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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 isThe 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:

"Team No Sleep" Is A Ridiculous Concept

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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