This desk is actually a yoga mat?
December 12, 2014 1:28 PM   Subscribe

Can you help me sneak a pretend spa retreat into my actual life as a working mother?

For various boring reasons (We're overloaded at work, which also has a lot more conflict than usual right now, there's some family drama, my daughter is 3.5 (with all the awesomeness and energy and whining), no family nearby) I've generally kind of used up my supply of good cheer and flexibility. I've been getting crankier and snippier and eating junk food and not exercising and I'm really not happy with myself right now.

I daydream about taking a week to sleep and drink green tea and do yoga (and maybe read mystery novels or something), but that's not realistic life or budget-wise right now. I can't seem to even take a full day off. (I'm taking a week off for Christmas, but that involves car trips and parenting in other locations and generally is not likely to be restful in any way). So, I have had the brilliant idea to go to a pretend spa next week which is actually my kitchen or desk at work or something. The pretend spa is very important - it is the thing which distinguishes this from my typical resolution to just eat better or exercise, resolutions which I have not been keeping lately. I have never been to a real spa so could use some help in brainstorming. My ideas so far:

1. Bring in a special fancy tea cup for green tea and a pitcher to make fruit-infused water at work, plus, um, frozen fruit?. (at pretend spa you are only allowed to drink green tea and fancy water, that's all they serve at pretend spa, so you cannot drink too much coffee. Also they are very strict about hydration so you'd better drink more fancy water)

2. Um?

More information: I don't have much time to myself, as my daughter goes to bed at 9:30ish, but I've got a half-hour in the evenings and some bits and bobs during my workday. She commutes with me (walk 1 mile; train), desk job, basic gym at work.
posted by chocotaco to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Pretend Spa: Kitchen Version would probably enjoy a nice soak in a foot spa? And a sleep mask and some nice soothing chanty or tinkly music?
posted by DarlingBri at 1:33 PM on December 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Your pretend spa should have fancy lavender/mint/whatever candles. (I like the ones from Williams-Sonoma).

Really soft, really fluffy, fun socks.

Silly celebrity and fashion magazines!

Face masks. You can get cheap ones from department stores (or Amazon Prime). Wear while reading silly celebrity magazines.

Relaxing reggae music (okay, this is what would be playing at my pretend spa).
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 1:34 PM on December 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is a cool idea and one I might have to implement for myself!

In addition to the spa-like beverages, what about some peaceful spa-like music?

Also, many of the spas I've visited have served lunch if you stay for long enough, and it's always very "clean" and healthful. Even if a true getaway is financially out of the question, might slightly splurge-y meals (or at least lunches) be doable? I'm thinking fancy salads, fresh smoothies, that type of thing.

If it wouldn't disrupt your sleep schedule, a luxurious bath after your daughter hits the hay might be lovely.

Also - and this is very dependent on how much privacy you have at work, and how stuffy the environment is - you might consider actually bringing that yoga mat to work. You say you get brief breaks throughout the day (or at least that's what I think you mean by "bits and bobs"?), so why not use them for 5-minute yoga sessions?

Please don't bring a scented candle to work. Your coworkers will not love you. Great suggestion for at-home use, though!
posted by schroedingersgirl at 1:40 PM on December 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

If you like them, scented candles can be a nice touch.

Weirdly enough I used to do this in high school.

I'd run the hot water until the bathroom got steamy and then I'd sit in the steam. (my mother was NOT pleased.)

I'd do some yoga and then exercises. These day's I might get some Pilates DVDs from the library

Give yourself spa treatments. Most of these you can get in the drug store:
1. Salt/Sugar scrub
2. Mud Mask
3. Hair Mask
4. Pedicure/Manicure stuff, including a Ped Egg to smooth your heels.

While you're at the library, get some nice books to read and some nice music to play, classical, new age, whale songs, Enya, it's all good.

So some green and herbal teas, lemon-cucumber water and smoothies (buy or make, your choice.)

While you're traveling, be sure to eat well and stay hydrated.

Time for me to get some water...
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:42 PM on December 12, 2014

Lovely idea!
For work you could have LED candles; I have some tealight sized ones in pretty holders and LED candles are safe for office, children and inquisitive pets.

I also put a dab of essential oil on a cotton ball and toss it in the trash can in the bathroom so the whole room smells nice.
posted by pointystick at 1:56 PM on December 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

There are all kinds of chair yoga videos on youtube that you can do at your desk for stress relief. Caveat: I've never tried them, but a friend of mine swears by them -- she keeps sending them to me. ^_^
posted by patheral at 2:01 PM on December 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've been to a lot of spas in my day. Here are all the critical components of a spa, IMO:

(1) Soft, dark, soothing lighting. Nothing overhead or fluorescent. Task lighting and those little electric tea candles that put out a scent are critical.
(2) Music that you find soothing, but with no words! Usually at spas it's a generic sort of ethnic/new age instrumental CD, but you can vary this to your taste.
(3) A warm temperature, but not too warm! It should feel a bit womb-like.
(4) Things that can apply heat to specific parts of your body - microwaveable cotton mitts for your hands and feet, warm towels for you face, and especially heated neck rests.
(5) Definitely lots and lots of fruit-infused water.

Recently I looked into have a massage therapist come and to my house, and it was surprisingly not crazy expensive - much cheaper than a high-end spa and comparable to pricing for a regular massage-focused place. Something to think about.
posted by muddgirl at 2:05 PM on December 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

A lot depends on what you're allowed to do at work, but some ideas that occured to me:

-Listen to spa-type music on headphones. Spotify has some great "yoga" playlists so you can just choose one rather than putting effort into making one. :)
-Scented or unscented candles (depending on whether there is a door to your office)
-Change the background on your computer monitor to something super calming (I would choose a beautiful tropical beach)
-Time yourself, and every half hour or so stand up and stretch. Depending on how much you're in other people's sightlines, it could be on-the-sly basic stretching your arms, or if you have your own office/a corner to retreat to, something like a sun salutation or some basic yoga poses.
-Can you go to the company gym at lunch? If so, make lunch all about some yoga or pilates.
-Prep a fancy spa-style lunch. The night before, while you're making whatever you're making for dinner, roast a piece of salmon and some green beans. Then stash in Tupperware along with some raw veggies and a little vinaigrette or yogurt sauce for dipping. Bring a nice plate to put your lunch on at work rather than eating out of the Tupperware.
-If you have a partner (not clear on this from your question), see if he/she is willing to take on kid duties for an evening so you can go get a massage. Or, see if a friend is willing to babysit for an evening (I would very happily do this - I love toddlers). If not, maybe do one evening of parking the kid in front of her favorite TV program and do some meditating/journaling/yoga/pilates/what have you. Obviously you don't want to do this constantly...but, I think it is perfectly legit once in a while. I know my parents did it sometimes when they needed a was a fun treat, and no long-term consequences. :)
-Depending on your office culture/dress code, wear some good-quality yoga leggings (maybe under a skirt?) to work.
-Bubble bath after your daughter goes to bed.
-Splurge on a fancy face cream or face mask and pamper your skin either in the morning or evening (or both).
-Pick up a really fun nail polish color and paint your toenails.
posted by rainbowbrite at 2:14 PM on December 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Similar to the sitting in the steamy bathroom idea, but less likely to piss anyone off, is putting boiling water in a bowl and placing your face over the bowl with a towel over the back of your head to keep the steam in. It's really really relaxing and good for your skin (make sure you take off any make-up first). Bonus points for adding a few drops of lavender oil or fancy steam bath herbs to the water.

I also do a DIY foot bath with a plastic tub and some nice lotion afterwards. Candle light is really nice for this (although, I prefer to stick with unscented or beeswax). A hot neck pillow is also amazing. But honestly, for me it's just the quiet time that matters most.

For the downtime you have at work, you might find it nice to do some meditation. I've used the Headspace App, and it's really soothing.
posted by ohisee at 2:57 PM on December 12, 2014

I think you should get Fancy Nancy's Ooh la la! It's Beauty Day and see if your daughter would enjoy pampering you in the same way. It has recipes and ideas and it is all fun and messy. That way you get spa time and daughter time.
posted by Margalo Epps at 3:14 PM on December 12, 2014

If budget is an issue, you can try making your own scrubs and masks with kitchen/health food store ingredients at home. Personally I am very fond of the following ones, but there are gobs of other recipes available on Pinterest or the internet.

-Honey mask - moisturising and purifying (honey is naturally antibacterial and hygroscopic) - put honey on your face. If you have blackheads you can pat the honey with your finger over the area to loosen them. Let sit 30-45 minutes, then rinse off with warm water.

-Yoghurt mask - brightening and gently exfoliating (the lactic acid in yoghurt helps dissolve the bonds between dead skin cells) - put plain nonfat yoghurt on your face. Let sit until dry, then remove with cool water and a wash cloth. (It has a marvellous effect but it smells terrible while it is on!)

-Oatmeal mask - calming and soothing (oats are traditionally used to soothe irritated skin) - take plain rolled oats (not quick cooking) and put them in a clean coffee grinder or food processor with the metal blade and process until they are the consistency of cornmeal. Mix about a tablespoonful of the chopped oats with water or milk and apply to your face; remove with a washcloth and warm water when dry. You can get 1-2 handfuls of rolled oats from the bulk section of your grocery or health food store for $2 or less, which is enough to make dozens of masks.

-Body/hand/foot scrub - a friend of mine gave me this recipe. Mix honey and Epsom salts to form a paste. Apply to hands, feet or body, rub, then rinse off with warm water. Be sure to apply a rich moisturiser afterwards. Unlike oil scrubs, this one won't leave your shower greasy.

-Lip scrub - mix granulated sugar and olive oil (or any edible oil) to form a paste. Apply to lips, rub well, remove with warm water. Be sure to put on Vaseline or or another moisturising lip balm afterwards.

-Activated charcoal - use one of the contents of a capsule of activated charcoal to brush your teeth. It is very shocking looking, but does a good job of removing stains. Brush with toothpaste normally afterwards.

-Baking soda - baking soda can be used as a mild exfoliant. Mix a heaping 1/2 teaspoon with water to form a paste or mix with your regular face wash. Scrub, then rinse off.

You can also add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to your shampoo to add volume to your hair. I was very surprised by this one but I tried it several times and it works. Just be sure to rinse thoroughly and condition well afterwards.
posted by Lycaste at 3:45 PM on December 12, 2014 [9 favorites]

Your spa has a sneaky masseuse that fits under your work desk and massages your feet while you work. This masseuse's name is "Lacrosse Ball". Amazon Prime could have her at your desk tomorrow...

posted by theweasel at 4:11 PM on December 12, 2014 [5 favorites]

Mini-facial - when I do this, I start with running a washcloth under hot water from the tap, then squeezing it out and holding it over my face for 15 seconds or so. You can heat up the washcloth again and have another couple of goes. Next - oil cleansing method. I use a mix of grapeseed oil and castor oil, but most vegetable oils should be fine. More hot washcloth treatment to remove most of the oil. Finally - mask. I have dry/irritable skin so I use a couple of tablespoons of oat bran, half a teaspoon of bicarb soda, a teaspoon of milk powder, a teaspoon of honey and a drop or two of Lavender oil. Add a little warm water from the tap to mix it into a paste, then apply it to your face and rub it around for a minute or two. Rinse off. I tend to do this before I have a shower so if my face still feels oily I can wash it a bit more in the shower, and the whole procedure takes maybe 15 minutes.

One minute manicure - I use this DIY recipe (using sugar rather than salt - and I wouldn't recommend using castor oil, especially not by itself!) If you mix up a jar of the stuff you can then do it whenever you want, and it is very quick.

You mentioned Yoga, and while it's clearly not possible for you to go on retreat, can someone else watch the kid for long enough for you to go to one yoga class? The place I go to offers womens yoga classes that are generally focussed on relaxation and they make me feel amazing.
posted by Cheese Monster at 5:46 PM on December 12, 2014

maybe this isn't spa-like enough, but it's very relaxing. I bought some kinetic sand and took it to work last week as a sort of fidget toy for my desk, but what I've ended up mainly doing with it is putting it in a tray under my desk, taking off my shoes and putting my feet in there. Put on a tropical beach screen background, have a fruity smoothie to sip and some beachy music through headphones, and you can wiggle your toes in the sand and pretend you are on vacation.

And if you do use kinetic sand rather than regular sand, it won't stick to your feet and will be easy to clean up if it spills on the floor.
posted by lollusc at 5:49 PM on December 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: There are so many good ideas in here that I am so far unable to select a best answer. I'm going to try to build as many of them into my workday as possible without tipping off my coworkers, and pick 1 or 2 for each evening. I'm motivated to try a Pilates class on Sunday (which I've been kind of intimidated by) and I'm totally looking forward to going to work next week!

My contribution to the thread are these "steaming" Japanese eye masks, which I love and had forgotten about and am delighted to find available on Amazon Prime...
posted by chocotaco at 7:06 PM on December 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

To me a real spa experience is a meditative experience. All the candles and scents and lotions etc are merely stuff to help aid in removing from your mind all the problems of your past, all the problems that may arrive in the future and just be there in the present for a bit. But all that stuff is only fun if they stay back in the spa and someone else is in charge of them. If you need to buy them and apply them and store them away, etc, they can then simply become an addition to the stress in your life. Just more stuff you have to take care of in the home. So whatever items you might get for your pretend spa make sure they are not too many and also make sure that you can apply the prep and the storing away of such items INTO the relaxation process. For example: In the Japanese Tea Ceremony, the actual preparation of the tea and the storing away of the tea items make up the actual bulk of the relaxation/meditation process. The actual drinking of the tea is less than half of the whole thing. If only drinking the tea was the relaxation then it wouldn't be worth it because the making of the tea and the cleaning up would cancel it out anyway. I don't do the traditional tea ceremony myself, but I do find a lot of stillness and relaxation in making a simple cup of british tea...slowly laying out the tea set; hearing the light clanking of the spoon while stirring; watching the steam float from the kettle; etc... This works better for me than having the traditional Japanese Ceremony set because my living quarters are small and I don't have to stress over finding space for the stuff and cleaning and putting it all away each time.

Simply taking a scenic walk outside during Twilight is a simple a great way to relax. You can take a simple bath and have a soft luxurious robe and slippers waiting outside the tub for you. You can also have yourself a little corner in a room that is specifically for you to just sit and relax or just read something. Really the activity itself doesn't matter so much as long as the items required don't add more to your dilemma. We often don't realize how much all the stuff we own just adds to our stress in every day life.
posted by rancher at 8:52 PM on December 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Hi chocotaco!

I went through some serious life changes last year but stayed really busy at the time. Doing a 3-minute guided meditation and a 7-minute workout at least once a day really helped me squeeze those two activities into my life.

I recommend this 3-Minute Breathing Space guided meditation to all of my friends who are busy and feel overwhelmed. It felt really useful to check in with my emotions and my body, to acknowledge my feelings, whatever they were, and then shift to a short breathing meditation. Last year I felt like I was always in such a rush that I couldn't even take stock of that stuff, so it filled an important role, and I ended up listening to it a few times a day (often when I woke up and when I went to bed). It helped me appreciate when I was feeling good, or gave me time to identify things I needed to address.

Here's the mp3 I listened to. And some more info, if you're curious.

The 7-minute workout was another great thing for me because I've always hated how much time or equipment it seemed to require to be in shape. For this I didn't need an instructor, I didn't need any equipment aside from a chair and maybe a yoga mat, and it was a lot harder to say I didn't have time for it. It also didn't pit me against myself somehow by trying to get me to do a certain number of reps (ie. "if I do this faster I will be finished sooner!"). It was just what I could do in those few minutes. It was intense, but it never failed to improve my mood.

Here's where I heard about it.

There are a lot of apps you can get (I used an app on my Pebble watch), but the timer on this website is free.

If you want to stick with yoga, I just googled "7 minute yoga" and it turned up a bunch of results.

Anyway, these are two things that really helped me that might help you. Good luck finding your spa!
posted by stokast at 5:28 AM on December 13, 2014 [4 favorites]

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