After a manic week our bodies are usually screaming for some down-time; a quiet night in, feet up, and a JustEat order delivered straight to our door – oh and lets not forget the glass of wine. Just what we needed. A few hours in, noodles scoffed, attention turns to Facebook and what was initially supposed to be a night of TLC quickly turns to regret, loneliness and guilt.

Not sounding familiar yet? Well if you’ve ever been ‘relaxing’ at home scrolling through social media and seen an old friend post about a promotion and instead of feeling happy for them, you’ve begun to question whether you’re taking the right direction in life then you too are part of the majority who have fallen victim to the fallacy of a relaxing night in… and the assaults are coming from all angles.

Romcoms, social media, reality TV – they all depict life through rose-tinted spectacles and even though we are aware this, its hard to not to feel bitter when you see your ex post a picture of himself and his new partner dining out at a fancy restaurant. It’s not the fact you even miss him, simply just that at that very moment he is doing something while you, well, you’re sat at home in your tracksuit with nought but Jennifer Aniston to keep you company. To make matters worse, your Instagram hero just uploaded an abs selfie and staring down at your now not-so-flat stomach makes you jump up and start spontaneously star-jumping… six jumps later, now with a stitch you give up and decide you’ll start again with the healthy eating tomorrow.

The following morning you wake feeling bloated, but nonetheless feel immensely motivated to get your life back “on track” – lose those extra pounds and get on top of work. However, it’s short lived and  another week of work down the line, you find yourself craving another “relaxing” evening.

So how do we end the cycle? After all, we have to take time out for ourselves at some point. The solution is to find productive ways to relax. Now, at first productive and relaxing might not seem like two words you’d associate with one another, however they truly come hand-in-hand and the sense of fulfilment generated by productivity nurtures self-esteem.

How do you relax and be productive simultaneously?

For a start you need to reassess the meaning of “relax” – forget images of hot baths, comfy sofas and endless glasses of wine – the word relax quite literally means ‘to make or become less tense or anxious’. Therefore, anything you do within your free time that takes your mind away from stressful situations such as work, are relaxing. With that in mind, it’s really quite easy to combine the two – here are our suggestions:

Taking care of our bodies – eating healthy food and exercising regularly. These may seem like a chore, but the positive impact stretches beyond their physical benefits. Psychologically we give ourselves more worth if we feel like we are in good shape – we feel confident and don’t feel like we are letting ourselves down when we see other people’s pictures on Instagram and billboards. Because of the aesthetic nature of society nowadays its impossible to escape the pressure inflicted by social media, promotion and TV and comparing yourself to this is inevitable. All you can do is do the best for yourself and soon enough the disparity between how you rate other people and how you rate yourself will fade.

Do more. Again, this might seem detrimental to relaxation however, you can only grow as a person if you learn more, do new things and STOP just watching what everyone else is doing. Getting out of the house doesn’t have to be exhausting, to the contrary, taking Yoga or Pilates classes can be refreshing. If they aren’t your sort of thing, join a book group… take a cooking class… there’s SO much available out there and if you’ve got time to spend watching mindless TV then you have time to do a google search and see what’s going on in your area. Instead of beating yourself up about what your cousin has just achieved, focus on what you are going to do.

Socialise! Facebook is a compilation of every user’s best days; scrolling down the average person’s timeline we see holidays, promotions, new jobs, exciting news and edited pictures – it’s impossible not to feel jealous when you compare it to the ups and downs of your own life. This is ridiculous as we know that these profiles are unrealistic depictions of life. Where are the pictures of how we look when we’re ill or the arguments we just had with our partner, or the jobs we got fired from? These are experiences we only talk about with our close friends and family and these are the only lives that should really matter to us. Spend your free time with people who are important to you, they will want to hear your news and will give you support where needed. Intrinsically, we are a sociable and communal species and so hiding at home on the sofa goes against your biological makeup. By spending time having a meal with friends or chatting over a coffee you will release any negativity off your chest, have a laugh and feel a lot more relaxed than when you are judging yourself at home.

All of these things will improve your wellbeing and ultimately make you feel more relaxed and rejuvenated. So next time you find yourself with a free evening, lay-off social media, go for a run or phone a friend – you’ll feel so much better the next day.