Hello, readers! Did you know that August 15th is National Relaxation Day? Of course, we should make time each day to relax, given our busy schedules, but it isn’t always easy. During last year’s lockdown, most of us had no choice but to be home; we were forced to take life at a slower pace, and hopefully some of that downtime was relaxing for you! But now that things are returning to “normal”, I see people getting back to that lifestyle of being busy and on the go more often. That’s why National Relaxation Day is a great reminder for all of us!
Do you have trouble relaxing, feeling as though you should be doing something productive? Relaxation actually makes you more productive! Even a 5-minute break can give you more energy, allowing you to carry on with what you were doing. It can also reduce stress levels in your body, not only helping your productivity, but benefiting your health as well. Too much stress can take a toll on your body, both mentally and physically, so relaxing is one way to combat those effects. Our libraries can help you get started! Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity and Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers are two books with more information on the aforementioned.
While books such as The Big Book of Relaxation cover a combination of relaxation techniques, I want to focus on a few basic things that can become part of your day to day life. During lockdown, many people rediscovered the simple pleasures in making and doing around the house, and perhaps even learned some new skills. If the grocery stores were any indication, baking was at an all time high; flour and yeast were hard to come by! Craft supplies were also in demand; crafting can be both entertaining and relaxing. Getting outdoors became a vital part of lockdown, both to enjoy nature and get some exercise. Even though we are no longer under the same restrictions, we can still embrace the satisfaction of creating and enjoying simpler times, and make relaxation a priority.
Perhaps you are someone who is relaxed in the kitchen, trying new recipes and experimenting with culinary creations. But for some of us, that means moving into uncharted territory, away from those tried-and-true recipes that we are comfortable making. This can be a bit stressful, but Relaxed Cooking With Curtis Stone is one book that says we don’t have to be intimidated by trying new recipes or cooking for others. The recipes in this book use simple, seasonal ingredients, and there is even a chapter titled “something to eat on the sofa.” That is definitely a recipe for relaxation! Another way I find new recipes that aren’t daunting to me is by looking in cookbooks for children. I prefer recipes that don’t have a long, expensive list of ingredients, and cookbooks for kids fit that bill. I especially like the No-Cook Cookbook; it has recipes for smoothies, salads, soups, and so much more – and you don’t have to heat your oven! While a children’s cookbook may not help you prepare a full course meal, remember we are talking about relaxation, so why not make it fun? We have cookbooks with recipes from beloved children’s books, like The Secret Garden (my favorite children’s book), the Little House books, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, or The Chronicles of Narnia. Another wonderful read is The Little Library Cookbook, with tantalizing snippets from 100 classic and modern books for both children and adults, and recipes for the food or drink mentioned in the passage. This book is very entertaining to look through, and even if you don’t make the recipes, you may find books to add to your “want to read” list!
Maybe some type of crafting is what relaxes you. I enjoy crocheting and knitting, especially with a project that is not overly complicated (which pretty much describes most things I make). If you already crochet or knit, you know that projects such as scarves or baby blankets can be relaxing to make; the repetitiveness of their stitches can be very soothing. If you like quick, simple patterns, try the One-Skein Wonders books, available for both knitting and crocheting. Like the title says, each project only uses one skein of yarn, so they aren’t too big or time consuming. There are projects for babies, such as clothing, toys, and blankets, as well as ones using luxury yarn (cashmere scarf, anyone?) or even sock yarn – and those projects aren’t all socks! But what if you don’t know how to knit or crochet? Again, I recommend looking in the juvenile section! While we have many great resources for learning how to knit or crochet, the books for children have clear directions, simple projects that build on each stitch or skill level taught, and hopefully will be more relaxing than overwhelming. I highly recommend the book Knitting: Learn to Knit Six Great Projects, with its detailed drawings and step by step instructions. Other good choices are Kids Knitting!, Kids Crochet, Cool Crocheting for Kids, and Kid’s Knit: Simple Steps to Nifty Projects. We even have maker kits available for checkout; all you have to provide is the yarn!
Whether you are cooking, crafting, or doing something else entirely, another key to relaxation is your environment. Listening to music is one way to set a mood of relaxation; I’m sure we all have experienced hearing a song that immediately evoked a memory or feeling. While we live in this digital age of being able to get instant music online, some of us still enjoy “old-school” sounds, and yes, I still have all my vinyl. Our system has lots of CDs available for checkout; you might choose some ambient music, such as Brian Eno or Philip Glass for background, or something more classical, like Romanza: Classical Favourites for Relaxing and Dreaming. You may prefer something with more of a beat, or something you can sing (or dance) along with; if it makes you happy while you’re listening, that in itself can help you feel more relaxed. Search for your favorite artists in our catalog, and you might be surprised at what turns up!
Scents are another way to help your environment be more relaxing; like music, a certain smell can also evoke a memory or feeling. Studies have shown that the scent of lavender is calming, and can even help you fall asleep, while rosemary is also soothing, and peppermint can increase memory and alertness. Using essential oils is one of the most popular ways to introduce aromatherapy into your home or workplace. Books such as The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils and The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy can help you get started with information on these scents and more, as well as the best ways to use them. Another great resource is The Aromatherapy Garden; just looking at the beautiful photographs in this book relaxed me, even without the smell!
That brings me to my last relaxation suggestion: being outside. Like The Aromatherapy Garden suggests, being surrounded by the sights and smells of flowers is a very pleasant way to relax. Maybe you have a beautiful flower bed, or just a pot or two of pretty plants, but if you have a chair nearby, you can sit and enjoy your surroundings. Going for a walk is also a great way to get some exercise and appreciate the beauty of nature around you. It doesn’t have to be a strenuous hike, just a leisurely stroll will do. You could walk around your neighborhood or in nearby woods, taking in the sights and sounds, or even just walk your dog! Finding wildflowers or hearing birds singing are just added treats! Books such as Walks in the Great Smokies and Best Easy Day Hikes can give you other ideas on where you might walk, or you can stick closer to home with A Tree Walk in Sylva!
I encourage you to make August 15th a relaxing day! I hope these suggestions have at least inspired you to think of what would be most relaxing to you, which might be something else altogether, such as spending time with family, taking a nap, or having a cup of tea while escaping into a good book. Whatever it is, enjoy! I also hope that you will make a point each day to find time to incorporate relaxation into your schedule, for your own health and well-being.