Hot tubs, yoga and Himalayan salt - inside the world of 'self care'
PUBLISHED: 06:30 10 January 2020 | UPDATED: 07:17 10 January 2020
From demanding jobs to complex family dynamics and health worries, plenty of us have reason to feel under pressure.
Two years ago, the largest stress study seen in the UK found that 74pc of us have felt so stressed we've been unable to cope. And while it's nature means up-to-date, accurate data is hard to come by, surveys suggest rates of anxiety are on the up.
It has given rise to the self care movement, a concept which dates back centuries but which, thanks in large part to social media, has had a booming rebirth, with people encouraged to switch off, slow down and focus on their mental health.
While that might include more fresh air, taking up running or eating a healthier diet, it's also grown to encompass less purse-friendly options - wellness retreats, sleeping aids, spa breaks, beauty products and even storage solutions.
And consumers are listening - self care was the biggest app trend in 2018 according to tech giant Apple, and booksellers have seen growing sales of mental health and self-help titles.
Yoga at the Mill Retreats, formerly Satvada, runs yoga, mindfulness and walking getaways at West Lexham Manor.
Having been in business for 15 years, Lucia Cockcroft, co-founder and yoga and mindfulness teacher, said the surge in demand had led to a saturation in the market for yoga retreats, forcing a rethink.
"It was becoming harder to differentiate ourselves," she said. "What we have found, and it aligns with my training, is that it is better to move towards mindfulness instead.
"The yoga retreats are much more active, but with mindfulness it's more gentle, movement as meditation and more awareness and rest.
"I think people are so stressed and so maxed out, especially the London market. People need an outlet to slow down."
In the Broads, Breathing Space, described as a holistic bed and breakfast for women, has been in business for 12 years, but has seen increased popularity recently.
Its founder Mags Sorrell said: "So many people are under a lot of pressure or stress, and they come to us knowing we give therapies, treatments and a chance to unplug.
"Sometimes people will book for three or four times a year, and we get a lot of people from London and the Home Counties, particularly women on their own as it's a safe place.
"We have definitely become busier."
And consumers are investing significant sums in bringing that relaxation home.
Kevin Sowter, who owns the Hot Tub Centre on Kingsway in Norwich, said the company had enjoyed its best year to date in 2019.
"I've been doing this since 2003 and every year I have increased my sales," he said, "apart from around 2008 to 2011, because of the recession.
"After that it's slowly grown again, and last year was particularly high. Last year was the best year we have had so far."
He said it was always hard to pin down exactly why, but said people wanted to invest in something to enjoy at home rather than going abroad, and were drawn by both the relaxation and hydrotherapy benefits.
While those feeling burnt out or in need of some down time may well benefit, the movement's rapid growth - on Thursday there were 22.5m posts on Instagram tagged as self care - has led to concerns that those with more serious mental health problems may feel they should be responsible for their own wellbeing, rather than seeking help.
Emma Mamo, mental health charity Mind's head of workplace wellbeing, said self-care techniques, alternative therapy and general lifestyle changes could help "manage the symptoms of many mental health problems and may help prevent some problems from developing or getting worse".
"If you find yourself facing a long wait for NHS talking therapy for example, there are some other things you could try, such as increasing physical activity or changing your diet, but self-care techniques should be seen as complementary to - rather than as a substitute for - mental health services, such as counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which we know many people are not able to access when they need them," she said.
Yoga products, candle holders and water bottles - the best selling self care products
Buyers are turning to the high street to bring a slice of self care into their homes.
Norwich gift and jewellery and gift retailer Lisa Angel said it had expanded a range of products to respond to demand.
Hayley Salisbury, head of marketing, said wellbeing was becoming "central" to the business ethos, including in its workforce, with mental health first aiders and health champions part of the team, and the shop front.
"The rise in the popularity of influencers and websites talking about mental health and wellbeing has made this a much more prioritised issue here in the UK both from a corporate and individual perspective," she said. "That means more people are prepared to spend money on self care and on things that give them a better mental wellbeing, not just focusing on physical health."
She said interest had grown over the last three years, leading to a wellbeing range containing 140 products, with best sellers including yoga products, Himalayan rock salt candle holders and daily intake water bottles.