The Art of Relaxation

I am probably not what you would call an “expert” on rest and relaxation. In fact, this article is being written while I’m on a national holiday; a day when most of my peers are sitting outside with their feet up sipping a cold drink and catching some rays.

To be perfectly honest, I’ve never been very good at relaxing. But life has a way of making you learn things the hard way and thus, during the past number of years, I have been forced by life circumstances to either learn to rest or drive myself straight into the ground. The way I was headed would have surely led to my early demise had I not gotten wise and learned that sometimes, less really is more.

And I’m not the only one learning this valuable lesson. Every week, there are clients in my office complaining about the crazy speed of this world and thus, their lives, and how they feel they are heading for a proverbial meltdown. Some have indeed pushed themselves clearly beyond their limits and feel burned out, lost and generally bummed out.

When I ask them what they do to relax, they often look at me completely perplexed as if they have never even heard the word “relax” before.

When I tell them that every person needs to carve out a bit of time for themselves everyday for self-care and downtime, I am assaulted with a barrage of excuses — often in high-pitched voices. I hear things like:

  • “What time? I don’t have enough time to do all the things I need to do in the day, let alone give myself EXTRA time to relax!”
  • “What makes you think I need to relax? I don’t see what drinking excessively/overeating/watching a lot of mindless television (fill in your own blank) has to do with an underlying need to relax!”
  • “People need me! I can’t take time for myself- that would be selfish!”
  • And so on …

I have gotten so used to these that I could recite a “Top 10” list of excuses for why women can’t take time for themselves but that would be counterproductive.

What I find sad about this phenomenon is that virtually none of us appear to be immune from driving ourselves into the ground. This is not surprising given the demands placed upon us every day, plus the advent of a frightening acceleration of information made available to us through the latest technology.

I can’t tell you how many times a client’s cell phone goes off while we’re in the middle of a session! We are becoming increasingly available to everyone in our lives at any given minute of the day. It’s crazy-making indeed!

There’s so much to see, do, read, communicate and absorb — it is literally overwhelming. No wonder people are starting counter-movements like the Slow Food Movement and Voluntary Simplicity (if you don’t know of these, be sure to Google them). Time has sped up beyond what is healthy or natural for the human species. So I encourage you, dear reader, to start rebelling in small but satisfying ways.

Relax DESPITE all of the forces telling you otherwise: there’s too much laundry, work, meals to make, cleaning to do, etc. Start off with ten minutes a day. Rebel in small but significant ways that lead you to a sense of coming back into your body, taking some deep breaths, and finding a slice of peace in this mad pie called life.

How do I personally rebel? I knit. Every time life feels too much and I’m stressing out, I pick up my latest knitting project, and feel my shoulders come down a few inches once I hear the clicking of my knitting needles. To end, I’ll leave you with a list of ten things you can do to relax on a daily basis.

Pick one or more or come up with some of your own and start with ten minutes a day and see how you feel … I’m guessing it will be far better than being tied up in knots of stress!

ESTHER’S TOP TEN THINGS YOU CAN DO TO RELAX

1. Meditate: simply sitting with your eyes closed in a quiet spot focusing on deep belly breaths.
2. Do yoga: it works wonders to balance body and mind.
3. Do your favorite craft and make something beautiful and special either for yourself or someone you love.
4. Spend time with animals: they totally know how to relax. Put your head lightly on a pet’s belly while it’s napping and match your breath to his/hers. Ahh…
5. Read a light and fluffy book — no thrillers or stories of miserable childhoods.
6. Watch a funny movie in your pyjamas and fuzzy slippers.
7. Sit somewhere beautiful in nature and take in the scenery.
8. Go for a walk outside and be mindful of your steps and practice really being in your body and letting go of your “thinking mind.”
9. Make love; either with yourself or significant other: a great de-stressor indeed!
10. Immerse yourself in a hot bubble bath surrounded by candles and listen to soft music. You’ll sleep like a baby …

Esther Kane, MSW, Registered Clinical Counselor, is the author of “Dump That Chump: A Ten-Step Plan for Ending Bad Relationships and Attracting the Fabulous Partner You Deserve” (www.dumpthatchump.com), and “What Your Mama Can’t or Won’t Teach You: Grown Women’s Stories of Their Teen Years” ((www.guidebooktowomanhood.com) . Sign up for her free monthly e-zine, Women’s Community Counselor, to uplift and inspire women at: www.estherkane.com.

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