First you have to WANT to relax. Sounds silly, I mean who doesn’t want to relax? I think there are many people who want to relax but fail miserably in letting someone else pick up their slack for a while.
If you are a parent and you are completely stressed and need a few hours to yourself you’ll say to yourself, “I wish I could have a couple of hours to myself…but my spouse (my babysitter, etc.) won’t follow the routine I have set in place…so when I return…things will be worse for my stress level.” OR, at the office you don’t take days off because you’re afraid your co-workers won’t complete your tasks and you’ll have a big mess when you return. In other words, in both of these examples, the thought process is “If I want something done right, I’ll have to do it myself”.
First of all routines are great to a point. Waking up and brushing your teeth, going to work/school and studying/cooking dinner before going out is a wonderful routine. However, a strict regimented routine that specifically places every hour of every day into its own little nook without variance of any kind is problematic and possibly even harmful.
So first you have to want to relax. And this includes relaxing routines. Not feeding your child at a precise time every day and in a precise way is not make going to make the child go hungry. Letting someone else vacuum the house may not have the thoroughness of your own cleaning…but you can always do it the next day! Let people help you. Let them share the burden of your day and in return you can share theirs sometimes.
Now that you want to relax you need to find the time to relax.
Start by clearing 10-15 minutes every day. You might have to wake up earlier. You might have to utilize part of your lunch hour. You might need to put off a routine chore. Or, simply…you might need to make something else more relaxation friendly…for instance take a hot bath rather than a shower. Dim the lights and put on some soft music while in the tub. Light a few small candles and use salts or scents to relax your mind and body. If you’re a parent simply tell your spouse and children that you are not to be disturbed during bath time. That all little issues will have to be handled without your help during that time. (This also helps you understand for yourself that you are not the only one equipped to handle every single thing that arises and the household won’t fall apart if it isn’t done your way and your way only). Start your new bath relaxation by either setting a timer or telling yourself to sit there for at least 4 songs (generally songs are 3 minutes long…so that’s about 12 minutes).
Where you find your solace is individual (everyone finds it in different ways). There is not one way nor any ‘right’ way to relax. What works for one does not work for all. For instance, if you know the kids are going to start arguing as soon as you pick them up from school, then listen to soothing music on your way to pick them up, or for 15 minutes before they get off the bus. The important thing is that you realize what things stress you out, and how to prevent or lessen that stress before it happens. (Because it’s easier to meet it head on than to deal with it while you are very stressed.)
If you have a baby, don’t wait until he/she goes down for a nap to do your chores. Instead, use some of this time to sit or lay down. You don’t need to use the entire nap-time for this…just take a few minutes out before you start laundry or dishes….for you.
My husband and I have done a lot of renovating. The one job I always jumped at the chance to tackle was staining the floors and painting the walls. The repetitive motion is very soothing for me and I can get lost in my thoughts and really relax myself.
Take a walk! Sometimes you don’t need to go anywhere for a little relaxation and sometimes you do. A slow walk around the block can clear your head. You can soak in the sights, sounds and sunshine and refresh your mind. A short 15 minute walk everyday will do wonders physically as well as mentally.
Pick a comfortable spot outdoors and sit or lay down. Close your eyes and listen to the wind and birds. Feel the sunshine on our face. You can also use this time to catch up on a book or writing in your journal.
Some people join a class. Some people scrapbook. The possibilities are endless! Just don’t pick something that is going to cause you more stress and defeat the purpose. For instance, if trying to make a 6pm class when you get out of work at 530 and have a half hour drive….probably will cause you stress.
Finding a way to relax is finding your ‘happy place’. Once you locate this place within yourself, this will be a place you can ‘go to’ at any time and release the tension of the day even if it’s just for a few moments or in the spur of a moment to deflect the tension.
If you have children or a spouse you must must must stress the importance of this relaxation time as also being ‘alone time’. You will not be able to relax and unwind if you have chaos in the background. You cannot be one with your thoughts if you are answering some one’s question or changing a diaper. If you are outside…they must remain inside. It’s not mean…it’s keeping your sanity. Again…the world around you will not collapse if you deviate from the norm you’ve created for yourself. You must make a new norm…one that includes flexibility and relaxation.
If removing your self from the room is absolutely NOT an option…then you’ll need to create a ‘family relaxation’. Set a timer. For the specified amount of time, everyone must be quiet. They could read books, the paper, listen to music, color, paint, draw, etc. It might take many attempts to master this with little children, but you have to be patient and keep trying. Eventually it will work and you’ll have peaceful bliss!
You could also incorporate yoga into your relaxation time. You could even do this with your children stressing the importance of quiet and listening. You’ll probably be doing them a favor by starting them on a path while they’re young (of relaxation) so that they will not have these same issues when they grow up. If they are raised with wanting time for themselves, relaxation exercises and respecting quiet time…this will help them become healthy adults in mind and body.
In closing: It is much easier to relax if you pay attention to your breathing! Focus on your breath as you inhale and exhale. Long slow breaths. Listen to the sound of your breath and feel the breath entering and exiting your body. This exercise will greatly improve your ability to keep out random thoughts when you are relaxing. If you focus on your breath you will not be focusing on those random things that will pop into your head and distract you. And if those thoughts do edge their way in? Simply tell them you’ll think about them later. Push them aside. Like call waiting. You’ll get back to them eventually.
Encourage relaxation or quiet time for your spouse and children. If you afford them some time, they’ll understand the importance and will be more receptive to affording you the time in return.
And lastly: If you can learn to relax for short periods of time, you will be better able to combat stress at any time simply by remembering ‘how’ to relax. By focusing on your breathing or taking yourself to your ‘happy place’ any time you need to on a moments notice.