I am a big believer in the importance of relaxing and recharging in order to be at your best. Prioritising and making the most of my down time has become a real focus for me now that I work full time and then work on the side, either designing or working on this blog. I’m in a position, like many people, where I could very easily slip into working all of the hours in the day and then some. I’m also an introvert who works in an industry led by communicating and having a jazz hands personality, so when I get home I am socially exhausted. So, I thought I would share my recharging routine because I think I’ve just about nailed it to the extent that I can get most of the things I need to done and feel like I’m not starting to fizzle out.

I think that having a routine is essential in making sure you switch off at the end of the day. I promise I’m not just saying that because I’m a bit of a control freak who loves routines. Having a regular set of things you do to unwind at the end of every day, or when you really need to relax helps train your brain to chill out. A routine doesn’t have to be inflexible. If you’re someone who works odd hours and can’t commit to having a set wind down time, just try doing the same 2 or 3 things before you have your recharge. If you can’t commit a lot of time just try having 10 minutes without your phone or a screen every night, or using an app like headspace to meditate. If you think you’ll get bored by doing the same thing every night, try just setting aside a period of time every evening to do something relaxing like a craft or reading that you can change up as and when you get bored.

The nosey among you have probably skipped over that long intro in order to see what it is I actually do, well the wait, and the scrolling, is no more. This is the routine I normally follow on weeknights:

 

9PM

I try to start unwinding by about 9pm on most nights, but that can definitely fluctuate. I’ll normally start by tidying up my desk and anything I’ve just dumped when I came in after work. Then I put out my clothes for the next day if it’s a weeknight, and put anything that needs to be in my bag in my bag. Once I feel like I’m all settled and everything is in order, I’ll write my one good thing in my journal and do a little 2-minute painting in my painting every day book.

 

9:30PM

After I’ve done those bits I feel like I’m ready to actually start to unwind so I’ll light a candle, or put on my essential oil burner, and change up the lighting in my room by turning on my fairy light and turning off the big overhead lights I have. Then I get in the shower, which is 100% my favourite part of this. If it’s a special occasion or I’m not feeling great, I’ll put on some music while I’m being my best self under the hot water. Once I’m all clean, I get into my pjs, slip on my slippers, dry my hair, then wash my face.

 

10PM

If I’ve not spent waaaay too long in the shower by about 10PM I’m ready to make a mug of camomile tea, my favourite is Clipper’s ‘Snore and Peace’ blend. Tea in hand I get comfy and watch some rubbish TV, I’m talking superheroes or over worn detective shows that I don’t have to think about. If I haven’t done it already I’ll write my to do list for the next day.

 

11PM

Once I’m suitably zombified by a show governed by 8 second scene cuts I brush my teeth and sit down in my bed to do a quick meditation to sort out my thoughts. I then like to read my book until I feel my eyelids start to droop, marking that I am truly ready to go to sleep.

 

I realise that this is quite a long routine, that I’ve detailed quite extensively, but I thought it was best to be thorough here. I really enjoy the process of winding down and I’ve found that taking these 2 and a half hours out of my day has become essential to my being able to function at my best. That said, everyone needs to wind down in their own way, if you’re an extrovert you might want to do things with friends, if you hate TV you might not want to watch Arrow, if you’re a parent you might not have time to do half of this. But I hope you do have something that is your own that helps you destress and recharge. Whatever it is I’d love to read about it, I find these posts/videos weirdly calming in their own way – so please share them in the comments!

I think self-care is particularly important for people with creative jobs because so much of what we create has to come out of ourselves, and if you don’t look after yourself you won’t have anything else left to give. Plus, after my last post about some tough stuff I thought it was only right I shared some little things to make life better. Here are 48 little self-care activities (handily the number of weeks we have left this year) you can do to help you be your best self.

  1. Take 3 deep breaths – actively thinking about your breathing and slowing it down is a great way to destress and calm down.
  2. Have a shower – showers are just magic. They give you a moment to just stand and be quiet, plus when you slowly cool down after a shower your body relaxes.
  3. Make something with your hands – it doesn’t matter what, it could be a cake, a pot, a scarf, anything just make it with your mitts.
  4. Put some music on and have a dance – this never fails to make me feel better.
  5. Fix 1 thing that’s been irritating you – whether there’s a flickering lightbulb in your house or a loose button, fix one thing that bothers you. You’ll feel super productive and get rid of a pain point for future you.
  6. Meditate – meditation not only helps calm and centre you in the short term it can also help you get better at understanding yourself in the long term.
  7. Do a declutter – Marie Kondo has made a career out of how much decluttering can help you clear your mind. You don’t need to reorder your whole house, just tidy up a corner or a cupboard.
  8. Change your sheets – there’s nothing better than tucking yourself into clean sheets
  9. Unplug for an hour – we’re constantly online, checking our emails or our notifications. Try to set aside some time to go tech free, you won’t believe how liberating it is (after you get past the initial anxiety)
  10. Go for a walk – a little bit of light exercise will release endorphins and getting out in the fresh air can really help clear your mind.
  11. Call someone you love – sometimes it’s good just to have a chat about nothing, and I’m sure whoever you call will appreciate it.
  12. Treat yo’ self – buy a little gift for yourself because you can.
  13. Go out to the movies on your own – you can see whatever you want, sit wherever you want, eat whatever you want and completely escape into another world.
  14. Help someone else – this one’s just a double whammy of good, whether it’s big or small knowing you can help someone else will make you feel better about yourself and make someone else’s day.
  15. Stroke a pet – dogs go around hospitals for a reason, having a tickle of their fluffy little ears is guaranteed to make you feel better. If you don’t have your own volunteer at a shelter, borrow someone else’s, or make a friend at the park (but always make sure you ask permission first)
  16. Get dressed up – it’s easy to get into a funk of just wearing your pyjamas, but getting dressed up just for yourself can instantly perk you up.
  17. Write out your thoughts – this can help you clarify your thoughts and be really cathartic.
  18. Unsubscribe to all of those spam emails – search unsubscribe in your inbox and get rid of them all.
  19. Cuddle something/someone – it doesn’t matter if it’s a person, a pet or even a pillow, having a cuddle releases those feel good/cozy chemicals in your brain.
  20. Set up a compliments jar/folder – quite often we give more weight to the criticism we get rather than the compliments. Set up a compliments folder or jar so you remember the goof things people say about you.
  21. Moisturise – not only does this make your skin feel good, the process of rubbing a moisturiser into your body starts up your self-comfort systems.
  22. Have a mini-spa day – pamper yourself in any which way you choose.
  23. Unfollow everyone you don’t like on social media – you don’t need to follow someone who you don’t like.
  24. Write a list of your achievements – you’ve achieved a lot, don’t forget it.
  25. Make an album out of any loose photos – it’s always good to make something. Making photo albums is particularly fun though because it means you can go back through old memories and reminisce, plus you get to tick off the decluttering box as well.
  26. Do some colouring in – it’s fun and calming and taps into your inner child.
  27. Have a good cry – sometimes you need to just let it out, don’t feel bad about it.
  28. Change up your routine – go to work via a different route or change up your chore schedule. Changing your routine is a great way to change your thinking if you get stuck in a rut.
  29. Make plans – give yourself something to look forward to.
  30. Cancel plans – delete anything you don’t want to do from your diary.
  31. Try out aromatherapy – I was cynical about this before but it really does work!
  32. Stretch – a simple quick fix that can give you a 30 second refresh, and helps combat those desk based injuries.
  33. Write a thank you letter to someone you love – remind yourself of the people you’re grateful for and then make their day by telling them about it.
  34. Volunteer for a charity you believe in – do good, feel good. It’s that simple.
  35. Go to a coffee shop and order something delicious – take yourself out on a mini date. Eating something tasty always makes you feel good and it’s never a bad thing to get out and go somewhere new.
  36. Make a pillow fort – it’s fun and snuggly, like a less pretentious hygge.
  37. Have a nap – sometimes you just need a rest, and I have a strong belief that naps, like tea, solve everything.
  38. Sign up to a class – learn something new and meet some new people.
  39. Eat some fruit – eating something that’s good for your body will make you feel better not just physically but mentally.
  40. Travel somewhere new – travelling is good for the soul, and experiencing something new can give you a different perspective on your life.
  41. Take yourself outside – your mum was right you really do need some fresh air, and it’s best sampled amongst the trees or on the beach.
  42. Bring nature inside – there’s loads of science that says that houseplants are good for your mental and physical health, and who am I to disagree with science?
  43. Watch something guaranteed to make you laugh – sometimes you just need to laugh to remind yourself you can.
  44. Repeat an affirmation until you believe it – this one is quite old school but sometimes you need to give yourself a bit of a pep talk.
  45. Cook a whole meal and sit down and eat it at a table – you’ll feel accomplished and nourished, what could be better?
  46. Make sure you cook and freeze some leftovers too – this one is self-care for future you.
  47. Chat to a stranger – start up a conversation with someone in a shop rather than using the self-checkout
  48. Listen to an uplifting podcast – fill your ears with something that makes you feel better.

 

As everyone starts knuckling down to work in the new year I thought that it would be worthwhile sharing the places in London, outside of my room, where I feel most productive. Sometime having a change of environment is all you need to get you going or spark some inspiration. The more time you spend freelancing or working at home the more important it is to have an outside space you can work in to separate your home and work life and keep you feeling inspired.

I can personally guarantee each and everyone of these is 100% better than sitting in Starbucks.

ACE HOTEL 

100 Shoreditch High St, E1 6JQ

The Ace Hotel is where I go when I want to feel a bit, well a lot, cooler than I actually am. Working in a hotel lobby might sound a bit strange or uncomfortable, but it’s surprisingly relaxed and you’re guaranteed to be surrounded by some stylish people. They have one long desk, which is where I normally like to work, with power points and lights that feels studious. But they also have a range of sofas and comfy seating, and you can move into the restaurant if you’re feeling a bit peckish. I can highly recommend their chips, I know it’s not a January diet friendly suggestion, but they are gosh darn tasty and they got me through a particularly tough new year hangover a couple of years ago.

BRITISH LIBRARY 

96 Euston Rd, Kings Cross, NW1 2DB

The British Library is one of my favourite places to spend in London full stop. As someone who like quiet and calm… and books, it’s probably not that surprising. It’s also a space that’s built for working. Their café is perfect for casual working or for working in a group – sometimes I even see people doing one-on-one lessons in there. Plus their food is from Peyton and Byrne so it’s pretty tasty. The next level up is their what I call their foyer area, just up the stairs from the main entrance, which is has a series of desks with power points which are free to use. Then there are the reading rooms, which are for quiet focused work. The ultimate space to channel the student you wish you had been, plus they have so many resources you can use. It’s free to become a member but you need to be planning on using their catalogues. Word to the wise, if you want to get one of the desks in the main foyer you’ll need to be quick because they get snapped up by students fast.   

GOOGLE CAMPUS 

4-5 Bonhill St, Shoreditch, EC2A 4BX

Purpose designed as a work space the google campus has a lot going for it. If you’re serious about using the campus you can rent a desk in the coworking area or space in their labs. But if just want to drop in their café is really nice, it’s quite a buzzy atmosphere so best if you like to be in the thick of it when you’re working. The coffee’s pretty good and all you have to do is sign up as a member (feels kind of exclusive but it’s free and online).

V&A NATIONAL ART LIBRARY 

Cromwell Road, SW7 2RL

Probably the most beautiful place on this list, the V&A Art Library is the place if you want your work to have a little bit of grandeur about it. This one makes me feel like I’m back in Oxford which always makes me feel a bit more productive. It’s the perfect space to feel inspired whether you’re drawing from the environment or their ample supply of arts books. As it’s in the V&A if you get bored or need a break you’re never going to be at a loss as to what to do. Because it’s a national library, like the British Library, you have to sign up be a reader to use the reading room but it’s free and you can do it online before you go.

TIMBERYARD 

4 Noel Street, W1F 8GB

7 Upper St Martin’s Lane, WC2H 9DL

Unit 27, Boxpark Shoreditch, 2-10 Bethnal Green Rd, E1 6GY

The fact that “tea, coffee, work, and play” is Timberyard’s mantra should give you some kind of an idea about why it’s on this list. First off their menu is very good – the food selection is pretty important to me in a workspace – whether you want a full lunch or just a snack. Their coffee will keep you going. Being surrounded by other people working and collaborating always drives me to be more productive, and Timberyard has them in spades. Plus if you’re the kind of person who will need to you can rent event space with them. I’ve only been to one of their locations  but I’m planning on trying to visit the rest throughout the year.

I’ve not mentioned it as it’s a given for a workspace but all of these have free wifi and access to food not too far away.

Where do you like to work? Is there anywhere else in London I should try?

Inspired by a friend from uni (the inimitable Tucker Cholvin), this year I decided to put together a poster of my new year’s resolutions to hang above my desk to remind me to stay on track. I think the 5 aims I’ve picked for this year are doable, and things I actually enjoy, but are challenging, and if I get them done will leave me in a better position this time next year.

new year's resolutions poster 2017

This year…

I WILL run to Edinburgh

This might not seem like very far to a lot of people, but I’ve had a love hate relationship with running for a very long time – I love the idea of it but I hate doing it. But I’m giving it another go, I was pretty committed to the gym towards the end of 2015, but being in a sweaty box going nowhere has started to lose its appeal. So I’m starting from the bottom, using the NHS’s ‘Couch to 5K’ podcast and I’m hoping it will take me to being able to do 2 5k runs a week. Plus, I’m thinking if I complete the challenge I might treat myself to a weekend away in the glorious city that is Edinburgh as a little well done.

I WILL get up without hitting snooze

I’m always on a quest to be more of a morning person, but this year I’m going to keep it simple and just aim to make one (admittedly very difficult) change – not hitting snooze. I am terrible for turning off my alarm, even if I have to get out of bed to do it, and then getting back into bed. But this year that’s going to change.

I WILL read 20 novels for fun

I’ve really gotten back into reading recently, which I am so happy about. Oxford kind of dampened my drive for reading for pleasure, so I’m committing to reading 20 novels just because I can this year. At the minute The Girls by Emma Cline is on the top of my list.

I WILL take 1 picture a week

This was on my resolutions list last year and I’m really sad I didn’t do it, there are so many things that I wish I could look back on through pictures. I’m going to turn that disappointment into productivity this year. I even got some more polaroid film this year for Christmas so there are no excuses.

I WILL set up a weekly digest

A couple of years ago I sent one of my friends a picture of a dog every day for the year, and I loved doing it. I mean, I love dogs, but it also meant that I had a reason to get in touch with him every day. I kind of missed doing it this year, so I thought I would start up something similar, but a little different. I’m going to send out a weekly collection of fun things I’ve read/seen, and maybes a couple of dog pictures, to some of the people I love the most. I’m hoping it will be a mailing list they don’t want to unsubscribe from, and it doesn’t meant that I repeat myself too much in letters.

Those are my resolutions for the year, I do have some bigger more personal goals for the year, but these are the ones going up on my wall. How are your resolutions going? Do you have any tips for sticking to them?