In the hustle and bustle of daily life, it can be difficult to take a step back and focus on ourselves—but scheduling a little me time is essential for our mental health.
So much to do, so little time. There’s always a good reason not to take time to recharge your batteries. But it isn’t a luxury: It’s a necessity. "Relaxation is not a frivolous pleasure," says Louise Handfield-Champagne, a Montreal-based psychologist. "It’s vital to our health." Among other things, it reduces blood pressure and decreases muscle tension. Here’s how to overcome six common justifications we give for not relaxing. Now’s the time to stop making excuses!
1. "I’d love to recharge, but I don’t know how."
You have good intentions. You try to take time out for yourself, but nothing seems to work. You just can’t find the right formula. Why is it so hard? Maybe it’s because we get caught up in our obligations and become disconnected from what we find pleasurable. Or perhaps we’re so busy ensuring other people’s happiness that we forget what we need ourselves.
Try this: Figure out what works for you. How? Whenever you feel good, take a mental snapshot of that moment. "Also think about what you used to do when you were young, when you had more free time, or about what you like to do when you’re on vacation," suggests Marie-Claude Lamarche, a psychologist in Montreal.
2. "Recharging is good for other people. I don’t have to do it."
Whether it’s because you’re passionate about your work or because you measure your self-worth by how much you accomplish in a day, you may feel that taking time out just for you is a waste of time. However, if you love your work and hope to continue doing it for a long time, it’s important to regularly take breaks. "It is unrealistic to believe that you don’t need to relax. That’s like saying that you don’t need to eat or sleep," says Lamarche.
Try this: Seek out interests outside of work. If you’re the competitive type, think about a team sport. Do you eat lunch at your desk? Big mistake! Your lunch hour is the perfect time to unplug. Taking a midday break will make you more productive for the rest of the afternoon.
Still need convincing you should take a breather? "Try a few different forms of relaxation," suggests Marie-Claude Pélissier, a Montreal-based psychologist. "It’s a good way to test your theory." You might be surprised at how refreshed and revived you feel after meditating for just a few minutes or striking a yoga pose or two at your desk.
3. "To unwind, I can just turn on the TV or the computer."
After a busy day, you like to simply zone out. But when you get off the couch four hours later, worries resurface, tensions return and you feel just as stressed as you did before.
"Channel surfing is far from relaxing: We’re bombarded with information and images," says Pélissier. Sometimes we watch TV because we don’t know what else to do with ourselves or we lack the motivation to do something more constructive. It takes a lot more effort to go for a walk than to reach for the remote.
Try this: Assess how you feel after turning off the TV. Are you energized and less stressed, or do you simply feel lethargic? If watching your favourite show has a positive effect on your mood, this form of relaxation may be effective for you. If it doesn’t, keep trying different activities until you find something that leaves you in a happy frame of mind. Or use a timer to remind yourself to get off the couch as soon as your favourite show is over.
4. "I’m not into taking yoga classes."
These days relaxation classes are all the rage. One of your neighbours might swear by yoga, while another might find peace in meditation. The key is to discover an activity that suits you; if it doesn’t, doing it may feel more like a burden than a pleasure. Taking time out for yourself should not be a chore.
Try this: Before you run out to sign up for the latest class, figure out what truly interests you. "To unwind, you don’t have to take a structured class or take off a full hour," notes Lamarche. "You have to find something that is easy and enjoyable for you." If you fancy yourself an amateur chef, try out a new recipe for your unsuspecting family. Or crank up the Michael Bublé and dance around the living room for 15 minutes - no lessons required.
5. "My mind never stops."
You know which activities are conducive to relaxation, but your mind won’t quit racing, leaving you thinking about the next item on your to-do list. Whether you’re taking a hot bath, seeing a movie or working out, in your head you’re still figuring out what to make for dinner, when to hem your son’s new pants or what to clean out of the front closet.
Some people live in a constant state of anxiety, imagining countless scenarios, obsessing over every possibility and being afraid to overlook something. But our brains need rest, too. "If your mind never stops racing, that’s a red flag," says Handfield-Champagne. "You need to put on the brakes." An athlete who never takes a break from training risks serious injury. The same holds true for "mental athletes," whose wheels never stop turning.
Try this: "Repetitive activities that don’t require much thought are beneficial because they’re almost hypnotic," says Lamarche. "We do them automatically, while continuing to think, but at some point we finally disengage." Such activities include knitting, walking, painting and kneading bread. "Weeding the garden can be very therapeutic. You don’t have to think or problem-solve, yet you’re accomplishing a concrete task," says Lamarche.
6. "I’ll rest when the cleaning is done, when I finish this important file, when the children are grown…."
Do you view time out for yourself as a reward? It isn’t necessarily so. If you believe that you have to earn the right to relax, you might have trouble unwinding when you really need to. You’ll find it hard to justify taking time out when two baskets of laundry are staring you in the face. If you wait for the ideal time to relax, it might never happen.
Try this: Tell yourself that it’s better to take a short break than to wait for the right time to take a long one. Start by scheduling a short pause in your day - and always keeping the appointment. "Simply taking three long, deep breaths is sometimes enough," says Handfield-Champagne.
You can also use transitions between daily activities as opportunities to take a few minutes for yourself. Getting into relaxation mode may simply mean spending 10 minutes writing in a journal before preparing dinner.
We all have that one friend who would prefer to hang out at home with her feline friends than go out. Delight your cat minded girlfriend, sister of mother her with one of these cute kitty focused gifts.
Diamond cat earrings, $20.20.
Eugenia Kim wool cat ear beanie, $175.
Valley cruise press retro black cat pin, $15.
Hipster Cat Toss Pillow, $37.
Stay home club loose tee, $40.
Meow stemless wine glasses set of two, $16.
Indulge in a glass of pinot noir, while your kitty-cat will happily indulges in Pinot Meow made of organic catnip, water, sea salt, and organic beets.
Pinot meow cat wine, $13.50.
Black cat umbrella, $16.50.
People Tree organic cotton t-shirt, $60.
Choupette kitten ring, $30.
Wild cat bodysuit, $48.
Cute cat iPhone 4-7 case, $40.
Lulu guineas stripe kooky cat iPhone 6 case, $49.
Galaxy cat socks, $13.80.
PAUL & JOE Compact Case 09 Café Paris, $8.
Asos cat dial expander watch, $40.
Whether you're on the hunt for a thoughtful gift that's sure to impress or simply a gift that can be delivered, your answer is easy: Go for subscription boxes.
They're trending hard in the gift department. So, what are subscription boxes exactly? Basically, there's a company out there (yes—in Canada, too!) that will bundle up specific things you're interested in and deliver them in a package right to your door. No matter what your thing is—beauty, sweets, wine, more wine—there's a subscription box for you.
Think about the people on your list and narrow down what makes them tick. Beauty buff? Get her a subscription to Glossy Box. Goop-enthusiast? Mama Earth Organics. Coffee Lover? The Roasters Pack. Sweet tooth victim? Bakers Krate.
Treat your mom to Oh Mother's boxes, which will deliver pampering products to ensure she gets a little "me" time. For your daughter, Ellebox will help her get through that gloomy time of month, for the bookworm, Owl Box offers new young adult books and fun extras, and for the relative who's going through a difficult time, Caring Crate will help keep their spirit up.
And there's still plenty more subscription boxes to choose from.
Flip through the slideshow to find out some of the best boxes available to Canadians and learn about what each one has to offer.
WineCollective sources wine from around the world and delivers a selection of the best that's been curated just for the recipient.
Ellebox offers a monthly delivery of pads, tampons, self-care gifts, and treats to help the least-fun time of the month be a little bit easier.
Up to a dozen healthy items–including skincare, snacks, vitamins and lifestyle items—will be delivered to her door in this box by Little Life Box.
This quarterly subscription box by Oh Mother ensures your favourite lady gets some "me" time. The box consists of artisan products including teas, chocolates, bath salts, aromatherapy sprays, candles, and more.
Canada Craft Club has scoured the world to curate a collection of the best craft beers and will deliver top selects to the recipient's door every month.
Perfect for the Gwyneth-type—the one who juggles it all and is devoted to healthy, organic goods—will go crazy for this monthly subscription service. Mama Earth Organics offers healthy foods and fresh produce from local organic farms and will deliver right to her door.
Ensure your friend who's out-of-the-country doesn't get too homesick this holiday season with Expack's Canada box. It boasts classic Canadian treats—like ketchup chips, Coffee Crisps, and Flakies—that are beloved by everyone north of the border.
Keep your guy organized with Harry's subscription service for shaving products. It offers simple items—like razor blades, shave gel, and post-shave balm—in sleek designs and at fair prices.
This one's for the coffee
snob adorer. The Roasters Pack delivers three amazing coffee roasts from three artisan roasters to the recipient's door each month.
She'll probably be equally happy and mad at this gift: Bakers Krate delivers locally-sourced freshly baked goods (including cookies, brownies, and cupcakes), made by Canadian artisans, right to her front door.
Help your beauty-loving bestie stay in-the-know with the classic, latest and greatest beauty finds with Glossy Box. It brings makeup, hair, and skincare products to consumers’ doorsteps around the globe.
For the friend who's suffering—whether from a life event or a mental illness—Caring Crate delivers care packages that include mood-enhancing aromatherapy and tea, journals, and healthy snacks.
Full of cat treats and toys that have been selected for each individual feline, Meowbox's monthly boxes will be a fun gift for your cat-loving friend—and for her little cat too.
My Tea Box will deliver three new blends of loose leaf tea to the recipient's mailbox each month. Our favourite blend so far? Tiramisu rooibos tea.
Fuel your teen's love for reading with the Owl Crate—the company delivers a brand new young adult novel as well as some extra goodies to recipients each month.
Cold temperatures and harsh winds can take a toll on your lips—and there is nothing sexy about a chapped mouth. The good news? Our favourite lip balms can help eliminate dry, sore and chapped lips. These affordable picks range from $4 to $32.
Blistex helps to relieve sore lips & restore moisture balance.
Blistex Deep Moisture Renewal with SPF 15, $4, walmart.ca
A 100% organic and 95% natural lip balm that's packed with antioxidant-rich vitamin E, soothing shea butter and jojoba oil.
EOS Sweet Mint Lip Balm, $4.50, walmart.ca
Chapped lips are rescued instantly, thanks to a hint of eucalyptus—plus cooled by a touch of icy menthol.
Maybelline New York, Baby Lips Dr Rescue Medicated Lip Balm, $5, maybelline.ca
This natural lip balm is loaded with coconut- and sunflower oils and rich in vitamins.
Burt's Bees Beeswax Lip Balm Tube, $5, burtsbees.ca
This hydrating balm contains shea butter, beeswax, grapeseed oil, vitamin E and meadowfoam seed oil to keep your lips soft, comfortable and looking great.
Sephora Collection Super Nourishing Lip Balm, $8, sephora.ca
Formulated with soothing emollientsl ike Squalanea, Lanolin, Wheat Germ Oil and Vitamin E this pick helps to protect lips from the drying effects of cold weather.
Kiehl's Lip Balm #1, $12, kiehls.ca
This balm leaves lips soft, repaired, and protected through antioxidants like grape polyphenols and repairing apricot oil.
Caudalie Lip Conditioner, $14, sephora.ca
This 99% all natural lip balm helps to smooth dry and chapped lips.
Yes to Coconut Naturally Smooth Lip Balm, Coconut, $15.30, amazon.ca
A concentrated lip treatment that will keep dry lips smooth and soft. This formula includes honey, beeswax and propolis extract that helps to soothe skin and provides instant relief to dry lips.
First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Intensive Lip Balm, $25, sephora.ca
This product acts as an ultra-hydrating lip treatment that conditions lips. Plus it also enhances volume and improvies the overall definition of the lip area.
Fresh Sugar Advanced Therapy Lip Treatment, $32, sephora.ca