Relaxing should be the easiest thing in the world: take a break, do nothing or do something you enjoy and voila! Yet, I’m sure you know many people who never manage to relax. They don’t relax in the evening after work. They don’t relax at week-ends. They don’t even relax on holidays on a beautiful sandy beach.
Hands up if it’s you?
I have to admit I used to be like this. Work always came first. I cancelled many holidays because projects at work got priorities and when I finally managed to take some time off, I checked my mails ‘very’ regularly. Once, I even remember getting ill as soon as my holidays started… whereas I was never, ever ill at work. Doing nothing just didn’t suit me.
The shift came after having my children. I had to find a new healthy balance where work was not number 1. I started to value being able to relax and I learned how to.
Because the problem is not just taking some time to relax, it’s also actually managing to do it. If you’ve ever sat down trying to relax or meditate and kept thinking ‘I must relax, I must relax,…’ while not feeling one little bit relaxed, you know what I mean.
So here are my 4 tips to find time to relax and actually manage to achieve some real relaxation:
1- Treat Your Relaxation Time With Respect
Stop acting like relaxing is a waste of time!
Do you always find excuses that stop you from relaxing?
Unfortunately your beliefs might just be part of the problem. Beliefs that you don’t have the time to relax, that relaxing is a waste of time, that you’re indispensible, that everything needs to be perfect,…
It’s time to review your beliefs system (check out our Limiting Beliefs article to find out how). You need to take a break once in a while. You’re not invincible. Your body needs a rest. Your brain needs some time off too. Value relaxation. It’s not a waste of time, on the contrary. Once properly rested, you will be more efficient and will achieve more.
Start giving your relaxation time the respect it deserves and start thinking that setting aside quality time for relaxation is actually achieving something.
2- Set Availability Rules, Make Them Known And Stick To Them
Decide when you’re available for work, when you’re not and stick to it.
If you have to check your emails outside of work hours, then check them but do not spend your whole evening, week-end, holiday doing so. Make sure there’s a time when you shut down your computer and your phone. You need to draw a line. It’s tempting to find excuses to continue working especially if you work from home but there must be a time when you unplug. Do it for you and your well-being, do it for your family.
If you’re on holiday but still need to be contactable, specify for which reasons you can be contacted. If you’re contacted for non-important matters, stick to your guns and let people know you’ll deal with it when you’re back at work.
Relaxation is an activity like any other and you need to set aside some time for it. Check out our article on Time-boxing and make sure you allocate enough time in your schedule for relaxation or relaxing activities.
3- Stop Forcing Yourself To Relax (That’s The Surest Way To Fail)
Don’t force relaxation. It just doesn’t work that way.
If you’re trying to relax and negative thoughts keep creeping up despite your attempts to stop them, don’t force yourself to stop thinking about them.
It’s very difficult to stop a thought. It takes a surprising amount of energy for inhibitor neurons to block a pathway once it’s been created and frequently used. Check out our article on brain neuroplasticity.
It’s far better to replace a thought you want to stop by another one. So, if you can’t lie down and relax or meditate because worries and negative thoughts keep coming at you and you just can’t stop them, do something that will absorb you instead: take a class at your gym, learn a new skill (pottery, drawing, language,…). As you’ll see in tip number 4, these can be your perfect ways to relax.
4- Have It Your Way And Make Relaxation Fun
Relaxation does not have to be doing nothing. Make your relaxation time fun for you.
Relaxation can be meditation, mindfulness, doing nothing, … but relaxation can also be whatever you like as long as you slow down, you don’t rush from one “relaxing” activity to the next, you don’t try and achieve something (I’ll learn French in 2 months, I’ll finish this knitted jumper in 1 week,….). That would just defeat the purpose. Just be content to do something you like doing.
Take a minute and think about what would truly make you happy right now: Taking a bath? Taking a walk? A game of golf? A spot of shopping? Watching a film you’ve been looking forward to? Cooking a meal? Playing a game? Going out with your friends? Learning something new?
Here are my top 3 relaxation activities:
- taking my dog for walks (I love watching her enjoy it so much)
- baking with my children (especially when we make it up!)
- my weekly karate class (it takes so much concentration that I stop thinking about any other worry I may have and I get a total muscle meltdown afterwards!)
What are yours?