Stressful days can take two forms for me. There’s the one that leaves me feeling physically exhausted, maybe from rushing around running errands or having to get somewhere on time, and then there’s the worst type: the mental exhaustion from working in overdrive without ever getting off my desk chair. It leaves my body feeling like a Formula 1 racetrack in which adrenaline is shooting up and down, sometimes spinning off course, always chaotic. Long after I close the lid on my laptop, I feel the fluttering in my chest and a disconcerting pulsing in my veins. Maybe, on a particularly bad day, I’ll start to feel a tightness in my throat; all of these signs saying “Stop. Pay attention: there’s something you should be afraid of”. When you don’t get to dissolve the fight-or-flight energy (because if you’re unlucky, sometimes you have too much on your plate to do the diligent take-five-and-walk-around break) it leaves a horrible pulsing feeling that can ruin your evening, and even your sleep. I’m no stranger to this sensation – my friends and family can vouch for the fact that I stress too much – but there are some things I’ve cottoned onto during my battle against stress and anxiety that I’ve realised really help me back onto a more zen path. If you’re looking for ways to calm down after a difficult day, I can only hope my five go-to remedies might help you out.
1. Get the aromatherapy going
Call me woo woo, but I have to sing the praises of aromatherapy: it really works. Lavender is your obvious choice for trying to restore calm, and I particularly like this lavender-geranium mix from Neal’s Yard Remedies, which takes the form of a foaming bubble bath. Whether you’re open to the effects of the aromatherapy or not, a bubble bath is relaxing enough, right? If you can dim the lighting and get a candle going, even better – though I’d suggest a scent-free candle if you’re filling the bath with fragrance. Before I hop in for a soak, I also love dry body brushing beforehand, which helps to boost your circulation and stimulate lymph drainage. It feels relaxing and invigorating at the same time and is great for easing tension. If you’re worried you might have trouble sleeping I’d also recommend a eucalyptus pillow spray or an essential oils diffuser to carry the aromatherapy right through your evening.
2. Make a calming tea
Sometimes a glass of wine feels like the only option – and I’m definitely not saying don’t have a vino if it’s been that kind of day – but sometimes alcohol can make me feel worse if I’m more anxious than I am stressed. In that case, herbal tea is my saviour: namely this Kintra Foods Calm & Relax tea. I don’t know where my friend Liv bought this from, as it’s actually Australian, but it’s SO good. I genuinely feel much more zen after I drink it and the chamomile in it helps me drift off to sleep. Just be careful not to have your tea too close to bedtime or you’ll need to get up for the bathroom as soon as you’ve drifted off – there’s nothing more annoying!
3. Say goodbye to screens
If your mind is racing, then your on-screen devices are going to do nothing to help you. Everything about tapping apps and scrolling feeds is designed to stimulate your brain and give you a dopamine hit – that’s not what you want when you’re hyped up and anxious, trust me. TV isn’t so bad, but even better is just closing your eyes and listening to a podcast, flicking through a magazine or reading a book. Fiction and short stories are by far by favourites genres for this. Concentrating on a plot line and absorbing every word is always a huge distraction for me and really steadies any jittery feelings I might have after a tough day. It also tires my brain out a little before bedtime – you’d be surprised how much mental effort reading actually is compared to the mindless trawling of social media or half-engaged watching of shows, and it really pays off when it comes to re-centring your mind. Let’s also talk about WhatsApp here too; your friends aren’t going to mind if you check out of the group chat for an evening, so if catching up and replying to messages is only adding to your stress then consider muting. If something is urgent, they’d obviously just give you a call.
4. Take time over your skincare
Setting aside a bit of pampering time is just another way to help you slow down. What I like about my evening skincare routine is that I can really drag it out (much to my boyfriend’s dismay) and take a moment for myself that’s free of mental stimulants. After double cleansing and toning, I’ll apply my Herbivore Emerald face oil and sometimes get my rose quartz gua sha involved. If you’re thinking ‘gua wuh?’, it’s basically a facial massage tool made from cooling crystal that, like dry body brushing, helps with lymphatic drainage and boosts circulation in the skin. I do find that with regular use my face feels de-puffed, but that’s not really why I use it – it’s just a relaxing process. I even take it down the back and sides of my neck to really release tension here. Stressful days can really effect my complexion, so putting a little attention here helps to keep it happy.
5. Turn to yoga and meditation
If you’ve done all of the above and you’re still feeling panicky and unnerved, you probably need to bring out the big guns: cue yoga and meditation. I really believe in the grounding power of both of these practices, and in my anxiety-filled moments they can sometimes be the only things to return me to a state of calm. The Headspace app is really good for beginners that may feel averse to the idea of meditating, as its introductory programme is really user friendly and easy to follow while also being really beneficial. As for yoga, I so miss having real life classes run by my lovely work colleague! I find actually being in the room with your instructor the most relaxing (and mine uses this incredible Tibetan singing bowl) but when that’s just not possible, whether it’s because of Covid or because it’s 10pm and you’re in your bedroom on the verge of a panic attack, there’s always the legend that is Yoga with Adriene on YouTube. I’m so certain that you’ll already know of this woman and her amazing channel – her videos are great for less confident yogis, which I’d definitely call myself.
If my tips help anyone at all feel better when work or life has thrown them off balance, then I’ll be very happy indeed. I’d love to know what you do to unwind and decompress after a stressful day – God knows we all need the help this year.