A Month of Well-Being, Part 1: Six Favourite Ways to Relax

Photo credits: left to right, top to bottom: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Part 1

When I was preparing the editorial calendar for January, I have to admit I was a little at loss as to what to write for the "Beauty" section of my blog. I thought of covering celebrity beauty or new trends, but then realized I preferred to go deeper. This is how the idea came to me of writing a month-long, four-part series on well-being: in fact, isn't it directly connected to beauty, if not the very same thing?

For this very first installment, I will be talking to you about how I like to relax. Now more than ever since I've taken an office job, my life has become a complete whirlwind. So to prevent stress from getting unmanageable, I make it a point to set time aside for relaxation. Here are my six favourite ways to relax.

1. Wine, book and opera:I find myself spending way too much time in front of a screen, or otherwise occupied by my electronics. And while reading BuzzFeed and Thought Catalog or beating my friends at Candy Crush Saga is not unpleasant, there's nothing as relaxing as just turning everything off (not on silent/sleep, because in my mind I'll still think of notifications and calls, but completely off), putting on an opera (most likely my ever-favourite Wagner), pouring myself a glass of red wine (I've recently taken a liking to the Pinot Noir from Barefoot Wines) and curling on my couch with a novel (current read: Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel).

2. Preparing a delicious meal from scratch:Coming home with my stomach grumbling and heating a frozen pizza (even though those from Trader Joe's are exceptionally good) is one thing, but what I do when I am not both famished and exhausted (God, this makes me sound manly, almost, hence my next point), so mainly on week-ends, is to take the time and prepare myself a good meal. I always load the dishwasher and clean my kitchen each day no matter what, it's as much a standard rule for me as removing my make-up before going to bed; and I can tell you that even if organization isn't your forte, the only place you should clean each day a little is your kitchen. The alternative is completely unsanitary. Anyhow, with a well-cleaned kitchen acting as motivation, I like to take the time and cook something nice from scratch (steak, braised vegetables, risotto, or anything that is too time-consuming to cook usually), and then turn off all electronics, eliminate all distractions, and just take plenty of time to enjoy this delicious meal.

3. Meditation:
I know, I'm hardly the self-entitled "zen" type, so this one, I'll admit, is a struggle, and doesn't always succeed; even more, the fact that I'm not succeeding at it can be stressful. But you know me, am I ever the type to give up? While I cannot sit silently and think of nothing for hours, since if I do not distract myself, stressful/negative thoughts can take over almost immediately, I've tried doing so for five to ten minutes. I like to sit or lie down comfortably and imagine myself in a safe bubble. Then I take deep breaths, with my hands on my abdomen feeling my stomach fill itself with air, and I focus only on my breathing. Whenever my thoughts drift elsewhere, I slowly bring them back to my breathing.
The few times it worked, I will not deny that I felt more relaxed than ever.

4. Bathing:
My ever-favourite relaxation method. I am a Pisces after all, so aside from being extremely complicated, being in the water, my element, makes me feel extremely relaxed. Being lucky enough to live alone and to have water free at my apartment, I make it a point to bathe very often. I know, it's not exactly eco-friendly, but water is being wasted on a much bigger scale than one single household, and I use this water for the purposes of mental and physical well-being, and am also careful not to waste it in different uses (like keeping it running unnecessarily when I do dishes, brush my teeth, etc). If I were the hippie type, I'd tell you how I elaborately express gratitude to the water and all, but I am just not, so instead I'll give you a few tips for an optimal bath:
- Clean your tub. (It goes without saying)
- Turn the lights off, and light a candle or two (be careful with the shower curtain though!)
- Get the water at a slightly higher temperature than the hottest you can take. I experimented a lot with water temperature, first filling the tub with a mix of hot and cold and ending up almost boiled alive like that poor cook chap in The Tudors, Season 2, Episode 1. What I ended up doing is filling my tub with what's slightly above comfortably hot for me, since it cools relatively fast.
- As I mentioned above, turn off electronics completely, aside from something that plays music if you like that.
- Don't bother reading; you'll have to turn on harsh lights, and the steam and water splashes will damage the pages of your book, not to mention it can slip from you and fall in the water.
- While bubbles are fun (don't we all love Lush?), what I've realized is the best is a mix of bath salts to add fragrance and keep the water warm, oil (olive, almond, coconut or vitamin E) to soften the skin, and essential oils to relax (my favourites are lavender, rose, and sweet orange; I'd be careful with the mint; the tingling is invigorating, but a little too much so.)
- You can also get in advance a glass of wine and some fruit, but be careful not to spill and break it, this could have potentially dangerous consequences.

5. Candles and incense:
I think there's something incredibly relaxing about the flickering flame of a candle, or scented smoke from a burning stick of incense twirling in the air. I always has either (or both) on when I am at home; I highly doubt the flame and smoke can magically eliminate stress, but they do confer a certain immediate calm to the atmosphere.

6. Drinking tea:
I've professed countless times my love for tea already on this blog, so you can imagine it will make the list. Unlike coffee, which is all about speediness and increasing awareness (and tension), preparing tea is a long ritual that starts with boiling the water, letting it cool to the right temperature, infusing the leaves, enjoying the tea in a beautiful vintage service... The benefits of tea set aside, making and savoring it is all about sitting down, enjoying the moment, and relaxing. And believe me, there's nothing like it.


Stay tuned next Tuesday for the second installment of A Month of Well-Being, which will be about getting quality sleep, and in the meanwhile, don't forget to relax!



 


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