Relaxing: 3 Reasons Why it’s Hard for You

stressed ladyYou’ve probably never chewed on your laptop (maybe you have–no judgment here), but I bet you can feel what she’s feeling.  You know stress and what stress does to you, so you know your need to relax.  Do you ever have a hard time relaxing, though?  There are a lot of internal and external things that can get in the way of a person’s ability to relax.  Anxiety and trauma are two things that can make it really difficult, but that’s for a later post.  Today, we’re looking at three of the more common reasons why people struggle to relax:

 1.  You’re doing the wrong thing.  Somewhere along the way, you got the idea that relaxing looks a certain way:  laying in a hammock, soaking in a bath, doing yoga on a hill by a single gingko tree, silhouetted by the setting sun.  However, when you try these conventional things, you can’t relax!  Could it be that you haven’t found an activity which is actually nourishing to you?  Which of the following pictures seems the most relaxing to you?

Our misconception that relaxing has to mean finding a low-key, agendaless activity can leave us feeling antsy, restless, and bored when we try.  And while research has lots of great things to say about the positive effects of meditation and silence on the brain, you may find your brain still needs a certain level of engagement in order to refresh.  Maybe for you, it’s learning something novel or trying and creating something new.  Think about the times you most feel like yourself.  That’s going to be a clue as to what ways you need to relax.  Also, you may need to invest in a sweater to tie around your shoulders.

2.  You’re in the wrong place.  This is one that I think a lot of people run into.  I know I do.  They have spent most of their time away from home during the day or week and feel being home is where they need to restore.  For a lot of people, this simply is not going to work.

Home is not always “Home sweet home.”

This can especially be true for stay at home mom or dads and type-A people where home is pretty much a giant work cubicle.  You may just have to get out.  Get away from your stacks of paper that needed to be taken care of last week and the bathroom tile that needs regrouting.  Get thee to a coffee shop, a friend’s house, a park–anywhere outside of your house-cubicle!

3.  You’re wrong.  Our beliefs about relaxation can be out of whack.  Here are the most common erroneous beliefs I run across:

  • Relaxation = Laziness.  Actually, relaxing well, in ways that are nourishing to you, is very productive.  It protects and restores your mental, emotional, and physical well-being.  Relaxation doesn’t hinder productivity, it boosts it.
  • There’s no time.  This is one I’ve had to grow in the most.  I have the perfect storm of roles and personality traits that compels me to always be working on something and feeling like I have no time.

What I’ve learned is that feeling busy is usually just that…a feeling.

You have more time than you think.  Unsure about that?  Try doing a time journal for a week.  You may find there was plenty of room. For instance, if you’ve had time to read this blog, you have time to relax; especially since you didn’t log on just to read this (Right?  No offense taken.).   However, if taking a real look at your life truly shows you don’t have time—that’s a problem.  Examine the things you have in your mind as “musts” and “have to’s” and discover what really isn’t, and do the hard work of letting go.

  • Doing what I need to do to relax is selfish.  Such caring, kind-hearted, well-meaning people are vulnerable to this way of thinking.  Really try to understand and believe that when you take care of yourself, you take care of those around you.  You prevent burn out and protect your capacity to give without building resentment and feeling neglected in your relationships.  You retain your individual identity because the world–your family and friends–needs you, not just a warm body that can do things.  It’s a very giving thing and an amazing skill to role model to your kids.

So, how about you?  What gets in your way and what has helped you relax?  Have you come up with any “unconventional” ways?


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