Happy Friday readers! Welcome to the end of the week. Speaking of miscellaneous holidays, here in the U.S. tomorrow is National Relaxation Day. In honor of this much needed holiday for many of us, the Sword & Silk crew is tossing out some of their favorite relaxation reads as well as other relaxation activities we hope inspire you to take a few hours to unwind this weekend!
Sword & Silk Relaxes
My relaxation reads are Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue, Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, though I find it hard to read when I’m stressed or under a lot of pressure. I also really enjoy “clean” romances if I’m relaxing on vacation and am currently reading The Fiddler by Beverly Lewis.
I like familiar stories that won’t surprise me when I’m trying to just hang out and get my mind off things. When I’m trying to relax and not read or write, I ride horses, hang out in my garden, scroll aimlessly through the Internet, and take many naps.
I very rarely re-read but sometimes even the thought of visiting a well loved book is enough. During times of overwhelming stress, my reading list is filled with contemporary romance since they are the sort of easy to digest, no thinking involved, happily ever after I need in those moments. Apart from reading, I craft with my girls, binge watch the worst of reality TV, crochet, and dive into the home decor section of Pinterest.
Animal Crossing New Horizons released just as the chaos of the pandemic began and playing that a little bit each night when I get hike has become a part of my daily routine.
Relaxing reads for me are usually quick love stories that I can devour in one or two sittings. I love Karina Halle, Vi Keeland, and Penelope Ward for these kinds of reads.
As far as non-reading, I love to binge on Netflix cooking or baking shows. Or watch my repeat shows I’ve seen a million times so I don’t have to think or watch in order because i already know the story lines- friends, Grey's Anatomy, Charmed, Buffy, Gilmore Girls.
My favorite comfort reads are usually YA romances, especially ones with great, escapist worldbuilding and ESPECIALLY ones I've read multiple times. They've usually got strong POVs, great conflict that ends happily, and are low on some of the things that can really send me over the cliff when it comes to adult romances (alphaholes, too much emphasis on sex, too "realistic"). Starflight by Melissa Landers is my favorite for this kind of thing, but lately I've also been returning to Stephenie Meyer (Twilight and The Chemist) as well.
I'm still really learning how to do the "self-care" and relax thing. Usually, I turn to baking. It's accessible, engrossing, and in the end, I feel like I've really accomplished something!
Relaxing reads for me are things that are either familiar (because I've read them a million times before) or tropey, predictable and well-written enough to keep me feeling comfortable and immersed, like my favorite books from when I was a kid. Some of my faithful relaxation companions are The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, The Spindle Cove series by Tessa Dare, and the sister series of The Vawdrey Brothers and Brides of Karadok by Alice Coldbreath.
I have an entire arsenal of relaxation tools as part of my ongoing self-care. Becoming aware of how I'm holding tension in your person--physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually--has helped me a lot in terms of finding the right kind of activity to re-center myself. I often start my finding something to keep my hands occupied, so I'll tend to my smol courtyard garden, crochet, hand-sew, color-in, draw or paint, paint my nails, or give myself some 'spa' time by taking a long hot shower, doing a hair mask and face mask, etc., and making sure to massage my scalp and face and hands, and to stretch out my neck and shoulders.
In the past I've also explored bread-making; kneading, pounding and generally slapping around a chunk of dough is amazing therapy. While I'm doing one of those 'physical' tasks, I'll also try and focus on calming (or sometimes stimulating) other parts of myself. I'll play some super chill music; bake something that smells delicious, wear some perfume, light a candle or some incense or turn on our oil diffuser--something to stimulate the ole olfactories; listen to an audiobook or podcast; binge a TV shows (usually a murder mystery, Disney movie or costume drama); vent to a friend or meditate/pray; have some hot tea or a cold drink of water; or, if all else fails, take a long hard nap.
My favorite reads when I need to relax are reads I know well and love. I tend to reread my favorites from my favorite authors like Kelley Armstrong and Patrick Ness (two very different styles, but equally beloved). But I don't really read novels when I'm really stressed. I go to my old favorite and read some fanfics about worlds I love. I also love puzzle phone games, and I will play Numberzilla or MergePlus to zone out on something for awhile.
Oh, Armstrong's Darkest Powers series is one of my go to rainy day reads. I also dive back into Pratchett's Discworld a lot. There is this mix of absurdity coupled with the dark and light side of human nature that he brings to those books and they offer a much needed laugh in stressful times.
My relaxation arsenal consists of naps, hot showers, and video games, because honestly its the small things that matter and sometimes you just need to stand under hot water for a solid fifteen minutes to unclench your jaw or zonk out for an hour to reclaim some energy. As for video games I am absolute trash for the farm sim/ rpg/ hack em' slash em' type combos of late ala Stardew Valley, My Time at Portia, etc. Let me plant some potatoes and go off to smash baddies, and I am here for it.