binaural beats tracks or even whale music - well you don't know until you try! Ultimately though, you're the best judge of what kind of soundtrack you find relaxing so go with your own personal preference.
If you're feeling a bit stuck give this track a go to get you started: http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/listen-to-the-most-relaxing-song-ever-170097
So there you go - plenty of ideas to get you started on your journey of relaxation! Give some of them a go and see how they make you feel. I'd love to hear your feedback on what works for you.
Happy relaxing xx