A couple days ago I was at a coffee shop, sitting outside in the sun and leaning back comfortably in my chair with a notebook on my lap and brainstorming ideas for my upcoming blog posts. In mid-brainstorm, a man walked by and without stopping, he exclaimed, "You look relaxed!"
"I sure am!" I responded.
As he continued walking, he turned his head back to face me and said, "There ain't nothing bothering you today, huh? Might even be a bit boring?"
I smiled and replied, "Nah, not boring at all."
I was enjoying the crisp air on my skin and the refreshing breeze, sipping on warm Vanilla Chai Rooibos tea, and was appreciating the change in scenery as most of the time I spend doing work is inside my small one bedroom apartment.
I thought to myself, do people associate relaxation with boredom? Is that one reason why people resist taking the time to slow down?
Back in the day, I used to equate slowing down and relaxing with being LAZY (though not when others did it, only when I did). That was a story I lived by which kept me thriving on stress and putting relaxation on the back burner.
The new story I currently live by is this:
"In order to be productive and do my best work, it is ESSENTIAL that I allocate time into my day to relax."
I approach it in the same way I'd approach taking a daily vitamin or supplement. I'm committed to and consistent in taking my Vitamin R regularly.
This doesn't mean I go to a spa every day. Sometimes I get the impression that people think that relaxing has to be a big production (which leads to the belief that relaxing is time consuming, which then leads to the "I don't have time to relax" excuse).
I'm talking a minimum of 20 minutes. Read a book. Take a bath. Go for a walk. If you're getting 8 hours of sleep, that leaves you with 16 waking hours. I know you're busy, but you can carve out time to relax for at least 20 minutes of it, right?
I don't wait until it's convenient to relax, slow down, or take time for myself.
If that was the case, I wouldn't do them very often. I make these a "have to" every day because I know that when I allow stress to consume me and when I don't make relaxation a priority, I am waaaaay more likely to eat too much, eat too fast, and eat foods (especially those that contain refined sugar, such as my weakness: Cookies) that I know make me feel terrible, both physically and mentally.
This can send me on a spiral of depression, low self-confidence, and lack of motivation until I cleanse my system and get back to my healthy habits, which can take a couple days.
Can you relate?
I've learned the hard way that chronic stress doesn't work for me and I'm sure you've noticed that it doesn't work for you either. Because excess stress weakens the immune system, I've noticed that I get sick when I go too many days without making relaxation a daily habit.
Two years ago, I worked a 40 hour week at my full-time job and then worked an additional 30 hours per week on top of that working on a side project. I was stressed out and not sleeping well. During that 4 month period, I got the flu. TWICE! It was miserable.
My body said to me, "Emily, you are burning yourself out and need to slow down. Don't want to listen to me? Fine. You've left me with no choice but to MAKE you slow down!"
Now I want you to think about your own story about what it means to slow down and relax.
Is it something you only reserve for the weekends or vacations? Is it something you feel like you have to earn? Do you feel like you don't deserve it until you do X, Y, and Z?
It's time to write a new story.
Take your Vitamin R every day. If you don't, stress is going to bite you in the behind and manifest itself in your body in a way that I guarantee you're not going to like. Taking Vitamin R helps counteract the detrimental effects of stress and will prevent weakening of your immune system.