Relaxing is the worst – at least, it is when you suck at it. But some relaxation techniques may help you better at relaxing.
If you’re like me and the thought of meditating kicks your mind into high gear and you can’t help but hyperventilate, don’t fret, my pet: There’s another way you can relax without having to fight your restlessness. Best of all, it’s super easy.
The Art of Active Rest
Active rest hails from the fitness community as a way to recover from a hard core workout, but in my experience also does wonders to calm an overactive mind. As much as you want to do nothing but flop on the couch the day after an intense sweat session, it’s recommended you create an active rest day: A day of super light physical activity so you can restore your body’s energy reserve without counteracting your hard work with a DVR-binge.
For those who can’t sit still for more than five minutes without feeling the need to do something, you can use the active rest relaxation techniques to soothe your restless side while still scoring some R&R.
1. Keep It Light
When you try and relax, you feel fidgety. Your mind starts racing and you end up wasting the time you’re putting toward rest by obsessively waiting for it to be over. Throw away the traditional definition of relaxation and find what works best for you. Choose a super light, super-easy activity you enjoy that keeps your mind occupied so your body can take a breather.
2. Focus on Singletasking
The key is to do one thing and one thing only. It has to require your full attention, but it can't be emotionally or physically taxing. Focus on every detail of what you’re doing: For example, try your hand at a word search or crossword puzzle. Read a book. Paint your nails. There are many people who’ve taken up knitting because of its relaxing qualities: Counting stitches, the movement of the needles, and the patterns that emerge.
3. Define Your Mood, Define Your Activity
If you’ve had a crap day at work and there’s some pent-up anger going on, reading a book isn’t going to cut it – reading the same sentence 70 times equals more frustration. Instead, go for a walk in a busy part of town where there’s plenty of activity to distract you from your aggression. Or, if you’re physically wiped but your mind’s racing, listen to soothing music while giving yourself a facial.
Always choose an activity that best suits the mood you’re in. All that matters is the activity is light, easy, and it’s the only thing you’re doing.
4. Do What’s Relaxing to You
We all have quirky things we find relaxing that other people don’t. I find doing dishes to be relaxing: It’s a solid combination of physical activity and mental focus that realigns me when I’m stressed. I also enjoy playing with my cat – he’s the perfect little character to focus on because he reminds me to keep things simple. You might find bike rides relaxing, or putting on makeup.
Test the waters and see what works for you. Turn pockets of time into active rest sessions and your stress will fade in no time.
How has active rest improved your relaxing skills? What activities help you relax the most?
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