One thing I really hate is reading about forbidden fruit. It can be anything from romantic dinners with a husband to that gorgeous sunset seen from a beach in the Bahamas to relaxing spa weekends at home. I can’t help it; I hate what I can’t relate to.
I have 3 children that I man alone – the youngest being 7 months. I haven’t had a day off since she was born and that’s perfectly OK with me; I knew what I was getting myself into when I was pregnant with her. Spa days are a no no, relaxing long baths – a no no; even going for a pee alone is a no no. Why then does it seem the rest of the world gets to have some amazing ‘me’ time when all of my time is divided between ‘them’ and ‘us’? Surely I too can have some relaxation time when I get to unwind and I don’t mean by doing the dishes, ironing or packing tomorrow’s lunch! It’s why I decided to come up with my top 10 ways to relax before bed.
To start off, I have to be realistic: my kids go to bed at 9 but fight until 10 when the lights go off; it’s hard to create a serene environment when they keep running past to get water or go to the loo; oh yeah, the baby also needs a feed around this time. If I want any chance of not being mistaken for the undead (zombie) the next day I have to be in bed before 12 when there is yet again another feed. So that means I have only one realistic hour between 10-11 to relax. How much can you squeeze into an hour really? Just 2 episodes of Eastenders or one of Holby city?! You would be surprised at how much you can do if you only turn off the bloody TV, stop whining and be determined to enjoy yourself! Here’s my top 10 list:
1. Hot chocolate, guided relaxation and yoga:
Awesome combo! I rarely indulge in much as I need to watch the pennies but I have two creature comforts: beverages. I will go out and try different types of coffee and hot chocolate as often as money will allow me. One of my favourites is mint flavoured hot chocolate; it has all of the deliciousness of hot chocolate whilst having a refreshing after taste. Whilst I anticipate drinking it I use my time to take part in some guided relaxation. There are some amazing apps out there for free that you can choose. I throw my cushions on the floor (the kids can clean it up tomorrow ) and lie on top of them in a dimly lit room and then I start the relaxation. It was only after trying this that I realised my favourite most relaxing accent is a Scottish one. Sends me right off to sleep! I end the hour with a 10 minute relaxation yoga session. This way I feel refreshed and relaxed whilst being productive via my work out.
2. Massage and sounds of nature
One of my all time best buys was a Shiatsu massage chair. It works either your whole back or the top or lower. You can select a heating function or leave it cold and you can do it for as long as you want! For me it’s crucial to my well being; I like so many others, carry my stress in my shoulders and upper back. I have no one to press my shoulders and I can’t afford regular massages to get rid of the knots so this was a great investment. I lie back in my recliner with my feet up and listen to sounds of nature as music is not allowed, and drift away… It’s excellent! If you don’t have one of these little beauties you can always lie on tennis ball to get rid of knots. I know it sounds a bit weird but research into it – it works. There are also rollers you can buy from a gym that do the same job.
3. Mocktails and a book
I love the look of cocktails – love the colours and ingredients; however they too are a no no because of the alcohol. You can still have a great drink however without the alcohol; enter the mocktail! These drinks can be as daring or as plain as you like! One I like is Elderflower and mint with ice and a little umbrella and orange wedge on the side. Looks great and tastes fab too! I never thought I would like Elderflower as it really does taste like crushed flowers but something about it reminds me of being outdoors and close to nature. I’ll enjoy my drink with some light hearted reading like a horror novel (!), chick lit or maybe the seerah or books about the sahaba (ra). An hour goes way too fast with a good book!
4. Ice cream and a documentary
By now you can probably tell a lot of my relaxation revolves around eating! with the right diet- a little treat each night is fine. Instead of wasting my time watching mind numbing dramas that you gain nothing from, why not switch over to an interesting documentary? I love ancient history – anything to do with the Egyptians, Mayans, architecture and Islam gets me all fired up. Space is also awe inspiring; I find it thought provoking and for me it just hits home how small we are and how vast the universe is and with it how amazing Allah swt is. It helps boost my eeman as I look at the beauty of the world around us. Best served with Haagen-Dazs strawberry cheesecake ice cream.
5. Short Islamic lectures and a cuppa
A good brew in the evening can be so delightful! Tea and coffee never keep me awake so I’m fortunate to be able to drink it at night if I so choose. I like to think and reflect on things before bed so an Islamic lecture is just the way to go for me! I don’t want anything heavy, so I normally opt for a short Nouman Ali Khan video where he talks about the tafsir of a surah with animation. The duration of the video doesn’t exceed 10 minutes normally and that gives me plenty of time to make notes and reflect on what I have just learned. I can then share what I have learned with others.
6. Journal writing with cookies and milk
For me, writing in my journal is a way to process the day’s events. I find it therapeutic and a lot of self analysis has come by way of journal writing. I love a beautiful book; it entices me to fill it’s pages with my best cursive rather than illegible scrawl. Actually, I guess I kind of see it as an art form. It provides me with clarity and I know my thoughts have been stored safely away; a bit like the pensieve in Harry Potter where memories were stored. I used to wish I had one because my head gets all clouded with stress – looks like I had one all along! Warm milk before bed is meant to relax you, so it makes the perfect accompaniment with writing!
When you feel your brain is bombarded with thoughts going round and around with no outlet you feel stressed and your head feels heavy and it hurts. Many people try not to think about their problems or stress in the vain hope that it will disperse but sadly this isn’t the case. What I do is try to tackle a couple of problems every few days. I create a mental flow diagram (you can even draw one up if this helps) where I start at the problem and see if it’s something I can control and if not I leave it in Allah’s hands and make dua. If it is I go through different scenarios and see which is most pleasing and acceptable to me and what I need to do to achieve this. For bad memories or the heavy stuff I compartmentalise until I feel strong enough to face it at a time when I am free to give it my full attention and feel safe. I also use this time to make dua and try to get closer to Allah swt by counting my blessings and looking at all the good I have in my life.
8. Renewing positivity with a bar of chocolate/cup of coffee
To do this, I make a list of everything I have accomplished and my good points and every time I work on the list I try to add more and more. It can be anything like skills you have learned; talent you have; a good deed you did or hopes you have for yourself and things you want to change. You can incorporate anything into it. I also like to send special messages to my loved ones with positive things about them and tell them how proud of them I am and how they are loved by me. Giving makes your soul happy; try to give often – it’s an act of charity! Chocolate always helps me feel better and gets my creative juices flowing!
9. Mini Spa Session with Shloer Celebrations drink
Well you knew it had to be in here somewhere! Because I have a young baby I don’t feel comfortable going off for long soaks in the tub even if she is asleep and I have the monitor on. For those of you out there with older children you can probably take this option and add some bath salts or bubbles to make it a gorgeous experience! For me myself, I quickly wash my hair and wrap it up in a hot towel (about as close as I’m getting to a hot oil treatment!); stick on my comfy robe and soak my feet in warm water with some hypoallergenic oils in it. I’ll use a face mask – you can make your own but I love the Body shop tea tree mask and place cucumbers on my eyes ( I don’t always do this because they slip off and I end up getting really really mad!) I’ll also light candles – either scented or if not, pour a few drops of essential oils into water and heat it up in an oil fragrance burner. I tried bakhoor (Arabic name for scented woodchips) but it was too close next to me and I sat choking and coughing instead for my hour! A quick way to feel relaxed is by massaging your temples and completing neck rolls slowly – it never fails to work. You can also give yourself a head massage. I do this, whilst sipping on some non-alcoholic fizz. It’s not meant to be a replacement, I honestly do love the taste!
10. Tilawaat with guided breathing
Everyone has a favourite reciter of the Qur’an and for me it’s a young man I heard as a little boy and vowed to make my son-in-law so he could recite to me all day long in a gilded; beautifully ornate; golden little parrot cage. I played it all throughout my pregnancy and as a result my baby wont fall asleep without the Qur’an recitation being on. On these days I go to bed early and listen to the soothing melodious voice of little Hassan and partake in some guided breathing known as 4-7-8. The idea is it helps you fall asleep very quickly (so does a 7 month old who has woken you up at 4am wanting to play) by slowing down your breathing and with it your heart rate. You inhale through your nose for 4 seconds; hold the breath for 7 seconds; then exhale slowly through your mouth for 8 seconds. The only slight downside is until you get into a pattern your attention is a little diverted from the tilawaat when really it should be on the recitation. Perhaps you could set the tilawaat to play on a delay until you are in the zone?
I hoped you enjoyed reading this; why not let me know your list of ways to relax before bed by dropping me a comment below? 🙂