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I know for many people a how-to about relaxing seems a bit crazy. Relaxing should be the easy part, right?
But for people who are motivated and driven by accomplishing things, it actually can be quite difficult to prioritize relaxation and do it in a positive way. If you are reading this, I am guessing that you are a driven and passionate person. That you hold yourself to high standards and get frustrated when you don’t accomplish what you wanted to. You often have good intentions to take a night or a couple of hours off, but your brain has other ideas and you can’t seem to turn it off.
Those qualities are really great for being productive and making progress in life, but I have come to appreciate that healthiness comes from balancing these energies. When all you are doing is working and striving, it’s likely that you will lose some of your creativity and heart. You need restorative time to cultivate thoughtfulness and self-reflection. So, here are my tips on how to relax, even when you don’t really like to relax:
Get some space.
Space is what gives you room to break up some of the habitual patterns that you may have developed. Even if you absolutely love what you are doing, if you are constantly thinking about it and working on it, your brain can get stuck in a bit of a loop. By getting space, you completely cut off the input loop that is feeding your thought cycle. This gives time for some of those thoughts to either fall away or to germinate into something more sophisticated or creative. You can get space by intentionally setting aside time. In the short term, that might look like one night a week that you commit to not doing any work. In the longer term, that might look like a week or two that you plan to take off completely. Both of these things require planning ahead and setting up systems so you can step away without things falling apart. This article outlines some of the key steps you can take to make sure your time away is fulfilling and relaxing.
Find relaxing activities that fill you up.
I used to think relaxing meant lying in bed and scrolling through my phone. I have learned that those activities do not fill me up but instead leave me feeling more drained and anxious. Other “relaxing activities” like reading or spending quality time with my husband do make me feel happier. One episode of TV might make me relaxed and happier, but five episodes usually start to make me feel drained and depressed. The key is to really tune into yourself and pay attention to how you feel. If you are starting to feel worse, change up your activity. It is really helpful for me to have a list of go-to relaxing activities that I know will usually make me feel better. That way if I’m tired and not creative, I have a quick list I can reference. This prompt activity can help identify some activities for your own list!
Release the pressure.
Sometimes I need a longer break than I initially realized. Because I am very good at motivating myself to be productive, my instinct is to just force myself to move out of relaxing mode and start doing things. I try to just observe this instinct instead of acting on it. I will then let myself continuing relaxing until I am really ready to take action. Often times I realize that I didn’t actually have work I HAD to do. The instinct was really just my mind being accustomed to being active and therefore it was uncomfortable with relaxing. Surprisingly, life does go on even if you aren’t spending every moment of it being productive. The work will always be there waiting for you when you are ready, and most things do not need immediate attention.
If you are feeling sluggish or unmotivated, you may just need to take some time to relax. And while you don’t need a reason to relax, remember, that often taking this time will ultimately make you more creative and energized in your work. So, it is worth it to pay attention to how you are feeling and follow these tips for the times when you need a break.
Take action! Whether you need some relaxing right now or not, take ten minutes to brainstorm some of your favorite relaxing activities. Save this list onto your phone or tape it up on your fridge so you can easily access it when you need a break – which is 100% guaranteed to happen at some point!