As parents it's difficult to find ways to switch off and get some of that illusive 'me time'. Going out involves military-style planning and baby-sitting organising, but taking half an hour to have the perfect bath is something we can all do at home (unless you're one of those people who ripped out their tub in favour of a fancy wet room, in which case, too bad!) A relaxing warm bath is the perfect antidote to today's hectic lifestyles and research shows it can radically improve your psychological wellbeing.
Here's my top tips, but I'd love to hear yours.
1. Get scrubbing
You've finally snatched some time to relax, the last thing you want is to be surrounded by mess and reminded of boring domestic responsibilities. So, before you take your dip, make sure the bathroom is clean and tidy. No stray socks hanging out of the laundry bin, no kid's bath toys ready to poke you up the bum, the splodges of toothpaste scraped off the sink and the toilet seat is down.
2. Do not disturb
Make sure your 20 minutes/half and hour or however long you've allowed yourself really is going to be that. Pick a time when the kids are in bed, out with friends or generally occupied and there's no chance they'll come barging in to use the loo or ask where their shoes are/can they have a snack etc etc. Lock that door! Oh, and don't be tempted to take your phone in. The lure of uninterrupted time to scan social media might be attractive, but will it be relaxing?
3. Be prepared
Have anything you need on hand and within easy reach. A cup of tea? Maybe a cheeky glass of wine and some snacks? Make sure you don't have to haul yourself out of the tub and go dripping across the room to get them. Lay out fresh and deliciously soft towels. Your BEST towels, not the ones you reserve for rubbing down the dog or taking to the gym. Only the finest will do. My towels of choice are Christy towels. Also have a bathrobe or PJs ready to snuggle into once you're done.
Nothing says relaxing like candlelight. Choose a fragranced candle and not only will the aroma work subconsciously on your mood, but the soft subtle lighting will relax you too. Of course, subdued lighting also means you won't be laying in the bath examining your wobbly bits too closely and mourning the body you had ten years ago.
Similarly with foaming bath products, a few bubbles will hide a multitude of sins, allowing you to sink back and relax rather than wondering whether you should drag a razor over your legs. Choose your favourite bath foam and soak up the fragrance.
6. Let the music play
Try and leave the Abba Greatest Hits or your favourite Kings of Leon CD for blasting out in the car. Here you want ambient background music, not something you'll be singing along too or busting out your air guitar. Classical music is perfect, or one of those relaxation CDs that are all whales and prancing unicorns. If you don't have any there's plenty free online. Try it, you might surprise yourself.
Not only should you make sure your bathroom is at a comfortable temperature, but you should keep your bath water at the right heat too. Too cold and you'll not want to hang about long, too warm and it can put pressure on your circulation. Try leaving the shower hose gently running in the tub to keep the temperature comfortably warm.
Lie back and put your head back into the water so your ears are submerged. Go back to the womb baby! Is there anything more comforting than that muffled, underwater sound where time seems to stop?
I'm not one for meditation. Try as I might I can't seem to stem the chatter in my head. But being in the bath is about as close as I ever get. Breathe deeply and slowly, paying attention to the rise and fall of your chest as it floats up to the surface, and back down again. Shopping lists and meal planning can wait, it's all about the inhale and the exhale.
10. Slowly does it
When you're ready to get out, remember to do so slowly. No sudden shocks to the system. It's not terribly relaxing to get up too fast, go light-headed and pass out now is it? And nothing breaks a trance like bashing your head. So raise yourself slowly and take your time.
How about you promise yourself 20 minutes sometime this week? Would you do that?
I was sent a bathrobe and scented candle from Christie to enjoy my own relaxing bath.