Last week, I spent the first evening of the year sitting in my garden, having a drink with my housemates. It was spontaneous (we’re rarely all home at the same time), simple (it involved taking our glasses outside and plonking ourselves down in a deckchair) and complete bliss. In fact, we decided we should do it more often. Not just drinks in the garden – anything easy and restorative to help us enjoy our evenings. Statistically speaking, Brits are working longer than ever (last year alone, we devoted an extra 33.6 billion hours to our jobs in overtime). It makes sense, then, that when we leave the office, we take advantage of that scant time to do things that help us relax and recoup. Here are just a few ways in which The Pool unwinds at the end of the day.
I like to walk home as much as I can – it takes about an hour but, after spending the day sitting at my desk, I love using my legs. If it's been a really long day, I just listen to music, but if I have the mental energy left, I'll listen to a podcast. I also find that cooking helps me relax, but supermarkets absolutely don't, so I try to do a big shop on a Sunday, so we have loads of food in the house and I can get home feeling refreshed from my walk and start cooking.
If I haven't put my tracksuit bottoms and flip-flops on within five minutes of getting home, I simply haven't "arrived". I just can't make dinner or watch telly in my jeans or work clothes – it doesn't feel right. Plus, my tracksuit bottoms are scraggy and old and fading – and desperately need replacing – but because they're so tatty and I wouldn't dream of letting the outside world see them, there's something about putting them on that signals I've come home and said goodbye to the rest of the world.
Statistically speaking, Brits are working longer than ever (last year alone, we devoted an extra 33.6 billion hours to our jobs in overtime)
My husband and I go to bed 30 minutes before we want to go to sleep, and lie there with our phones off and in the dark, talking to each other. We talk about what we've done that day, what we're doing tomorrow, we make plans for dinner, joke – anything. It's a really nice way of getting everything out of our heads before we go to sleep.
I do colouring in. There – I've said it. I find it really relaxing and a great way to forget about the stresses of the day – all you have to focus on is the colours. It's satisfying when you finish a section and then, when the whole picture is complete, it looks ace.
I know it sounds a bit Nana, but I love my slippers. I have lots of different pairs and, as soon as I get home, putting my slippers on is my easy way to take the day off. Love a blanket, too.
I find scribbling in a journal on trains after work, in bed or for half an hour on a weekend can feel like someone turning off the pressure tap. I don't always write – my journals aren't governed by time and dates, but mood. There are gaps of months and years that remain undocumented, interspersed with months in which I've written every day. Perhaps because, and not in spite of, the fact that I'm a writer by profession, I don't try to write well. Instead, my journal is a red, leather-bound nest of thoughts and absolute thoughtlessness. I write half-formed sentences, inane worries and vacuous ones. I don't scrutinise the flow of what I write, or long for the prose to be more poetic. Sometimes, I just write things I don't feel comfortable saying out loud, for fear of embarrassment – I write down my innermost neuroses about relationships, friendships, insecurities and work. And then I shut them away.
I find the best way to unwind after work is to do some exercise – I don't know if it's because of the physical change in location, activity and outfit, or the actual de-stressing quality of expending some energy by pounding the pavement or some punching pads, but I always feel like I've shaken off the day's work afterwards.
I love to go straight home, have a quick shower and get into nice, clean pyjamas. I put my phone in my bedroom, so I’m not distracted, and settle down in front of a film, which gives me time to switch off my brain from all the events of the day.
Candles! I have suddenly become obsessed – I literally carry them around my flat. It's so relaxing to sit in a room lit by candlelight, with a good dinner and an equally good book. They're instantly calming.
I always have a proper, leisurely, old-fashioned session in the bathroom "doing my ablutions" every night – I double-cleanse with a hot cloth, often do acid toning or a sheet mask, serum, night cream, eye cream and so on. It takes a while, but I somehow always do it, even if it's really late or I've had a few drinks. I think the ritual helps me relax and get ready for sleep.
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