"Just relax!" ... "I'm trying!"
So I’m into my 6th month of the Just Live journey – documented anyway! This began many years back but that’s a WHOLE other post for another day.
This blog post is about what I consider quite an important topic, but one that is completely underrated and not encouraged enough.
There is so much attention and publicity, especially in social media, on being motivated to do things, to get up and go in the morning, tips on how to make the most of every day and to get the most out of life. This is great! This vibrancy and thirst for life is incredible, and something a lot of people need in their lives to JUST LIVE.
On the other end of the scale, there is not much information and emphasis around the importance and need for rest, relaxing, recuperating and just being. These things NEED to be done so that you can do the exciting and invigorating activities you love with more heart and soul.
I know, we are ALL guilty of feeling like we need to be going 100 miles an hour, to get everything on our to do list or in-tray done, like, yesterday, while making sure the kids (and pets) and partners are fed and watered. It’s almost like you are looked down upon if you don’t have 101 things lined up for your weekend, or you’re seen as “lazy” for having nothing planned. And then you feel bad for declining an invite to something because all you want to do is nothing!
This goes for everyone, not just women! I know personally my husband can be guilty of this – he will come in off the farm after being up since 4:30am and go into the workshop to finish putting something a-rather together because he wants it finished today. Or he will come home in the evening and mow the lawn (he actually put in a big spot light in our back yard – he said it was so we could see where we are going when we put the dog away at night but has also made the comment it’s great that he can finish the lawns in winter with the help from the light…..). Hmmmm…… While I am incredibly grateful for these things being done, they definitely don’t need to be a priority over a long hot shower or a little snack before dinner, both of which I know he definitely needs when coming in off the farm!
Don’t get me wrong, I am totally all for having some zest for life, for having an “up and at ‘em” attitude, but sometimes you just gotta chill out.
Below are some tips for incorporating periods of relaxation into your day or week. Not all of them will suit everyone, so pick a couple and aim to try one a week for the next 4 weeks and see how you feel.
1. Deep belly breathing
No this doesn’t mean we sit around holding hands and breathe all over one another. It means finding a little place with no distractions (possibly the bathroom!) and taking long deep breaths. Count for three beats while you breathe in your nose, and then count another three while you breathe out your nose. Do this at least 10 times, all the while focussing specifically on the movement of your belly going in and out, as opposed to your chest rising and falling. When we are stressed our body’s natural response is to quicken our breathing to enable us to move more oxygen quicker to our muscles and limbs to prepare for either flight or fight – the response to a (real or perceived) threat. Slowing our breathing calms this whole process down, and tells our body we are not in danger and can therefore relax.
Yoga is a continuous practice – you are neither brilliant at it nor terrible at it, as every session is a practice. There are many yoga studios around these days, but even better you can access an abundance of videos online through sites like www.doyogawithme.com in the comfort of your own home. This may not suit everyone as their source of stress/business is from their home life, so the act of going to a yoga studio can help with the relaxation and detachment.
One of the main objectives of yoga is to shut off the noise in your mind and instead be present in the moment. All traffic inside and out is ignored and the focus is on your very being, the movement you’re doing and the feelings of your muscles and pressure points at that particular time. This is extremely relaxing and has a way of making you feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders – revitalised and rejuvenated – without any mental or physical stress on your body.
Mindfulness and yoga go hand-in-hand, however there are other ways to practice mindfulness that don’t involve putting your body in awkward poses (although these poses do have their benefits!).
Mindfulness is the art of being in the here and now – forgetting the past, not worrying about the future, but accepting the moment as it is. My netball coach has incorporated this into our netball game, as my team has the tendency to “hold on” to a bad pass, a missed shot or a contact call. In practicing mindfulness, that is moving on from the bad pass or catch and not dwelling on in, and instead setting ourselves up for what’s happening right now, being where we need to be and letting go of that frustration. While this can be incorporated into any aspect of your life, it’s a work in progress and something to continually practice. It could be something as simple as for 5 minutes each morning as soon as you wake up sitting somewhere quiet and listening to very soft instrumental music, not thinking of anything. Or downloading an App such as Headspace and listening to one of the 10 minute sessions in your lunchbreak. Set a reminder to do this at the same time every day, and you will soon discover a life more relaxed and less stressful.
4. Reduce caffeine intake
A few of you may not like this one! Caffeine has a glorious effect on most of us such as increased concentration, a burst of energy or just feeling “awake”, however you may not be aware of the sub-conscious effect it has that can be very detrimental to our health and wellbeing – not to mention ability to relax! Caffeine is a stimulant that when consumed it stimulates the adrenal gland to release a hormone called cortisol.
In life without caffeine cortisol was released to help prepare the body for fight or flight mode (as mentioned above) as there was a present danger (say the cavemen were being chased by a tiger for example so they needed quick energy to act in order to survive). When caffeine is consumed that same process still happens, except the threat is only PERCEIVED - not real! There is no tiger lurking in your office (well not the kind covered in stripes on four legs anyway…. :-) ) there is no physical danger. However, once the cortisol has been released there’s no going back. Your heart rate increases and your breathing becomes shallow and quick. You might feel jittery and a little scatter brained especially if this is in conjunction with quite a demanding job or an email inbox and to-do list that seems never ending. Who would have thought a simple cup of coffee could have this effect?!
Reducing your caffeine intake will ultimately eliminate a lot of this stress on your body and mind, there will be no more perceived threat. This will help you be in a more relaxed state all of the time, not just some of the time.
Coffee can easily be replaced, especially if you just hang out for that hot drink as soon as you get to work or at morning tea time. There’s a huge range of herbal teas on the market now, and you can’t go past a squeeze of lemon juice in warm water to wake everything up in the morning.
5. “Me” time
Scheduling some “me” time is a great way to relax as well. This doesn’t mean shelling out a lot of money for facials or shopping sprees or massages, but if you want to go for it! Theres plenty of things you can do that require you to switch off and think of nothing but what you’re doing in that instant.
Not everyone will have the same idea of “me” time. As this is something personal and depeneds on what you consider relaxing. While my ultimate “me” time would be a relaxing massage followed by a hot cup of tea with a view out over the ocean on a clear morning, I can’t do that on a regular basis – say once a week. For one I can’t afford it, and two the time that would require that sort of relaxing can’t be fit in each week or weekend and three I live at least an hour from the ocea (unfortunatley). More realistically, my “me” time is baking something in the kitchen. I do this AT LEAST once a week, mostly twice a week. I find it very therapeutic and a good way to unwind. If I don’t get this time I feel almost anxious, unorganised and tense. To a lot of people this would probably sound like their worst nightmare, and that’s why you need to find what YOU like.
Perhaps your “me” time could be reading your favourite magazine with a cup of coffee, or going for a bush walk by yourself or with a friend. These may not be things you can do every week, let alone every day, but scheduling in this time so that other things have to fit around it can help you to relax – almost the light at the end of the tunnel so to speak.