With worries at a peak, winter to weather and any trace of novelty well and truly worn-out, our resilience reserves are running low. All the more reason to prioritise simple acts of self-care, says land&water founder Pix Ashworth. From inspiring reads to ambient sounds and evocative scents, she shares her favourite calming rituals to see you through darker days and hasten the coming spring.
“This lockdown has arrived at a difficult time of year,” says Pix. “Everyone has been through so much already. We’re not coming at it fresh, so there’s this foundation of concern and isolation.”
With the short days and low light levels, the natural flow between inside and outside seems disrupted, she argues. “Even if you have nature on your doorstep, it often feels less in reach, less enticing right now.”
And while it’s understandable that it takes more effort to get out there, when you do, the rewards are even greater: “Just a 15-minute walk in the winter air can really reinvigorate.”
Carving out moments in the day – whether that’s listening to music, doing exercise or having a hot bath with salts and a candle – shouldn’t be a guilty indulgence but a necessary breather, Pix reminds us. “It’s about taking care of yourself so that you can do everything else well. You can’t pour from an empty cup, after all.”
Dive into Pix’s self-care suggestions to lift your spirits, nourish your soul and soothe your body:
‘The Peace of Wild Things’ – Wendell Berry
“I reread this poem regularly. It brings a refreshing dose of realism, but it’s comforting at the same time. It teaches us to look at how wild things live. They don’t tax themselves with grievances or worries – they just are. I like how the words don’t try to solve problems, but instead give you space to be wild and free – and what greater tonic is there than that?”
Hamnet – Maggie O'Farrell
“This beautiful novel reimagines the short life of Hamnet, Shakespeare’s only son. It’s a hugely moving account of grief, but also a fascinating exploration of Shakespeare’s relationship with his father and a vivid depiction of Shakespeare’s wife, Agnes, and her very alternative upbringing. I love how reading – particularly fiction – transports you. For a time, you’re free. It’s an activity I find endlessly refreshing.”
Wilding – Isabella Tree
“I found this book incredibly stimulating. It’s quite an intense read with a lot to absorb, but it held my focus and stopped my mind from drifting to my ‘to-do’ list. There’s also a tremendous sense of hope throughout its pages. It’s a true balm for climate change anxiety because it gives us a super-clear idea of one tangible thing we can do to help.”
“Being served up a playlist feels like having a delicious lunch made for me: a real treat. Hole & Corner is an inspiring magazine and shop in Bruton, Somerset, and they’ve curated some brilliant playlists, which you can find on the ‘music’ highlight on their Instagram profile. The name ‘Hole & Corner’ is inspired by an old English phrase meaning ‘a secret place or a life lived away from the mainstream’ which feels so relevant to the ethos of land&water.”
“Ambient sounds – waves crashing, birds singing, leaves rustling – are so evocative. They can bring about an instant reaction, transporting us to a far-away scene. They provide the soundtrack to walks, but we can also access them digitally. For example, in this Another Place film.
“I like how there’s no traditional background music here – it’s just real, visceral sounds of things happening: hot coffee hitting a ceramic cup, happy chatter while out on a hike, bicycle wheels going through the mud, paddles breaking the lake surface. You can just sit with your eyes closed and listen to it and visualise yourself there. Breathe it in. Soak it up. It’s such a great respite, a way of using all your different senses without even leaving your living room.
“Another great example is this post from our friends at 7th Rise. It’s short and simple but very evocative. I like to listen to it with my eyes closed and imagine myself leaping into the water with them. The yelp of joy says it all. And the birdsong in the background at the end is lovely too.”
“I thrive off the unique combination of exhilaration and calm that outdoor exercise brings. A blast of fresh air, together with the physical exertion and the absorbing sights, sounds and smells, makes even a short run or a stroll a truly sensory experience.
“If I'm indoors – I have to do it with someone else. The other day I did a home workout with my daughter, and we were rolling around on the floor laughing – which was an excellent stress reliever in itself!”
“With scent, it’s always about the emotion for me. Just for a moment, you’re transported. A smell can take your focus entirely away from what’s worrying you.
“My reaction to scent depends on how frequently I'm exposed to it. Some scents take me by surprise and transport me to a singular memory. The smell of pine trees, for example, can stop me in my tracks, inhaling again and again, desperate to draw in memory and form mental images of childhood holidays in Canada. In this sense, I’m hit with feeling before logic and often the mental image is just out of reach, like a forgotten dream. Perhaps related to this, I find woody notes extremely calming.
“Other scents that I smell more often I can readily retrieve from my fragrance memory. Particularly lemons from our lemon tree, which lives in our garden room in winter and relocates to a little courtyard come summer.
“Finally, some scents are less connected to memory and more to do with the pleasure and intensity of smelling at that precise time, such as roses in a summer garden.”
[If you’re interested in the relationship between scent and memory, read this brilliant piece by Lizzie Ostrom (AKA Odette Toilette)]
“The versatility of mint is a real joy to me. I adore the lift it gives to cooking, and fresh mint tea is such a simple luxury. I don’t think I could ever get bored of the fragrance of mint; I never tire of burying my nose in it!”
“Oranges are intriguing by their paradox: refreshing and uplifting but simultaneously warming, with rich, wintery overtones in their colour.”
“With warming orange and ginger and mood-boosting black pepper and geranium essential oils, this luxurious oil has a deliciously soft but spicy scent. One customer told us she uses it as a fragrance as well as in the bath, which I think is a lovely idea. Why save something that smells this good for the bathroom?!”
“This scrub does for your skin what exercise does for your soul. It invigorates, nourishes and calms. The combination of sea salt with sea buckthorn, rosemary, orange and mint is so revitalising.”
“I love the feel of a scent ‘sinking in’, both literally and mentally. On a practical level, a lotion that absorbs well is hard to come by – and on an emotional level, I love the experience of sinking into a scent, being enveloped. Our soothing linden and samphire extract body lotion offers both.”