It’s Okay to Relax

It's okay to relax_International Student Blogger, Salome Mamasakhlisi_title image_Salome with a relaxed smile on her balcony

Following the government’s guidelines and staying at home is a critical part of our fight against COVID-19. The lockdown measures pose a real challenge for our mental health. My initial coping strategy for this sudden change was always keeping myself busy throughout the day. I tried to plan my days in a way that did not allow a single moment of inactivity or boredom. This approach indeed works for so many people and definitely helps pass the time. But I am here to tell you that it is also okay to take some time for yourself and relax during the day.

To help your wellbeing during Lockdown, here are my three therapeutic activities that I’ve found most useful:

1. Colouring

It's okay to relax_International Student Blogger, Salome Mamasakhlisi_Colouring books

I used to love colouring as a kid because it was fun. I enjoyed the way my crayons, pencils or markers had the power to bring a lifeless picture to life. It allowed me to play around with my childish imagination and sometimes even break the rules – if I wanted to make a purple bunny or a green bear, I sure would!

When I discovered colouring as an adult, it appeared to work quite differently. You have no idea how relaxing it is to follow a guide when colouring something in, rather than using your own judgement. I feel like guided colouring eliminates the mild anxiety at the back of my head regarding how the end-product will look. Instead, I am calmly following the instructions while being 100% confident in the foreseen, beautiful result.

If you don’t own a colouring book, not to worry! You can find them on Amazon for under £10. The one I use is called Magical Jungle, which is a part of a series of wonderful colouring books by Johanna Basford. There is also Enchanted Forest, Secret Garden and Lost Ocean, all filled with stunning illustrations. I actually google some examples of how other people have coloured the pages in and find inspiration from them. Trust me, you will be surprised at how relaxing this activity is!

2. Sunbathing

It's okay to relax_International Student Blogger, Salome Mamasakhlisi_Salome sunbathing on her balcony

I think one of the worst things about being stuck at home is the amazing weather that I have to look at from my window. Being out in the sun on summer days have always brought me so much joy. But with the current quarantine rules, I can’t really lay down on the park grass for hours and enjoy the feel of warm sun rays against my skin.

I spent a good couple of weeks whimpering until I finally decided to take matters into my own hands. I realised I could maybe make use of my tiny balcony and create my own personal sunny side hang-out to relax. Who said we should stare at four walls all day? Grab a chair (or two if you want to lie down), a pillow or a blanket for comfort, and chill under the sun. You can wear shorts and a tank top if you want to get a little tan!

The best time to safely sunbath and avoid sunburn would be before 11am and after 3pm. If you tend to burn easily, make sure to wear sunscreen as well. You can listen to music, FaceTime loved ones or just close your eyes and relax. Even if you don’t have a balcony, just sit by the window, observe and take in the outside world, feel the breeze of fresh air. Just taking those few minutes a day to relax and empty your mind can feel very therapeutic.

3. Stretching or Meditating

It's okay to relax_International Student Blogger, Salome Mamasakhlisi_Salome stretching and doing yoga

I have never really been “good” at meditating. I can never keep myself in a mentally clear and stable state for too long; my mind just tends to wander all over the place. Also, when I think of meditation, I just picture someone sitting with their legs crossed, palms on their knees and endlessly making the “Aummm” sound. I just can’t get myself to take it seriously – my Psychology lecturers must be very disappointed while reading this! – maybe because I lack proper training.

Regardless of my cynical attitude towards meditation, I have heard great things about the wonders it can do. I realised the best way to get myself to meditate properly was to incorporate it into my home workout routine. I looked up some YouTube videos demonstrating basic yoga and palates and included them in my cool-down stretch following an intense cardio or strength workout. If you don’t necessarily have a workout routine, that’s okay too! I can go a whole week while barely leaving my bed. But even then, doing a couple of stretches every couple of hours can make such a huge difference in the way your body (and mind) feels.

As a starter, just try sitting up on the bed with your legs together, knees and toes straightened. As you reach forward to touch your toes, keep your chin down and your eyes fixated on your chest. Slowly breathe in and out, emptying your mind and focusing on any tension you may be feeling in your body. You will feel a sensation on your spine as you slowly start to move closer to your knees (without even trying!). Before you know it, your stomach is lying flat against your knees.

Final thoughts

Of course, these are only my personal suggestions and techniques to help me relax. Feel free to share your own in the comments!

For many of us, home may no longer seem like a place of peace and rest. We may be feeling uneasy if we are not productive or actively “doing” something all the time. Well, let’s try to change that mindset. For just a couple of minutes a day, try out some therapeutic techniques, do activities that make you feel relaxed and let your mind wonder. You will see how much difference it makes and thank me! 

Remember, you are not in this alone.

It's okay to relax_International Student Blogger, Salome Mamasakhlisi_Salome with a big smile on her balcony


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