Hello there! Good morning, and welcome to this week’s Thinking Out Loud post, courtesy of Amanda. Today, I’m thinking about how to truly relax. A friend of mine and I were talking last night about the importance of resting both the body and mind, which inspired me to think a little about how I incorporate rest into my daily life, and ways that I could improve in that area.
Whether or not I’m actually busy, I often find it hard for my mind to stop running. I’m rarely doing only one thing at a time, and I know that my tendency to overbook my brain can make me feel anxious and riled up for no reason. When I’m in a state like that, relaxing is the last thing on my mind, which is why I’ve compiled a little go-to list of things to try when my body or my mind (or both!) need a rest.
1. Stretch It Out
As I do with many things in my life, I tend to rush through stretching. Lean a little this way, pull on my toes a time or two, and I’m ready to call it good. That kind of time-sensitive stretching doesn’t do much for the body, and it certainly doesn’t give the mind a whole lot of time to unwind. Over the past few days, I have been trying to spend a few minutes just stretching. I do several deep breaths per stretch, with or without the guidance of a yoga video. There are tons of great, gentle and restorative yoga videos on YouTube and a number of other sites for free. Trying out new ones keeps me from getting bored and helps me focus.
2. Write It Down
When I’m stressed or anxious, the last thing I feel like doing is curling up with my journal. Most of the time, if I just tell myself that I will write for five minutes, I end up writing much longer than that and I always finish feeling like a weight has been lifted from me. Even if the first minute or two are forced, I recommend trying to write a few things down the next time you feel that you just can’t relax. You may be surprised at what you come up with.
3. Breathe, Baby
I’m pretty good at remembering to take deep breaths when I’m in highly stressful situations, like when I’m driving through torrential rain, but I often forget to focus on my breath when I’m dealing with day-to-day stress. Taking a breath or two to calm down the nervous system can have an incredible impact, however, and I have been practicing incorporating deep breathing into my day more often. Difficult customer at work? Take a breath. Stressing about money? Perhaps a breath or two will help. Even if it doesn’t deliver me to a state of absolute zen, deep breathing always reduces my anxiety at least a little bit.
I have also taped this little reminder to the top of my full-length mirror, so that I remember to take a moment to breathe multiple times throughout the day.
4. Be A Little Monotonous
Sometimes, it’s incredibly soothing to just do something that requires little to no thought. Knit a scarf (or something more complicated if your knitting abilities go beyond mine), watch HGTV, or color in a coloring book. My hands like to be busy, so I tend to enjoy activities that allow my brain to relax while my hands can distract themselves.
5. Talk To A Friend
This might sound obvious, but reaching out to somebody you feel comfortable around can be incredibly powerful. After I talk to one of my good friends, I always feel more at-ease. I have a tendency to withdraw when I’m having a hard time, and I am trying to remember how beneficial it is to reach out to the people who care about us when we are struggling. I had an especially emotional FaceTime session with my best friend last weekend, and even though it made me feel like a hot mess, I felt ten times better after I had talked to her.
Rest is incredibly beneficial for our mental and physical health, and it is often something we don’t allow adequate space for in our lives. Relaxing is something that I have struggled to embrace in recovery, and the above five things have helped me do so. Relaxation doesn’t have to be a day at the spa, although that would be fabulous. It can be five minutes of breathing, ten minutes of journaling, or an hour-long chat with a friend. Find the ways that your body and mind like to relax, and make space for those things in your life. I promise that it is well-worth the effort!