Just chill out, man! Easier said than done in a busy world at the best of times but especially when you are struggling with your mental health. But seriously, devoting part of your day (every day) to some guilt free relaxation even if it is only a few minutes when you are super busy, can make the world of difference to your mood and overall wellbeing.
When I was working full time I used to pick an hour each day (which was in a flexible evening time slot) as “me time”, my husband would see to the children if they needed anything and I could devote that hour to just relaxing.
‘Relaxing’ looks like different things to different people, some people think sitting cross legged on a matt in a serene rainforest meditating is the epitome of relaxation, while other people find going for a run to be very relaxing, I know I did once upon a time! I would use my “me time hour” to run on my treadmill while listening to music or my favourite podcasts, I may have been getting hot and sweaty, but it shut out the busy world around me and gave me a feeling of freedom.
People also tend to think about tropical beach holidays or day spa sessions but these can be very expensive and many people who struggle with their mental health are on fairly tight budgets. I think the key to relaxation is finding a way that you can stop thinking about the stressful things in your life for a while and just be in the moment.
Here is a list of things you can do to relax that don’t cost any money, scroll down for elaborations:
This is one of my psychiatrists favourite suggestions, apparently it works for lots of people, lie back in a recliner and listen to some music, sit on a yoga mat and meditate, sit in a park and just admire nature and the world going on around you. I have a fair amount of trouble being still, I’m a figity person and I get distracted easily at the best of times but if I am hypo/manic then I probably won’t be able to remain in one place for more than a few minutes unless I have been sedated or escalated into a full blown euphoric mania where I have reached a state of “enlightenment” … If you have any suggestions on obtaining ‘stillness’ then please feel free to email them to me firstname.lastname@example.org or add them into the comments below!
Being creative is expressed differently by everybody, the point of creativity for relaxation purposes is to express your creativity out of enjoyment for doing it, not because you are being paid or because you promised someone you would paint them a replica of the Mona Lisa by Monday morning. My creative passion is writing, whether that be writing here on my blog, poetry or fictional stories. I get lost in my writing, hours could pass by and I wouldn’t even notice, it is simply something that I love to do. Your creativity could be expressed through playing or writing music, painting pictures or sketching, making cards or scrapbooking, welding sculptures, designing, planning, dancing, whatever it is that you are passionate about!
This is an oldie but a goodie, nothing quite beats lowering yourself into a nice warm bath, you could add bubbles or some essential oils, turn off the lights and burn some candles instead and have your favourite relaxing music playing in the background. Buy one of those little blow up bath pillows, they are like $2 from dollar stores and worth every penny! If you are a parent, try and do this after the kids are already in bed, even if your partner has promised to watch them for you, if you risk it chances are you will be interrupted every five minutes by bickering and questions about lost socks. Alternatively lock the door and use wireless earphones to listen to your relaxing music while drowning out the outside world, just don’t fall asleep and get your ear phones wet!
Taking a walk , especially on a nice sunny day, is excellent for both physical and mental wellbeing not to mention boosting your vitamin D levels! For maximum relaxation levels, go by yourself or just with the dog and don’t forget your hat and sunscreen!
When I first moved out to the farm I hated gardening and was quite capable of killing cacti and probably even plastic plants. Then I met my amazing neighbour Joy who had a garden spanning multiple acres that was worthy of opening up to visitors. Joy promised me that anything was possible, even with black thumbs and terrible solid conditions and she dragged me reluctantly along to a local garden club meeting. I was the youngest person by around 30years but was welcomed by the oldies with open arms and given free cuttings, encouragement and advice. I have now grown to love gardening (see what I did there?) Tending to the weeds (often with my headphones on and music playing) allows me to escape reality for a while and its incredibly exciting watching something that you have grown from a cutting grow and bloom into a beautiful bush, it gives you a real sense of achievement. I go to garden club every month now and I even have a successful vegetable garden winning prizes in the local show for my awesome watermelons and pumpkins! Even if you only have a balcony you can still create a little garden, even having one pot plant to tend to and nurture can give you a sense of well being and achievement!
If you have read my blog for a while you will know that I am pretty passionate about the important role animals and pets play in our lives. I was lucky enough to work in a wonderful pet shop for nearly 17 years. I loved helping people find the right sort of pet for them and their lifestyle, I told a few people who I didn’t think had the best interests of the animal in mind to piss off in my time too! Pets will give you unconditional love no matter your state of mind at the time so take advantage of that and spend time with them! I have a lot of pets myself, at this moment one of my three cats is contentedly curled up in the sunny window of my study and my parrot is squawking for attention. I have a fish tank full of beautiful tropical fish which you can just sit and stare at for ages in a semi-hypnotic state, a super friendly and rather plump indoor guinea pig named Clive who loves a good scratch under the chin and squeaks at me every time I open the vegetable crisper on my fridge knowing that he will get a little something extra to nibble on. I have two German Shepherds and a Pomeranian who love me unconditionally, they love to go on walks with me, play ball or just be near by. I have chickens, ducks and a highly strung rooster with a severe attitude problem.
Escape your reality for a while and become lost someone else’s! Blogs, memoirs, fiction, self help, magazines… there are millions of options! Reading opens us up to new worlds and new ideas. Books are available everywhere, on your kindle, as PDFs online, at bookstores, libraries, trash and treasure markets they are even available on tape if physical reading is difficult for you. I have put a list of some of my favourite books relating to mental health HERE that you can check out if you want to as well!
Whether you prefer soap operas like Home & Away, “reality” TV shows such as The Real House Wives of Utah, DIY shows or documentaries, there will be something on TV that can captivate you for long enough to relax and forget about your reality for a little while. If you want to watch movies or documentaries about mental health then you can CLICK HERE for a list of ones I have seen or been told about or if you want to forget about mental health all together and just watch something funny CLICK HERE for links to funny movies, funny You Tubers and more.