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What To Do When You Don't Know How To Chill Out

To have a full 24-hour period to just CHILL OUT is something you should never compromise on.

Inspiration

When you're a child, so much of what you do depends on what your parents tell you (which is always a cautionary tale for people who want to have kids). And what they tell you, it becomes a part of your foundation, your core. Spiritual beliefs included.

As far as my own spirituality goes, I grew up in a religion that honored the Seventh-Day Sabbath (DeVon Franklin is someone who spends a fair amount of time speaking on this very topic; he usually tweets about it on the actual day). And while I am no longer an Adventist ("disciple" is more my lane), I'm still someone who totally goes off of the grid from Friday sunset thru Saturday sunset. When I tell you that it is nothing short of a pure blessing? To have a full 24-hour period to just CHILL OUT is something that no job or anything else really has convinced me to compromise…ever.

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One of the things I dig so much about having an entire day, each and every week, to relax is that it's taught me 1) how to better prioritize the rest of the week and 2) how to REST. A lack of rest is why a lot of us age sooner than we should. A lack of rest is why many of us are moody and irritable so much of the time. A lack of rest is why some of us stay anxious, worried, and totally stressed out far more than we should. (Everything from the common cold and headaches to obesity, asthma, diabetes, depression, and even Alzheimer's are directly related to stress, by the way.)

Mind you, I didn't say a lack of sleep. Sleep is just one component of rest. No, what I'm referring to is being intentional about seeking the kind of refreshment and refueling that directly comes from taking work breaks, disconnecting from the internet, and giving your mind, body, and spirit time to calm down…take it easy…let go.

I know that sounds super appealing. I also know its an epidemic how many of us don't have a clue how to really do this. If you think you might be the very person I'm referring to, here are some telltale signs that you and rest are not on the same page. Yet.

Silence and Stillness Make You Uncomfortable

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I can't tell you how many men have told me that a sign of being in a healthy relationship with a woman is being able to just sit in silence without being pressured to say anything to her. While on the surface this might not seem like that big of a deal, the next time you're alone with your bae or even with a close friend, try sitting for 15 minutes (without any electronic device on) without saying a word. Once you do it, think about how it made you feel. If words like self-conscious, awkward, or uncomfortable come to mind, ask yourself why.

There are people I personally know who say they constantly have to stay busy because being alone with their thoughts unsettles them. To me, that sounds like they might need to see a therapist (all of us should at one point or another) because if you need to be distracted away from your own mind…something is definitely up.

My overall point is this—just like there is a time to talk and be busy, there is also a time for silence and stillness. How can I be so confident about this? Because one definition of silence is "to put (doubts, fears, etc.) to rest" (can you just imagine how draining it is to worry ALL of the time?!) and stillness itself is a spiritual principle: "Be still and know I am God." (Psalm 46:10) It's in the moments of quiet that we're able to meditate, re-center ourselves, and be OK with not having to have all of the answers or solutions. Silence and stillness are what help to bring us into this mind of mental, emotional, and spiritual peace.

Personal Days and Holidays Are Busier Than Work Days

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Maybe if we lived in China (where lunch breaks are two hours long) or the Netherlands (where the work week averages out to be 29 hours a week), there would be no need to make this point. But in America, most of us work at least 40 hours a week. Even if we take a 30-minute lunch, we rarely leave our desk.

I recently read an article that said a 40-hour work week is not only not bad for our health, it's counterproductive when it comes to our overall job performance too. Their recommendation was companies should consider either going to 35-hour work weeks or cutting back to four-day work schedules. But until that glorious day comes, you should at least make a point to use your personal days to do more than go to the dentist and the holiday season to do more than clean your house and attend every party on the planet.

Aside from the weekend, if any days should be set aside for hanging out on the couch for hours on end, personal days and holidays should be. You've literally earned the right to.

Your Smartphone Is Your Bed Buddy

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If anything brings forth the truth meaning of something being a blessing and a curse, it's our smartphones. I'll be honest and say that, at least when it comes to mind, I don't really use it to make phone calls (I have a landline for that); I use it because it's basically a handheld computer. That's both a good and bad thing.

A while back, I wrote an article on here about all of the disadvantages that come with treating your phone like it's a vital organ. It's not good for your health, eyesight, libido, productivity, level of empathy—and that's just for starters!

You know what else? When you're constantly on your cell phone, it's also a clear sign that you don't know how to rest. If even when you're in bed, you're constantly strolling through your IG or you're checking to see what the latest gossip blog is talking about, you're not giving your brain time to process all of the intel (or not-so-intel) that it already received throughout the day. This can totally mess with your sleep patterns. It can also cause you to wake up feeling moody and anxious; that's a horrible way to start off any day.

If you don't think your relationship with your phone is as bad as all of this, test yourself. Commit to one week of putting your phone in an entirely different room for the evening. If the thought of doing this already has you hyperventilating…well. See my point?

You Think “Relax, Relate, Release” Is Only a Whitley Gilbert Cliché

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Anyone who's a diehard A Different World fan knows that "relax, relate, release" came from a counseling session that Whitley was having as it related to trying to get over Dwayne. When her therapist (played by Debbie Allen) told her to do that, I believe it stuck with all who heard it. Why? Because most of us don't do those things.

Another clear sign of not being able to rest is if you know you're a chronic overthinker. You truly don't know how to NOT make a mountain out of a molehill about pretty much everything in your life. You cough and you wonder if it's lung cancer. Your ex gets engaged and you're spending hours trying to track the new chick down. You don't know how to complete a weekly to-do list because you're too busy worrying what your life, three years from now, will look like.

Some people are so used to overthinking that it's no big deal. Oh, but it is. There are studies that link it to mental illness and the inability to effectively solve problems too. In short, overthinking makes things worse, not better.

The solution?

It might sound flippant at first but relax (be less severe), relate (take a sympathetic approach), release (let it go).

I've done it for many things and the more I do, the easier it is to accept what I can do and let go of what I cannot. Doing both is what helps you to rest in a way that you probably never have before.

You Always Feel Like You Should Be Doing…SOMETHING

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There's a guy I know who told me that one time he decided to go on vacation but, after a day, he returned back home. Why? Because he felt like—and these are his words—that he needed to be doing something; that just sitting along the water and reading a book seemed like a complete waste of time. There's another guy I know who is one of the worst insomniacs that I've ever seen. For at least the past 15 years, he's averaged 3-4 hours a night. He gives me that "I'll sleep when I'm dead" response (I've told him that, ironically, shortened longevity is a symptom of sleep deprivation). But I know for a fact that something both of these men have in common is they treat womanizing like it's an Olympic sport, so the counseling side of me thinks it's their conscious that's keeping them awake.

Anyway, even if you're not able to rest due to how you treat other people, if you are someone who feels guilty for having hours or even a weekend when you did nothing but binge-watch television or order in, what's up with that? Something that I dig about the biblical principle of the Sabbath (and the fact that even God rested—Genesis 2:1-3) is it's a reminder that rest is not a sign of laziness; it's a reward for working so hard. It's also a reminder that in order to do anything well, we need moments to recharge.

When's the last time you did just that?

You’re Constantly “Working on” Relaxing

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It tickles me that, whenever I tell one of my Energizer bunny friends that she should learn to relax more, her response is, "Yeah…I'm working on that." Working on relaxing. Talk about your ultimate oxymoron. If you're so unaccustomed to not resting that it does literally feel like work for you to do it, try the following:

  • Deep breathe
  • Meditate
  • Go on a hike
  • Put some lavender oil on your pressure points
  • Take a bubble bath
  • Journal things you're grateful for
  • Sleep in one weekend
  • Drink some cherry juice (the melatonin in it is on point!)
  • Forgive someone (no joke)
  • TOTALLY UNPLUG. OFTEN.

People who are holistically healthy know that resting is not a luxury; it is absolutely a necessity. Love yourself enough to finally learn how to rest, with no reservations or apologies. OK? Good (for you).

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Originally published on March 13, 2019

When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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