Welcome back to the blog, folks! Have you been trying out the perspective of focus? I hope you’ve been able to experiment with aligning your focus to the task at hand and feeling a change in that. This little series is coming to a close with the addition of this week’s new perspective, and I think you’re going to like it.
The last three perspectives I’ve shared have been centered around being *on*. Learning to use reframing to see the world as an adventure, endeavoring to notice and pay attention to communication, and learning to focus, another energy consuming mindset to cultivate. This week we’re going to take a break from all these mentally challenging objectives and instead talk about cultivating a mindset of relaxation.
While thinking about relaxation should be pretty stress free, we can all agree that most relaxation actually takes work! From planning an activity and doing everything we need to do before we can relax to the process of actually relaxing our minds enough to rest, taking a break is a surprisingly tough task. Which is why so many of us are so bad at it. Add to this the fact that most of us have been taught that constant hard work, “hustle”, “the grind”, and dogged pursuit of goals and progress is the ultimate path to achievement and you have a society beating themselves into the ground on a daily basis and ill-equipped to rest and restore when the opportunity finally arrives. Relaxation and mental breaks are often neglected in favor of activities with more tangible results. I’d like to take this opportunity to share the impactful and liberating perspective of relaxation, and how it has changed my daily life and helped me to learn to rest well.
Learn to relax in the moments of the day.
The one mindset shift that had the most impact on my overall level of stress vs relaxation in my life is to learn to take/make space to relax in any moment possible during the day. This can be as simple as a deep breath while traveling to my next appointment, stopping in my work to brew a cup of tea and take a stretch break, or journaling at the end of the day. I’m not saying these are the only things you do for relaxation in your day and that should do ya. This is an encouragement to try out the heat vision goggles of a perspective of relaxation, and look for places in your day to infuse some stress reduction. Advocates say that even five minutes of meditation, 6 minute nap or a single deep breath make enough physiologic change to impact your life for the better. Pretty sure you can spare a single breath for yourself.
Find activities that bring you great joy and create lasting refreshment.
We all know how relaxation can look. Relaxing is sitting on a beach drinking a cocktail with the sun on your shoulders and a straw hat on your head. Being rested is a contented smile on your face while laying on a massage table with a sitar playing in the background and the smell of lavender in the air. According to commercials “taking a break” is sitting in your car/closet/cubicle twirling around with a chocolate bar or a carton of yogurt. That’s all delightful imagery, but what makes you relax? I mean actually relax. Not what makes you feel relaxed while you do it, or makes you feel like you should be relaxed, what actually removes stress and provides lasting calm? What makes you so happy and excited and vibrantly you that there’s nothing else in the moment? Some people find that feeling in painting, others in swimming, some in running or fishing or walking in the woods, people relax in their pjs or in the mall or with people or alone or in silence or with music and laughter. Hanging out with my hilarious, gregarious, musical family leaves me relaxed. You might not find the same to be true. My encouragement is that you experiment with the activities available to you in your home, neighborhood and surrounding area. Don’t just try the things that work for others and think “man, this beach thing isn’t working for me. I’m broken! I can’t relax in the place everyone feels most relaxed!”. Your challenges and skills are unique, why wouldn’t your leisure activities be?
Determine what keeps you from relaxing, what you can change and what you must accept.
We all have things that will nag and bother and distract us if we try to rest while they aren’t done. That pile of laundry, a call that needs to be made. Work tasks, a book we should read, a chore that’s been on the list for a week. If you have time and space to be able to do that task and also take a break, more power to you. I find it helpful to create a list of things that I want to get done, and start with the biggest, most important, most time sensitive, or most delayed task and work in order of importance from there. I set a plan ahead of time that when I finish a certain number, maybe all, I’ll then take the rest time I’ve been anticipating.
While there is much to be said for doing what you can to create a space of relaxation by preparing your mind, your area and your to-do list to be clear and ready to put aside other tasks, it’s vitally important that we learn to take a break regardless of what else we could be doing. For some people that seems impossible. We feel like we have to earn every minute of down time. Like relaxing is a privilege. Loafing might be something we reserve for the end of a time of productivity, but creating mental breaks, refreshing our bodies throughout the day, and taking time to just unwind are crucial for any kind of wellbeing.
See your current moment as a gift to be enjoyed, not something to endure on the way to something better.
This is a mindset I’ve only recently really started to understand and embrace, and I have felt so much joy and satisfaction in my day to day life through it. As we’ve said, life is busy, and we are constantly on the move, doing at least two things at a time, and still trying to fit more in. In the rush of life, how often do you find yourself wishing yourself out of the current situation and on to the next? We count the minutes through our commutes, tap our toes as we wait for the elevator, impatiently check out phones while the coffee is made. It can feel like we’re never in the right place at the right time.
There is an incredible power in taking a breath and reminding yourself that this moment is also a gift. Waiting, sitting, what we’d previously just “endure”, are all opportunities to take a mental break and appreciate where you are. I have been able to find relaxation in traffic. There’s nowhere else I can be at that moment, so why not think of the ways in which this moment is a gift? Waiting in line can be relaxing if you are mentally appreciating the ability to buy those items, see that doctor, complete that important task. Showering, shoveling, pumping petrol. If you try and you have your eyes open to it, you can find gratitude, sweetness, and yes even relaxation, in any moment.