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
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
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
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
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)
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)
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
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
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
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
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.
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