Remember to relax! It’s easy to get lost in the sauce. Too often do we get caught up with the motions of daily life that we forget to slow down and take time to check in with ourselves. We go through the day picking up tension as we go and when we get home from work or school, we keep going. It’s easy to go on to the next thing without taking a pause – taking a second (or 60) to enjoy your breath. Instead, we hold on to much of the stresses, static, and noise that we experience daily (think about a time when someone close to you had a bad day and took it out on you). We forget to relax and simply be. Thankfully, it’s also easy to take that pause and find stillness within – even for a few moments amidst chaotic life.
- I’m too busy to relax – This is simply not true. It just takes a minute. The thing about practicing relaxation is that it becomes easier the more we do it – just like any other muscle or habit. This means that we can relax faster (as odd as it may seem to relax quickly). No matter how little practice you have, 60 seconds of intentional relaxation is infinitely better than none. So if you have a busy schedule try a short routine that you can practice frequently.
- I relax when I watch TV (or other activities – e.g. play video games) – This is probably the most common relaxation myth. We think we are relaxing when we engage in non-physical activities (like watching TV) but the nervous system is still engaged. We have to remember that just by thinking about something, we create the same responses in the body. That’s why we hold our breath or our heart beats faster when we watch an intense action scene in a movie.
- It’s hard to relax – This might be the most believable of the myths. The thing is, it doesn’t take much active effort to relax. By definition, relaxing means to let go of tension – we are actively dis-engaging from physical and mental activity. That’s where it’s easy to get caught up. When we think about relaxing, we think about it too much which puts us in an engaged state. We put too much effort and work too hard for something that is actually effortless. All it takes is to be present and aware. The trick is to let go of control. This is what it looks like in practice: Bring your arms to your sides. Take a deep breath in, and make a tight fist. As you exhale, open your hand, relax your muscles, and let your fingers fall into a natural position. Allow your fingers, hands, and arms, and shoulders to fall towards the ground. If you have surrendered completely and are no longer fighting gravity – Congratulations! You are relaxed. Now do this with your entire body!
When we think about relaxing, we think about it too much… We put too much effort and work too hard for something that is actually effortless.Jahmaal Hays
How to Make Relaxation A Part of Your Daily Life
We can use simple routines to bring presence and peace into our daily lives.
- Allow yourself at LEAST 30 minutes without screen time (no smartphone or tv). This minimizes the stimulation to the brain and nervous system. When our nervous system gets stimulated in the day time, it is harder to settle back down.
- Take 1-5 minutes to do the relaxation check-in below.
- Notice how you are feeling (and if you want to continue the day with that feeling), and set an intention for the day. With this practice, we can let go of tension/baggage from the previous day and move forward with mindfulness.
- I recommend adding a physical activity and mental activity to the morning ritual. I practice yoga and sudoku as a part of my routine. That way I can engage my body and mind in a healthy way, without creating a distracting environment (e.g. Facebook or YouTube).
60-Second Relaxation Check-In
- Close your eyes.
- Take a deep breath in, and out, then breathe normally. Watch the natural rhythm of your breath.
- When your breath slows down, bring your awareness to each of the senses 1 by 1.
- Start listening to the sounds around you
- Then notice the smells and tastes
- Notice the weight of the body and let it sink in with gravity.
- Notice the thoughts, images, and words that pass by in the mind.
- Bring your attention back to your breath, and set an intention for the rest of the day or your task at hand.
If you’re finding it difficult to slow down and cultivate peace, then reach out to someone! Ask a friend or family member to hold you accountable to your relaxation routine or practice with you. And if you want even more guidance, contact the expert!