The art of chilling out – 5 steps to unwind and relax

There’s nothing like a few sleepless nights in a row to remind me of the importance to unplug and get back to my nightly chill out routine. I’m sure we’ve all been there, sometimes the hamster wheel is spinning just a little bit too fast and it is hard to step out of it and switch off. The to-do list keeps getting bigger and the mind won’t stop racing long after you’ve gone to bed.

Whether it’s trying to finish a big project, starting a new challenging job or planning the next stage of your life, things can easily get overwhelming and soon a lot of time is spent worrying and stressing out. All this stress and anxiety is very unproductive, not to mention unhealthy. Here’s what I do whenever things get on top of me.

Step by step (as New Kids on the Block say…)
Whatever it is I’m dealing with, a looming deadline or getting a new project up and running, I’ll make a list of daily tasks to do. The key is to make the tasks realistic and achievable so I can actually cross them off my list by the end of the day. I’m often in the position to choose my own working hours which allows me to set a time when I stop working. Usually this is 7pm at the latest, still early enough to transition from work to relaxation mode.

Before the end of a working day I compile a to-do list for the next day. The lists help me to see what I’ve achieved during the day which makes me feel more motivated to tackle the tasks ahead. Rather than worrying about all the things that I need to get done, I’ve got my work laid out for the next day and can start switching off.

Get moving
Before I hit the couch, I try to do a little bit of exercise, in moderation of course! It helps to clear my head or, at the very least, distracts me from my worries because I’m too busy thinking about how much my legs hurt from all those squats.

I’m not a big fan of exercise or sport or anything that requires moving around fast but apparently it’s good for you. Instead of making exercise another thing to stress out about, I take an ‘every little counts’ approach. Sometimes a short yoga sequence will do the job. (I love Yoga with Adriene and her mantra ‘Find what feels good!’)

Or, if the weather is nice, I go for a brisk walk in the park. On a really good day I might even do something a bit more challenging, like one of the Fitness Blender workout routines.

Treat yo self!
After all that hard work it’s finally time to treat myself. If I’m feeling particularly stressed out or unmotivated, I usually begin my day thinking of something nice I could do in the evening. I try not to fall back on those trusty favourites, alcohol and chocolate, all the time but instead do something a bit different. For example, buy a glossy magazine and spend some time reading or invite a friend over and cook a nice meal. Sometimes it could be something really simple such as making time to watch an episode of my favourite show.

It’s not about spending money or gorging out on carbs and booze but about consciously choosing to make some time for myself. Not only does that allow me to unwind a bit at the end of a day, but it also motivates me for the day ahead by rewarding myself for the work I’ve accomplished so far.

Unplug
If my stress levels are very high and I can’t seem to settle down before going to bed, I do some meditation. I find Esther Teule’s videos on Ekhart Yoga TV very helpful for that. She has some useful visualisation techniques that can easily be applied throughout the day.

I have to admit though, my absolute favourite form of meditation is watching beauty videos by makeup artist Monika Blunder (That Austrian accent! Check out how she pronounces ‘lashes’, so sweet). There’s something soothing about her voice, plus I’m a beauty and skincare product junkie.

As an insomniac and light sleeper I’ve always had problems settling into a proper night time routine. This obviously gets worse when I’m stressed out and anxious. In order to deal with that, I try to switch off all electronics, phone, laptop, TV etc., an hour before going to bed. Then I read a book before going to sleep. Not getting distracted by social media and focussing on a story usually helps me to unwind and switch off.

Ask for help
Last but not least, when all else fails, it might be time to ask someone for help. Stress and anxiety can come at varying degrees and can’t always be dealt with by getting a good night’s sleep and doing some yoga. At the suggestion of a counsellor, I’ve introduced above steps into my daily routine two years ago when the pressure of finishing my dissertation got too much for me.

Professional help can put things into perspective very quickly. In my case a couple of counselling sessions helped to give me the tools to get back on track. But, of course, not all mental health issues can be dealt with easily. Seeking out professional advice can ensure you’re not down playing and ignoring your problems.

Whether I’m stressed out or not, I like to reinforce these steps regularly and try to stick to a routine as much as I can. Even when I don’t think it’s necessary, I generally feel better when I consciously make an effort to switch off and make some time for myself. Of course what works for me doesn’t necessarily work for others. Especially when you have kids, fitting in a yoga or meditation video at the end of the day might be unrealistic. So talk to the people close to you about how they deal with stress and anxiety. I’m sure you’ll pick up plenty of great tips that will help you to relax and re-charge your batteries. The simple act of sharing your worries with others will already lighten your load.