Angela Scanlon’s ideal bath is two hours long. Before she gets in the water (which should be hot but not scalding in temperature), she ensures her phone is out of reach, she has a honey face mask on, her lavender drops and epsom salts are within reaching distance, a sage smudge bundle is burning, and she has a giant cup of herbal tea to drink. Preferably chamomile.
“We’re talking the kind of mug that you need two teabags for,” says the 35-year-old host of ‘Robot Wars’ and ‘The One Show’, for whom the act of washing has turned into an entire night-time ritual. “I have always loved the bath,” she says. “It allows me to decompress and to hang out and it’s brilliant.”
Despite it taking at least an hour on any given occasion, Scanlon tries to indulge in her favourite form of self-care four times a week. “A lot of people think self-care is wooly and airy fairy but actually it’s a really simple thing: giving yourself permission to press pause and stop,” she explains.
Scanlon was born in County Meath, just outside Dublin, Ireland, but moved to London several years ago with her husband Roy Horgan, who she married in 2014, to pursue her TV career. The couple had their first child, a daughter Ella, in February 2018.
When they first rented in London (Horgan is also Irish, from Cork) the property didn’t have a bath. It was a notable absence for Scanlon, who uses this ritual to manage her anxiety, something she has suffered with for years. As a child she would worry about her parents never returning if they left her with grandparents, although she didn’t recognise her worrying as anxiety until her late teens.
She says that until more recently she simply didn’t have the skills to cope. “Now I spend quite a bit of time keeping on top of my anxiety,” she says. “It comes in waves but I know now when I’m doing too much and usually that is what it comes down to.”
One of the most important ways she does this is bathing for long, extended periods, topping the tub up with hot water whenever it dips below her optimum temperature. “Yes I do get pruney, 100 per cent,” she says. “But I think my skin might have actually got used to it by now.”
Scanlon isn’t entirely sure why she finds such peace in the bath, and has even researched possible explanations. “I’ve done a lot of reading on the laws of attraction and they say because water is so conductive it’s a really good place to hang out,” she says. “Maybe it’s the feeling of being slightly suspended in the water?”
Although she has her theories, Scanlon suspects now that bathing has a placebo effect for her – and says that carving out the chunk of time in her day is as much part of the healing process as the bath itself. “It’s where I press pause, a ritual that I can do as a comfort thing. If I’ve had a really tough day or my head is playing tricks with me, the bath is a safe zone to go to,” she says.
Although most of the time Scanlon uses it as a way to punctuate the end of her day and wind down for bed, she says the best thing she can do for herself is a mid-morning bath when Ella is having a nap. “It’s so luxurious because you feel you should be doing something productive,” she says.
I do sometimes bathe with my baby, but once she did poo on me. In her defence she was very tiny.”
Since becoming a mum and being unable to get more than three hours sleep a night, Scanlon values this self-care time more than ever – and (ideally) she doesn’t want to get her daughter involved.
“I do sometimes bathe with my baby,” she explains. “But once she did poo on me in the bath… I was sat there thinking this is the most idyllic, beautiful moment for the two of us, but it did not end well. In her defence she was very tiny.”
It wasn’t the first time she had an unusual addition to her bath – she confesses that she once ran herself a ‘milk bath’ after hearing it was good for dry skin. “If it’s good enough for Cleopatra, it’s good enough for me,” she says.
Adding a small amount of milk to the bath – “it wasn’t the whole bath, I’d need a cow” – Scanlon says it was an enjoyable experience, but not one she would necessarily repeat. “It was a little gift to myself, giving myself the gift of half a litre of milk that was about to go off,” she laughs. “I am a glam bird.”
Today, after moving from the bath-less property, Scanlon says her bathroom is her favourite place in the house; full of plants, wicker baskets, and even a wooden shelf to store all of her favourite bath time products.
That being said, she’s very aware that now Ella is starting to crawl, it’s only a matter of time before she takes over the bathroom with her own belongings. The eight-month-old already has a menagerie of bath toys, bath books (that change colour in the water), and other gadgets.
Scanlon has a dream in the future (when she owns a home rather than renting) to have a freestanding roll-top copper bath, “One with a rough bit of log next to it, that I’ve chopped down with my bare hands and can put all my bath junk on,” she adds.
But for the time being, she’s happy she has her own safe place to retreat to when everything gets too much – not a self-care strategy for crisis, but a habit. “My friend just found this mantra that is ‘that’s enough for now’ and I’m using it too,” she adds. “It’s just saying out loud, that you’re going to stop. Giving yourself permission to take care of yourself, just for a little bit.”
Angela Scanlon is an ambassador for mental health research charity, MQ. Visit www.mqmentalhealth.org for further information.