After the punishing rigours of a working day spent thinking up tired clichés such as "punishing rigours", I desperately need to wind down. But my anxiety levels often leave me feeling like that bloke out of Munch's The Scream did during his driving test, and I've never found relaxation easy.
Breathing exercises make me fret about heart rate and lung capacity. Herbal tea is disgusting. Audio-visual entertainment should provide useful distraction, but it just provokes unwanted emotion. My mind spasms violently with anticipation, jealousy, infatuation, wrath, arousal, schadenfreude and betrayal during a single episode of MasterChef, so I'm always seeking out gentler programmes, from the soothing sales pitches of QVC ("These candles aren't just for candlelight – they also represent the best value for money for home fragrancing") to beauty-treatment advice in Urdu that mainly focuses on the cleansing properties of rose water. I think. I don't speak Urdu.
Recently, I was sent a link to a YouTube video entitled "Soft Spoken Turkish Bath Massage Relaxation", featuring a woman role-playing the complex procedure of giving you a Turkish bath, all in a barely audible whisper. But this is just a small example of a rapidly growing genre. A blog called "SootheTube" is dedicated to seeking out tranquil videos that require minimal emotional engagement, from artists painting sunsets to soldiers recapturing strategic locations in battle-scarred border towns, though I might be lying about the second one.
My favourites, I've decided, are by "LushWhispers", an Englishwoman who timidly recreates unlikely role-play scenarios such as booking a holiday ("Are you looking for full-, or half-board?") or having an ultrasound ("If you could just slip your cardigan off?"). But while listening, my anxiety resurfaced as I pondered my attraction to these videos. Surely it's not a sexual thing? Maybe it's because I want my mummy, and I'm a mere step away from searching for audio simulations of inter-uterine noises. Fortunately, the next "softly spoken" video I clicked on was a spoof haircut role-play that featured a robotic voice yelling "WHERE ARE MY SCISSORS?", which made me laugh out loud and reminded me that I should man up. So I did. Briefly.