How to Relax
No joke, this may be the toughest task. The last pose in #yoga is savasana or the corpse pose and it is easily the hardest for most people, because you simply lay still, relax, and try not to engage in thoughts for twelve to fifteen minutes. Torture for many, particularly those who live rather stressful lives or have demanding careers. I secretly see this as a perfect way to identify those who have overstimulated nervous systems, those whose adrenals are a bit maxed out, and those who may be burying a bit of #trauma, maybe even have a few #addictions.
My days now are so much more relaxed and breezy easy compared to my life just a few years ago, but even today I am getting the kids off to school, squeezing in a workout and a healthy breakfast, working full-days, making dinner, feeding the kids again, doing loads of school work, repeatedly reminding them of their chores, cleaning up the wreckage of our home and kitchen, getting the kids off to bed and of course - gratefully - I am also giving attention to this super cute guy, and am then off to bed. My days are full. I have a thousand thoughts running through my head. My To Do List is never finished and is growing longer day-by-day. Responsibilities, worries, and tasks fill my mind. While I am not wound tight like I remember just a few years ago, I do find myself freezing up at times, procrastinating, stuck with what to do next, searching for silence so I can organize my thoughts and find some productivity. "Me time" is sparse, admittedly, and I am constantly aware.
Two-thirds of our society find solace in #alcohol. Certainly, I have wished many times this was effective for me. Many run for relaxation but my body wasn't made for this kind of action. Maybe I've turned somewhat to snacks; definitely I've sought out other sources of #dopamine, such as the extreme stress associated with midwifery, even toxic relationships. Either way, we all have our addictions. We all use these to mask our overwhelm, our hurt and pain, our anxieties and depression. We self-medicate so we can relax.
What is the Recipe for Relaxation?
Without a lot of prior thought, I walked away from my midwifery practice a few years ago, as thoroughly burnt out as a camp ember. I was done. Stick a fork in me. Done. However, my identity was wrapped up in my business, in being a #midwife, in meeting everyone else's needs. My newfound silence and emptiness was exceedingly unfamiliar and I found myself stuck in my thoughts and feelings, anxious, panicking even. I wasn't sure what was wrong with me, but I knew I was losing it.
This time in my life doesn't shame me. It was the dying of my old self and the birth of my transition into my #authentic self. It was a dying of giving to everyone else and leaving nothing for myself. It was the end of my martyrdom. Today, I am a completely different person. I can sit quietly. I can be happy alone. I can feel completely worthy doing nothing whatsoever. I enjoy myself, but getting here was exceedingly painful. How do we transition from a state of constant #anxiety, responsiveness, a sort of triage-mode to a person who can just be... that is without our addictions, without alcohol, without toxic relationships?
We find a way. Trust me. We take one step in front of the other, baby steps, and we create a new path, new habits, a new routine, and we create space for our feelings, and make room for our authenticity. If you have read a blog or two about #relaxation, self-care, or #recovery, then maybe you've already heard these recommendations. Do you know why? Because they work. If you look up how to make a cake, you're going to see essentially the same instructions. Do you know why? Because people have found again and again that if you mix these ingredients together, you will end up with a cake. Therefore, I am going to include things like moving, exercise, and hot baths in my recipe for relaxation, because guess what, they work.
Who Are You Most Authentically?
Clients in my practice are offered membership to a free Detoxification & Wellness program which walks through how to identify your authenticity and really rid yourself of all that isn't honoring to yourself. This work is intense, and it is necessary. As you work to identify how to relax, you'll also want to consider how you process the world. What are your primary senses? As much as I would love to include the sense of smell and taste, I am going to steer a bit away from those so we don't end up inviting a dependence on food, which so many already struggle. Focus then on if you feel you are more visual, auditory, sensory, or intellectual.
Certainly, we all experience each of these to some degree, but generally, one or two sort of really drives us. Think on these and identify the one, maybe two, that really speak to you. This will help you choose from the suggestions below that might be a better fit for you. If you appeal to these senses, this may help you better avoid your less than healthy addictions as you work towards relaxing and really calming your nervous system.
If you really aren't sure, if none jump right out at you, then consider this... do you more often say, "I see what you mean," or "I hear you," or "I know how you feel," or "I understand; I think so?" What type of language do you use? If you aren't sure, start paying attention. This may help you identify with your prominent sense.
Visual Modes of Relaxation
These people often need a quiet place to relax. Noise can be especially overwhelming for visual people. Things like art and design tend to appeal to these individuals, and they tend to process things rather quickly. Some relaxing activities for these individuals include coloring, drawing, doodling, zentangle, puzzles, and nature walks. I own a few adult coloring books myself (and a few puzzles). These coloring books allow you to turn your brain off and make something beautiful. Although I really didn't identify with visual as a primary sense for me, I am chuckling now at the shameful amount of coloring pencils, markers, paint, and such I have stored away because these activities have been so very relaxing for me. In fact, watercoloring was one of my primary methods of relaxation. I even have dot-to-dot books, which are really very meditative. I suspect I've given the kids the impression that the dining room table is really only for holidays, and puzzles.
Nature walks though, for a visual person, can be exceedingly relaxing. The color green is so prominent in nature that our eyes were created to see it in abundance, so it is relaxing and even elevating to the esteem. Our eyes also benefit from looking further away, and through nature, as opposed to exclusively up close as we do throughout the day. The quiet and the beauty of a forest or park can be just what we need after a busy day. I've written a bit previously about forest bathing and earth medicine. Spending thirty minutes taking a five minute walk can be the very best approach to relaxation.
Do you absorb things better when you hear them, rather than when you see them? Do you have an appreciation for music and enjoy long discussions? Audiobooks, music, singing, and talking to a friend may be excellent approaches to relaxation for you. This one is especially tough for me, admittedly, because it is sound which tends to overwhelm me, but I use sound to drown out anxieties too. I sleep with music every night, sometimes even rather loud noise, as it makes me feel secure, protected. Talking to a friend can also be especially enjoyable, but it is the repetitive and high frequency noises that my children often offer that absolutely push me over the edge. Knowing yourself is clearly the key.
Audiobooks are engaging for many and allow you the freedom to also complete another task. Audible.com is most people's go-to here, but both Google and Apple have plenty of audiobooks to download on their apps as well. A friend of mine is really into crime stories and I can understand how these may wrap you up mentally so that you can otherwise let go of the weight of your day, letting the world fall away. They really are great for over-thinkers, as it is hard to think too hard when you are paying attention to the story. Look up a book you have enjoyed before, and then see what suggestions you are offered, or grab our book of the month and join us the first Sunday of each month to discuss your thoughts!
Music is a wonderful friend during tough times. The lyrics can be very validating to our emotions. I have different playlists on Pandora that help me through various circumstances, but I've also noticed, I have to be cautious of these because they can prolong some of these moods as well. Right now I am listening to The Piano Guys and really like this playlist because there are very few words, so just a lot of relaxin. When you do opt for those more upbeat playlists, and sing along, the vibrations of your own voice can be very relaxing. Singing produces endorphins and oxytocin, both create a sense of relaxation and a feeling of love. They also reduce cortisol, a stress hormone and even improve depression. Joining a chorus or choir may really magnify these benefits. Sing in the shower!
My bestie and I can spend hours on the phone together, chatting about every detail of our distress and while maybe we haven't fixed anything, we certainly appreciate that we aren't alone and our feelings matter. There are those people who just offer you peace when they are in your presence. Find your people. Set up a phone date. Maybe create a regular girl's night out each month. Schedule in your friends, otherwise, time just flies by and six years pass before you see each other again, or so I hear.
These people experience things in a very physical way and tend to feel their emotions very deeply as well. Slip into something really comfy and let your body help you relax. I am a huge fan of bamboo sheets. Yoga, of course, is another option for our more sensory people. It really does offer a calming euphoria. A slow and steady flow can really help you get into your breathing and calm any anxiety. Cuddling, whether with your partner, your child, or your muttley, boosts oxytocin and helps you feel more connected. I am huge fan.
Deep baths are also incredibly relaxing. Add some epsom salts or bath balms, maybe some essential oils. Dim the lights. If you try this prior to bed, your temperature will drop which helps you sleep better. Admittedly, I write down my soaks on my self-care tracker because I feel they are just that incredible for my psyche.
Get productive with your hands; be creative. Weed your garden. Build something from wood. Knit. Sew. Make soap. Paint or work with clay. Find something you love to do with your hands. Admittedly, a lot of our addictions are about "having something for me" after doing so much for others all day long. Hobbies are a great way to have something that is just for you. I watercolor and I kinda love it. Not good at it, but it does relax me.
Cooking or baking is yet another idea for those who are more sensory based. Take your time on a fancy recipe. I've noticed I really like to cut up produce, particularly mushrooms. I buy them whole just for this reason, so I can cut them up. I even enjoy cutting onions and then love the smell of them on my hands, because they remind me that I cooked and provided for my littles.
These people are in their head a lot. They are logical and have lists and often, many rules. It can be hard to get these people out of their heads to really relax, and often these folks are those that turn to the drink because it helps calm their thoughts. Journaling can be transformative. I don't often even know what I am thinking until I write it out. Blogs can be helpful, if you prefer not to journal. It's interesting how much sense I can make of my thoughts once they are in print. It seems more than anything else, journaling is the best way for me to clear my mind.
List making is another important strategy for those who are a little more in their heads. Dump your tasks, concerns, things to follow-up on, shopping list, whatever. Trello is great for organizing these lists as well. Sometimes I make lists just to help me think and ultimately toss them. Once you get your brain somewhat unloaded, it clears the way for meditating. Try the Calm app, or Headspace. Meditation has cumulative benefits so keep progressing. This practice may seem exceeding hard at first. A full 60 seconds may be an incredible achievement.
Another thought killer - exercise. Make your body work hard. Go for the rush. Find a sport that really pushes you. Hiking again, is a great hit here. Every now and then I'll do a tough walk on the treadmill, even run at times, when my mind is stuck in a spiral.
What are you doing to relax? Share with us in the comments! Admittedly, I do all of these in equal measure. I am all about the relaxation.