Strangely, when I started researching the first pillar from Dr. Rangan Chattergee’s book, The Stress Solution, I found that whilst the book discusses Purpose, his interviews and website labeled it ‘Relax’. It makes sense that relaxation will remove some stress from your life and increase your resilience but what I realized is that in order to discover your meaningful life, you need to give yourself some space.
I have always been big on lists, getting stuff out of my head on to a more fixed medium allows me to stop having to try to remember it all. It also means that I can share the burden if it is something that I personally don’t have to do. One of the things that rarely gets on my list is relaxing. Eliot has told me time and again that it needs to be on there, somewhere near the top and not the item that gets relegated to the bottom every time.
There are a lot of us that don’t take this time out to do something that specifically relaxes us and we are constantly going from one task to another, keeping “busy”. Whilst this may feel productive, it’s where burnout happens, where we lose our sense of calm and resilience, and stress takes over. We can get short-tempered, overwhelmed and turn to some of our crutches like bingeing on food or drinking alcohol to cope which end up making us feel even worse. Believe me, speaking from experience here.
So what do you do, because you don’t have time to relax! You have meals to cook, emails to answer, phone calls to make, kids to taxi, laundry to get clean and put away, I get it. First of all, you are probably going to want to figure out where your time is all going. It seems a bit obvious but you might end up being surprised how constant distractions at work or the sessions of scrolling your insta feed will suck the time away**. Try taking a pen and paper and write down all the stuff you do in a day, in sequence, and how long it takes. It seems overkill but it may just help you to feel more in control and also to identify spots where you can build some calm and relaxation into your day. It may also help to identify some efficiencies that will allow your day to be less stressful. For example, I managed to figure out that I could fit meditation practice in the mornings and not when you would think. I do mine just before my shower after everyone is fed, the lunches are all packed and kids are ready to go. I had been trying to force it into the time when I woke up but when you have two kids poking you before your “early” alarm goes off, it made it so that I constantly missed out.
**If you are curious about how much time certain games or apps take out of your day, try installing a usage tracking app like Moment or StayFree – you might be surprised!
The other thing to remember is that your relax time should be doing something that you enjoy, not something that others think you should enjoy. Don’t post about it and make it device free. The lure of email, social media, news headlines won’t help you to relax, they will just add more MSDs. I’ve started doing a puzzle. One of Dr. Chatterjee’s patients refound his love of model trains! Think back to when you were a kid, what did you enjoy then? Read a book for the fun of it, the escapism. Maybe do some coloring or just sit down with a cup of tea and stare out the window.
Relaxing should be high on all our lists, it’s not lazy, your body and mind need it. Embrace boredom too, that is when creativity is triggered. Whether you are clear on your life purpose or have no clue, if you don’t give yourself time to sit back and let your brain contemplate it, you may never figure it out. You may also find that your love of model trains was the only hole you had and with that passion re-ignited, the rest of your life becomes reinvigorated too. So take a deep breath and relax…