Recognising the need to empty the stress bucket is an important part of maintaining good wellbeing. But at what point does factoring in wellbeing activties become yet another thing to do, in the melee of our busy lives? With sleep trackers, journals, step monitors, mood apps, all making demands of us, how does this impact our ability to relax? How do these devices and the pressures which come with them impact our relationship with relaxation?
For the task driven, like myself, it can seem like a God send at first. There can be nothing more satisfying than ticking off an item on the to do list regardless of what it is. Post office; check. Emails; check. Grocery shopping; check. Meeting; check. Relaxation; check. But it soon proves a false economy. By including relaxation and rest in the same bracket as daily tasks, we hold it to the same standards. This can create shame in failure. So if you havn't reached your step goal or made it to art class or woken up early enough to meditate, there can be a sense of defeat and frustration which only adds to stress levels.
I don't have all the answers but after giving it some thought, I've come up with 5 ways to alleviate the stress that can come with relaxation.
1. Set time aside but start small. Don't set yourself up to fail by introducing a two hour long wellness routine to your day out of nowhere. Better to nail two minutes for yourself than feel bad about not finding time for something more. You can always build up over time or grab some extra you time when your commitments allow. No pressure.
2. Do not add your wellbeing activity to your to do list. This puts it in entirely the wrong context. Self-care is not a chore. It is not another thing to get done. As you approach your to do list, you do so with a different frame of mind to that of other activities. Think about how you greet and spend time with family or friends. Now think about putting that into a list of actionable points. 1. Say hello; check. 2. Hug; check. 3. Ask how they are; check. By making this process functional, it changes the dynamic. Now apply that to yourself. You deserve better than to be treated as a checklist of tasks. Self-care should be more organic, more intuitive than that.
3. Try something you like. Identifying what you 'love' can be difficult. There can be a lot of pressure involved in knowing what you love most. Instead, try something you like the idea of. See what you like with curiosity. I recently went to an aerial silks class. I shit you not. With no expectation to love it or be transformed by it in some way, I was able to just enjoy it for what it was. It didn't have to be my thing but I could take enjoyment from it all the same.
4. Commit to the mindset, not just the activity. Give your body, mind and spirit a fighting chance by allowing space for the right frame of mind. However you chose to spend your down time, see that as the vessel and your mindset as the conditions in which it sails. It's ok to feel big emotions but bring your self-awareness, self-compassion and acceptance. Even the stormiest waters can be navigated with focus. Be present.
5. If you can, do it outdoors. Nature is a sure-fire way to supercharge your efforts to reach a state of relaxation. Get outdoors.