Let me be real with you for a moment, because this is not a trait I am particularly proud of: if someone were to look at me right now and say, “you need to chill,” I can 100% tell you my Capricorn response will be, “HOW ABOUT MAYBE YOU CHILL“, volume 11.
I have a hard time relaxing. I am sensitive and high strung; I get stressed easily, anxious easily. Having a big girl job and big girl responsibilities means that my lizard brain is firing on all cylinders for most of day. None of my friends would describe me as a “chill, laid-back” person.
That being said, I’m not as bad as I used to be – with a little experience, perspective, and some excellent therapy, I’m finally settling into a rhythm that’s manageable for me.
I’ve done this by purposefully creating habits and spaces in which I can de-stress and relax.
As college students and fellow baby adults, I know you probably feel the crush of stress and expectation too, and we’re not always the best at making healthy choices with our leisure time.
So, if you want to know how to relax, here are some of the things that I do to help me relax and manage my stress:
I’ve talked about this before, so I won’t beat you over the head with it, but turning off your screens an hour or so before bed will not only help you fall asleep more quickly, but your sleep will be better.
Even if you’re just trying to unwind after work, putting the phone down somewhere and walking away for a couple of hours can help you detach from a stressful job or constant newsfeed-checking.
I’m not perfect at this, I’ll admit – I’m not so adult that I have my phone across the room when I go to bed, and I often find myself reaching for the phone on the nights I can’t sleep. But, I can tell you on the nights when I put it down and read instead, my sleep is infinitely better.
Eat Some Salad With Your Junk Food
Stay with me on this one, because I’m not talking about food here. Rather, I’m talking about your leisure activities.
It’s very, very easy to come home after a long day of work, collapse on the couch, and rewatch Parks and Rec or Friends for four hours before crawling into bed. This is fine and okay sometimes, like eating a whole bag of chips is fine and okay sometimes. But over time, you’ll feel like you’re pissing your free time away but you won’t have the energy for anything else.
You know me – I’m not here to tell you how to live your life. But binge-watching, scrolling through your newsfeeds, getting lost in a YouTube hole – they’re kind of like eating junk food all the time in the sense that after a while, it stops feeling good and starts feeling bad. Read: guilty, bored, unmotivated bad.
Mixing in more fulfilling leisure activities, like exciting hobbies, working towards goals, pursuing interests, or increasing your knowledge base, will not only help you grow as a person, but will make your junk food leisure all that more meaningful – the same way eating a salad for dinner makes ice cream for dessert even more indulgent.
It doesn’t even have to be a big change – if Netflix is your after work thing, try watching a documentary or docuseries instead of SVU episodes you’ve seen already. Listen to a podcast on a topic that gets you fired up instead of music while you’re making dinner – read a book before bed instead of scrolling through your feed. Small changes really add up here, so take your time.
Tidy As You Go
I am not really the kind of person who needs my house to be 100% clean all the time, but I do notice a significant increase in my stress levels when the house gets too messy. I used to be the kind of person who would leave everything for Sunday – the tidying, the laundry, the cooking, the minutia – and then be overwhelmed by everything that needed to get done.
So my house would be messier than I wanted it to be, I would get stressed because the house was messy, and I wouldn’t be able to relax in my own home. And each week, it would get worse, until I basically broke down and spent an entire weekend cleaning.
Learn from my rookie mistakes by tidying as you go and having a semi-firm schedule for the major chores, like laundry, cleaning the kitchen and bathroom, etc. Just doing the basics like wiping down counters and surfaces, taking out the trash and recycling, and getting stuff off the floor can help you feel more in control of your space, which in turn will help you feel more relaxed when you’re home.
On the topic of your space – if you want your home base to be a place where you can unwind and relax, filling it with things that are relaxing, cozy, or spark joy in you does wooooonnndders for creating a calming space.
Obvi, you don’t have to go crazy here, but buying a couple nice things like scented candles you love, cozy blankets, or funny throw pillows that make you smile can add a lot to even the most minimalist spaces. Think about it as investing in your mental health – so necessary!
Have a Relaxing Ritual
This is the big one for me, especially when I’m running on fumes or I can feel my anxiety creeping up on me.
Whether this is running a nice hot bath with a bath bomb, reading a book outside on your deck, taking a walk around the neighborhood, or doing a face mask (my ritual of choice) doing something that makes you feel like you’re taking care of yourself and letting go of the stuff that’s weighing you down is so, so important.
Bonus points if you do the same thing consistently – this will help signal your body to relax. Even more bonus points if you do the thing before going to bed – enjoy those extra zzs!
Cool It with the Caffeine
My senior year of college was the year I started having a bad relationship with caffeine – between my senior thesis, my senior show, wedding planning, and, y’know, my classes, I felt like I was always scrambling to stay afloat, let alone sleep. It literally pains me now to think about how much caffeine I would drink to stay awake for long nights in the studio, and then to stay awake the next day because I had hardly slept – sometimes I would pound energy drinks as late as 10 pm!!!! (!!!!!!)
Now, I can hardly drink a pink drink after noon without having a hard time going to sleep that night – which is why I try very hard to limit my caffeine consumption to one (maybe two, if I’m being honest) cups of coffee.
It’s hard, because my lizard brain still demands caffeine if I’m getting too stressed – prepping for the war, I suppose – but let me tell you, it’s really hard to relax when you’re so caffeinated that you hear colors. So cool it!
What do you think?
What do you do to chill? What’s your go-to de-stressing ritual? What sort of adulting things do you struggle with? Let me know in the comments below!