“Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.” ~ Maya Angelou
Are you finding that summer is almost over and you haven’t done some of the things you wanted to do on your Summer Bucket List? Are you a busy parent and noticing how much you are in the do-do-do verses be-be-be mode? Or have you been so busy this summer going places, doing things, and spending time with others that it’s now just time to relax and do things for and by yourself?
There are a lot of reasons why you may need some downtime for yourself at the end of a summer. Since, I’m an A-type personality myself, it took meeting with my own life coach to remind me that I needed to take care of myself, as well as my family and clients.
I won’t review all the benefits of self-care here. I’m sure you’ve heard most of them. Suffice it to say, when you take good care of yourself mentally and physically, you not only experience generally better health, you have more energy, you’re more productive, your immune system is stronger, your self-esteem tends to by higher, and you just have more to give. It’s with these benefits in mind that I encourage you to take some time to relax.
“But Karen, I have this to do, and that to do, and now I have to figure out what I’m going to do to relax, and when to schedule it, and..and…and..” I hear you. I do the same thing. So, I’ve set up seven tips to help you relax like you should.
My 7 Relaxation Tips
Create a Relaxation List
This is an activity I like to do with my high-powered CEOs, executives, or middle-level managers. I ask them to create a list of 20 things they like to or would like to do for themselves. The only limitation is that they must make the list in three minutes or less. Whether you are an executive, manager, a stay-at-home parent, student, or just a busy person, chances are you have three minutes to write a list.
Here’s the activity, step by step.
● Set a timer for 3 minutes.
● Before the timer goes off, write a list of at least 20 things you like to our would like to do for yourself. You don’t need to be elaborate, just write down the basic activity you find relaxing (i.e. bubble bath, read a book, go to the beach, etc.)
● Did you get to at least 20 activities? It’s not uncommon, particularly with many of my upper-level executive clients, that many of them don’t come close to finishing the list in three minutes. Why? We get so caught up in our day-to-day busy-ness that we not only forget to slow down, we lose touch with those activities that allow us to take care of ourselves. (And yes, I’m one of those people who needs the reminders!)
● Now go back through the list and identify those things you’d most like to do for yourself before summer’s end.
Review your Summer Bucket List
Previously, I’ve spoken about the importance of creating your own Summer Bucket List. This is a list you make at the beginning of the summer to make sure you’re not only doing the things you and your family really want to do, but also so that when opportunity for free time comes up, you don’t need to waste time agonizing over what you want to do. Just do something on the list!
Well, summer’s ending. Now is time to pull out that list and see what items you can cross off that list and which ones are still left. Are any of those items activities that relax you? Do any of them match your relaxation list from the previous exercise? Pay special attention to those items that would calming and restorative.
Living Life Simply
In July, I wrote about the power of living life simply. The remaining five tips all fit within this concept of simplifying your life. I address the concept here with a reflection on what might relax you.
When things are strewn haphazardly around you, it creates busyness, nothing is accessible, and you often find yourself spending your time cleaning up instead of relaxing. This is not only true of your home and workspace, but of your mind. We often get stuck in a cluttered flurry of activity where we’re thinking about all the things we have to do. Use a note pad, your phone, a planner, or even your Siri or Alexa, and just get it out of your mind. Often, it’s nothing that warrants thinking about in that moment. By recording it in notes or reminders, you free up the clutter in your mind and quiet the noise in your head.
Just give yourself an hour (or even a day) where you put aside your smartphone, computer, tablet, TV, etc. and just be. Notice what you see, hear, and feel during this process. List or journal whatever your mind brings up. You might be surprised by not only your sense of relaxation, but the depth and insight of your self-reflection. If you do find your thoughts have drifted to your “have-tos” or “should-dos,” make a quick list and get back to being in the moment.
Narrow your choices so you’re not spending your time making decisions at every turn. Limit your choices in food, clothing, shoes, or even groceries. By simplifying your choices, you allow yourself the freedom and time to relax. Afterward, notice how much energy is freed just clearing the energy you would otherwise put into making choices from what you have in front of you. The idea that the more choices we have, the more we feel like what we’ve chosen may have been the wrong choice. We could have done better.
These principles were demonstrated in Jam Study research and made famous in a 2010 New York Times article, “Too Many Choices: A Problem That Can Paralyze.” In the article, Mr. Scheibehenne said: “It is not clear that more choice gives you more freedom. It could decrease our freedom if we spend so much time trying to make choices.”
Limit your choices, minimalize, and you can spend more time relaxing and less mental energy worrying about how you're going to find that time.
Take time to be aware of and honor the people, things, and events around you which bring you happiness and love. I have a best-self journal that prompts me to list three reasons I’m grateful each morning and three reasons I’m grateful at the end of the day. This recognition of positive things in your life is affirming in that it lets you know what you’re doing right, and in that you’re deserving of good things. It is also a purposely reflective activity that allows you to account for many of the little things in life that make it so special, things we often don’t stop to recognize unless we’re relaxing.
Prioritize what’s important to you. The more clearly grounded you are in your values, the more congruent your unconscious mind will get in helping your conscious mind influence your behaviors. In other words, you won’t have to spend mental and emotional energy agonizing over whether you should or shouldn’t. You are already clear on your priorities, the answer is obvious.
Your priorities come from what you value. So, with the time you have left this summer, is relaxing a priority for you?
Again, there is no doubt that relaxation is an integral part of self-care, one you should implement regularly. However, it often isn’t given our full, undivided attention. Take the time to concentrate on your relaxation list, your bucket list, and simplifying your life. It will free up the time, energy, and focus you need to truly relax before summer ends.
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