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Girl, Chill Out Already. It’s National Relaxation Day.

"Sometimes, the most productive thing you can do is relax."—Mark Black

Wellness
Jill Scott

Like clockwork, every Friday at sunset, I let my body wind down. I might or might not be online. People in my world know there's a pretty good chance that my phone will be on silent. Basically, I fall off the radar. I do this because, pretty much ever since I was born, I've been a Sabbath observer. For me, until Saturday's sunset rolls around, I'm pretty much in total chill out mode.

Most of my friends, though? Not so much. For them, Saturday is one of the busiest days of the week. Even those who worship on Sunday, after church, they are spending the rest of the time getting ready for Monday. Yeah, although it's super unfortunate, it really comes as no shocker that people who live in the United States take advantage of holidays and vacation days less than any other country in the world. That's a crying shame too because not making the time to relax results in all sorts of drama including headaches, chest pains, poor work performance, a low libido, emotional instability, unhealthy eating habits, insomnia and more.

If you're a self-professed workaholic, perfectionist, overthinker or you're simply someone who doesn't make it a regular point or practice to chill the freak out, there's no time like the literal present to learn, because today is National Relaxation Day.

If relaxing is such a foreign concept to you that you need a little "push", just to be able to do it, I've got some proven ways for you to calm down, loosen up and let go a little bit (now doesn't that sound good?).

1. Deep Breathe

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Off the top of my head, we've done three articles on the benefits of meditation—"Cultivating Mindfulness: The Best Meditation Practices For Your Zodiac Sign", "Powerful Mantras & Meditation Techniques For Mindful Mamas" and "I Went On A 4-Day Silent Meditation Retreat (And Why You Should Book One, Too)". Something that meditation incorporates is deep breathing. When you breathe through your nose, hold for a count of 3-5 and then exhale through your mouth (then repeat that 10 times in a row), that does everything from remove toxins from your body and increase blood circulation to calm your mind and improve your posture.

Even if you don't make time to do anything else that I'm about to share with you, it only takes a few moments to center yourself by deep breathing a few times throughout the day. On a day that is totally devoted to relaxation, make sure that you do at least that.

2. Do Some Journaling

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A common question that I'm asked in interviews is, with all that I've been and put myself through (you can read about some of that here, here and here), how am I still in my right mind. The grace of God for starters, but writing is ridiculously therapeutic as well. And here's the thing—you don't have to write for a living to reap the benefit that it brings. There are studies that support the fact that journaling, on a consistent basis, can reduce stress and help you to cope better with traumatic events.

So, if journaling more (or at all) was one of the New Year's resolutions that you didn't keep, gift yourself with a new journal and put your first entry in today. Then see how you feel.

3. Have a Salmon Salad and/or a Green Tea Mocktail

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One of the reasons why a lot of us struggle with relaxing is because we eat way too much processed foods and sugar. In fact, did you know that, in America, sugar addiction is considered to be an epidemic? If you know that you spend way too much time in drive thrus or at the vending machine at your job, nourish your entire system to a salmon salad today. If it has spinach in it, all of the magnesium, calcium and B vitamins that it contains will relax your nerves. The salmon's omega-3 fats, EPA and DHA will reduce any bodily inflammation that you may have, which will result in your heart not having to work as hard. And, should you decide to toss a few fresh berries into the mix, the high amount of Vitamin C that they contain will fight off free radicals while combating internal stress simultaneously.

If, for whatever the reason, you'd prefer to pass on the salad, why not make a green tea mocktail when you get home? It's a nice twist on a regular cup of hot green tea and, since green tea contains properties that can lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels as well as help to calm your system, why wouldn't you want to have a tall glass or two of it?

4. Take a Stroll, Have a Picnic or Do Something Else Outside

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A book that is a fave of mine is The Celestine Prophecy. Although it's fictional, something that it talks about is the importance of spending time with nature; how it can reenergize and re-center you. It might be fiction, but there is a ton of reality that comes with that perspective. Some studies reveal that nature has such a profound effect on the mind that even looking at pictures of nature can put us in a relaxed mindset. There's also research that states taking a walk outdoors can improve our memory by as much as 20 percent, the Vitamin D from the sun can strengthen our bones and relax us and, being in nature can even make us kinder and more creative too.

This is a good time of year to get off work, pop open a bottle of red wine and read a book on your back porch. Or, take a stroll, enjoy a romantic picnic or do something else outdoors that you like. Nature is your friend. Spend some quality time with it as much as you possibly can.

5. Use Some Citrus Essential Oil (or Light a Citrus Soy Candle)

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Whether you prefer the scent of lemon or orange, stop by a local health store and pick up either some essential oil or a soy candle in one of those scents. If you opt for the candle, the smell can help to relax you. If you decide to go the oil route, it can do everything from improve the quality of your skin and ease morning sickness (if you're pregnant) to reduce symptoms that are related to anxiety and depression. Something that orange essential oil does specifically is reduce pulse rates (especially in children). Plus, it smells really good, so why not treat yourself to some?

6. Massage Your Hands (or Get Someone to Massage Your Feet)

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Most of us have hands (and shoulders and a back) that are loaded with tension because we are hacking away at our keyboard, every day, for hours on end. Something that will help to relieve your spine is to invest in an ergonomic chair. Something that will give your hands—and ultimately our heart—some much-deserved TLC is to give yourself a hand massage. You can get some tips on how to do it here.

Of course, it's even better if you can get your partner to give you a foot massage tonight, or if you can book a last-minute full body massage. But if money is tight, a DIY hand massage actually goes a pretty long way.

7. Verbalize What You’re Grateful For

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A lot of us can't relax because we're constantly worrying about what we don't have enough of or getting more of what we wish we did. But if the constant grind leads to a stroke or heart attack due to all of the stress, was never taking a break worth it?

A wise person once said, "Gratitude turns what we have into enough." Yes, we all have goals and ambitions. Lord knows we've also got bills to pay. But for the sake of your mind, body and soul, get off of the clock, at least for a few moments. If there's so much on your plate that it seems like an impossible feat, pause and think about all of the things that you've got to be grateful for. With the current state of our country, having a roof over your head, clothes on your back and at least one person who loves you is truly enough to put it all into perspective. It really and truly is.

8. Listen to Some Relaxing Music

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Music is powerful; that's why we need to be intentional about the kind that we listen to. While reading an article about how it affects us, the author said that fast music helps us to concentrate better, upbeat music puts us in a better mood and slower music soothes our mind and calms us down. Then I looked to see if there is a specific kind of "slow music" that works best. According to a group of neuroscientists, a song called "Weightless" by the UK band Marconi Union is the most relaxing.

I listened to it. If by "relaxing", they mean bore you to tears, I totally agree. Maybe it's just me, but I think Erykah Badu or Jill Scott's first LP, or a song like Groove Theory's "Keep Tryin'" or Goapele's "Closer" will get the job done, even better. But whatever genre lane you prefer, it can do your soul a world of good to listen to some music that settles your spirit.

9. Take a Nap

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Some people like shopping. Others like working out. Me? I like to take naps. I am so serious when I say that I can't think of too many things that I adore more than my bed, bedding and catching some shut eye. It's so real that my friends are used to me saying, "I gotta go. I wanna take a nap."

Now, I will admit that sometimes I sleep too long (which makes it harder to call it a night hours later), but if you're someone who hasn't taken a nap since kindergarten, at least have one on today. There's plenty of research out here which points to the fact that sleeping in the middle of the day can reset your system, make you calmer and more productive as a direct result.

If you're reading this from your desk at work, tell your boss that you think a nap will help you to get more work done. If you add that you're doing it in honor of National Relaxation Day, maybe they'll oblige you. Here's hoping, anyway.

10. GET OFF OF YOUR PHONE

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There's really no point in implementing any of these things if you're gonna have your phone in front of your face the entire time (sigh). I haven't don't extensive research on it (yet), but I'm willing to bet that a part of the reason why stress rates are through the roof for so many is because they have a not-so-low-key cell phone addiction. I mean, with findings like the average person checks theirs 47 times a day, 85 percent look at their phone at least once while engaging other people, and 80 percent of individuals look at their phone within an hour of waking up, my guess really isn't all that much of a leap, is it?

If you can shake your head "yes" to all three of those statistics, one more article that you should check out is "8 Solid Reasons To Put. Your Phone. Down." Yes, our phones are really convenient, but even too much of a good thing can sometimes backfire. And since smartphones are basically mini handheld computers, if you truly want to relax, it's the last thing that you need to be using. Put it down for a couple of hours. Every single thing that you rely on it for will be waiting on you…when you get back from relaxing.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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