Sometimes it takes almost falling over to realise, but we tend to be on overdrive a lot of the time. Our society tends to value people who keep going and going – keep doing more and achieving more – all the time. And while that’s great at times, it’s almost impossible to maintain (unless you’re some kind of cyborg or something).
Everyone needs to take some time out for themselves sometimes, and it can be difficult to truly relax when you do. I have spoken to so many people about relaxing and taking a step back, only to be faced with a simple question – ‘but how do I do that?’
The thing is, not many people actually KNOW how to relax. That may sound absurd, but I have seen so many people given a day or so to themselves who just spend the day doing things because they don’t know what else to do with themselves. And then at the end of the day they wonder where all that time went.
Now, I’m not saying I’m a master of relaxing – sometimes I realise I’ve spent most of the day on the computer getting increasingly stressed about the state of my email inbox – but I HAVE had a lot of practise. Being sick is like having an instant excuse to relax as much as possible and, since my condition is only made worse by being stressed, relaxing is rather important.
I have written before about calming techniques for when you’re feeling really stressed, but for now I’m going to write about things you can do when you have some time to yourself and you really need to just relax.
First of all, I need to mention that relaxing is very dependent on the individual. Personally, I prefer doing things like reading, writing, or watching a favourite tv series or movie. Others might prefer something even more low-key, like meditating, or just sitting outside and enjoying a nice cool drink (or warm drink, depending on what you prefer). I know others that can only relax by playing video games – and often violent ones at that. This is confusing to some people, but I think that everyone is individual, and embracing that can be great.
If you have some time to yourself, I do recommend you spend it exactly that way – by yourself. I know that this can be hard for some people, but I know of no better way to really figure out what’s going on within someone. You can either just do something you’ve been wanting to do for a while, or you can follow the little exercise that I’ll set out here. Whatever works for you is perfect.
I recommend doing this exercise when you have some space to yourself. If you can’t get that at home – because of siblings, parents, or whoever else you may live with – maybe try going to a local library. They almost always have desks where you can just sit down and do your own thing without having to worry about someone looking over your shoulder.
Grab a drink – I usually go for green tea or something calming – and maybe a snack, and then a notebook and pen (or just a piece of paper and a pen). Sit down in front of this stuff and just focus on your breath for a moment. Try to make your breath cleansing and slow. Imagine it travelling around your body, bringing oxygen to every blood cell. You can close your eyes while you do this, or just focus on a point in front of you.
After you’re feeling a bit calmer and more focused, direct your gaze towards the paper in front of you. I don’t want you to think too much about what you’re going to write, just pick up a pen and start writing. You can even start with ‘this feels stupid’ if you like (I have before). This is an activity known as ‘free writing’ which comes from something psychologists sometimes use known as ‘free association’, where they get clients to talk without really thinking about what they’re saying. It can get some interesting things to come up when people aren’t exclusively monitoring their words.
And likewise with this – just write. Maybe set an alarm on your phone or some other device for about two or three minutes to start with, and just write as much as you can during that time. Write about what’s been happening in your life, what you want to do, where you want to go, what your dreams are. Anything and everything – just write it down.
When your time is up, put down your pen and read over what you’ve written. Take it all in and see if you can make much sense out of it (it’s okay if not – sometimes I find just the act of writing to be calming). Have a drink and something to eat, and then go back to a clean page. This time, write down what you want to get out of your day. For example, today I wrote that I wanted joy, happiness, and calm. I sometimes follow this with a ‘what I could do’ list, but this can be a bit nerve-wracking for some people, so it’s fine if you just write the qualities you want out of the day.
Finally, sit and contemplate what you’ve written. Breathe and feel the calm that is beginning to permeate your body. Now you are ready to have a relaxing day and hit that reset button! Feel free to try this as an emergency calming technique, too, as I find it to be useful just to get whatever is on my mind out onto paper. I am definitely someone that thinks too much, so this technique can be very welcome!
Hope you’re all having relaxing days, whatever you’re up to!
Also check the related topics:Stress Relaxation Self Care