Relaxing is not something that comes easy in today’s ‘always on’ world. It’s a culture which glorifies ‘busy’, and assigns self-worth with productivity, so the fact that our minds guilt trip us into not relaxing (because relaxation ’isn’t productive’) is hardly surprising!
We’ve internalised this idea that we need to be working all the time. So much so, in fact, that the guilt of unaccomplished tasks can actually make relaxation time even more stressful than just ploughing on with your to-do list. However, the resultant state of hyper-alertness is far from good for our health, and is the culprit behind a myriad of health complaints, not least of which are tiredness, fatigue, and in the worst case… ‘burnout’! This condition, in itself, can perpetuate the guilt cycle, since many feel they haven’t ‘earned’ the right to feel tired. Even though it seems counterproductive, it is vital to hit pause now and then as an important step towards improving physical, emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing. This is because relaxation helps stabilise levels of cortisol, boost brain function and allows for better concentration and focus, to name but a few of the advantages. Just how to do this, however, is half the battle, particularly since guilt can become a habit. As a starting point, giving yourself permission to stop and do nothing is all important. This is a skill that you can learn and practice, starting with small, incremental life changes, such as practising switching off techniques whenever you do so happen to find a moment to yourself. One way of doing this is to apply the ‘Rule of Three,’ which involves removing three unimportant things from your to-do list and leaving only the three most important things on it. If you want to take this a step further, why not trying packing three relaxation essentials in your bag before leaving the house each day, since you never know when a time out opportunity might arise? These items might be 1) a book, 2) a snack and a drink 3) a portable towel so you can take a seat and relax if you happen to be passing a park or similar. These lightweight hammam towels by Hilly Jo are perfect for fitting in your handbag, and besides being ideal as a picnic blanket, they also work well as a beach towel, yoga mat, or even as a beach cover-up (click here for styling ideas)! Once you’ve found a spot to relax in, why not try the Five Senses Exercise as a way of ”switching off.’ Here’s what to do:· Notice five things that you can see. Look around you and bring your attention to five things that you wouldn’t normally notice.· Notice four things that you can feel. Bring awareness to four things that you are currently feeling, like the texture of your clothes or the feeling of the sun on your skin.· Notice three things you can hear. Take a moment note three things that you hear, whether it’s birds tweeting or the hum of the refrigerator.· Notice two things you can smell. Bring your awareness two smells, such as that of freshly cut grass, or the coffee you’re drinking, for example.· Notice one thing you can taste. Take a sip of a drink or eat something, and deliberately try to notice the various tastes in your mouth. This is a relatively quick and simply way of achieving a more relaxed, mindful state, so why not give it a go next time the relaxation guilt starts to creep in? If nothing else, it will derail the negative ‘I should be doing something’ thought pattern, and go some way to breaking the cycle of busyness that can override your body’s ‘need to rest’ signals.