5 things I find most relaxing

The last couple of weeks have been a blend of work and relaxation time. After finishing defending my thesis, I took a short break from disaster literature and writing. My life isn’t really much different than it was before actually, although I do feel less stressed. But to feel this way, I needed to be more mindful regarding my self-care practices.

In the few days following the thesis defend, I still felt stressed and pressured and overwhelmed about the things which were still on my to do list. So I’ve decided to do something about it and retrieve time for myself, with no guilt. Self-care, baby! This is what I decided to do with it.

  • Read fiction books I enjoy.

This will sound a bit weird, but I’ve recently realized I have no idea which type of books I like.

I usually read books I needed to read or literature I was “in the mood” for (usually I am in the mood to watch Gilmore Girls so reading was more difficult to arrange). Until I’ve read Gretchen Rubin’s list of activities to do to have more reading time. And there it is the proposal to stop reading books one doesn’t enjoy.

When one likes the book, the book is read more quickly (side note: I do think this only applies to fiction, but as I am reading more non-fiction, I believe there are books you need to go through to get the value you need, despite you take on the author’s style. Even Gretchen Rubin has a study time blocked on her calendar to read books one needs to read, see tip no. 10).

So I am now reading Catherine Cusset and Isabel Allende and Rose Tremain just for fun. Enjoying it all. Basically I read one book from each author I felt attracted to at first and than kept going with reading other books by the same authors, because I like their style. And I get to read one book in 2-4 days, while also working and respecting my commitments, for the most part.

  • Spend time in the park.

Now, this is something I missed and I still miss because the weather in Bucharest is not the nicest (at the time of writing this it keeps raining). I would spend way more time outside than I do now. I do miss hanging out in parks. To take a book or something to write and just go outside, to sit on a bench in nature and read, write, watch the people, hang out doing noting much, call a friend, listen to a podcast, whatever I feel like doing in the moment. I had two Sundays when I enjoyed this for a couple of hours and it was the best. Came back home because of previous commitments, but to be honest, I could have spent much more time outside. This retrieving only works when limited ;).

  • Go to the gym and move the body.

Well, this is one thing I am most preoccupied with this year. I have written about it in the past and I will not insist on it, but I need to mention there is nothing to make me feel more centered and more in peace with myself than working out.

  • Hang out with my boyfriend and friends.

To be completely honest, this is more a wish than a fact, as I barely get to see my friends. I met one dear friend on a Thursday afternoon for some coffee and girl talk. I had a lovely afternoon last week, when I went to see a movie and ate out with my friend Radu. We talked and walked and criticized a little, all of which we both enjoy, so it was a great day. I met for lunch with a professor and a colleague I both admired and haven’t seen in more than 12 months.

Because we’re both busy, my boyfriend and I must make concrete plans for hanging out, otherwise, we’re all for working or separate commitments. We’ve recently had a reading date: went to a coffee place I recently found and already adore and we sat outside (with the jackets and blankets on) and read, drank coffee and shared snippets of interesting paragraphs from the books we were reading. Most refreshing.

As I said, there is space to improve this and spend more time with my friends, especially those I miss so much.

  • Make schedules and stick to them.

I imagine this may seem a bit out of place in this list, but I realized there is true power in organizing one’s time, leading to getting more time for oneself.

I am sure other people procrastinate much more than I do, but I do procrastinate quite a bit. Well, depending on the task, quite a lot. I’ve recently read this article from New York Times, by Charlotte Lieberman, which touch on how one feels when deciding to postpone what should in fact be doing. So I am working on this, as I do understand the value of doing the things that matter, for living well.

There is a lot to be said about this, but I will stop here. I want to point out that I make a schedule in google calendar each evening for the next day and then I try to stick to it as much as I can. I leave time for relaxation, for breaks, for emergencies, but I try to actually stick to my plan.

For instance, on Tuesday, there was a cloudy/rainy day and my cycling class was held by another trainer (I mostly like one trainer and I usually only go to his classes). Moreover, I was on the waiting list for that class anyway. Between work and cycling I planned to go to the library for about 2.5 hours. Normally, I would have decided to go home, do some exercises and sleep and start over on Wednesday. Bad weather, no space in cycling, why holding on to staying in the city by 22:00? But no, it was on my list, so I went to the library and, as a treat, I could read what I wanted for one hour. When I got to the gym I saw I was no longer on the waiting list. The (new) teacher spent time to correct my posture. All and all, I was very glad I didn’t go home.

At times, life feels less spontaneous, but it brings tons of satisfaction to move things one cares about one step forward. And there is always something to learn and be grateful for.

What do you do for self-care?

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