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Learn to Relax and Recharge Within Your Crazy Busy Life

To survive your too-busy life, you must become skilled at recharging.

Source: StockSnap/Pixabay

Is your life so busy that you find it hard to relax when you finally get the chance? You’re not alone. Some people are so wound up and stressed that they feel even more stressed when they finally catch a break.

If you’re not used to taking downtime and don’t know how to be strategic with it, thoughts or feelings like this can come up:

I feel guilty, shouldn’t I be doing something right now? I’m getting more behind as I sit here.

This feels uncomfortable; I’d probably be better off getting more stuff done.

Oh no, I only have a half-hour break, and it’s half gone… I’m wasting it trying to decide what to do.

This isn’t helpful; I’m just bored.

A few years ago, I worked with a coaching client who was used to working long hours, seven days a week. She was always doing and was suffering from severe burnout. It was so clear that she needed to stop, but she confessed that she didn’t know how. She’d been work- and task-oriented so long that she'd lost the ability to stop and do something enjoyable, restful, and restorative.

First, we decided she'd take Sundays off. She didn’t have a plan, though. Because she'd forgotten how to relax and enjoy life, she felt bored, uncomfortable, and more stressed.

There are people who will read this that won’t have sympathy for this kind of situation. For sure, there are far worse problems in this world. Still, as someone who coaches high-output leaders, I’ve seen a lot of damage done by our pervasive all-work/no-play way of life, especially in certain industries.

Bodies fail, minds fail, marriages fail, careers crash. Humans just can’t go indefinitely without resting. Something bad will happen, and it will negatively impact others around you.

In a culture so focused on productivity and getting ahead, those who learned to perform and achieve from our youngest days may have minimal skills or insight when it comes to relaxing and recharging. We may also have been taught to judge “idle” time as lazy or self-indulgent. I see this all the time.

Here’s my approach:

1. Get clear on why you need to make time for rest.

If you’ve been running yourself ragged and know you need to rest more, but slam into guilt or discomfort whenever you think about slowing down, you need to fully get why rest is essential.

Ask yourself these questions:

What will the consequences be to you and those you love if you keep pushing without adequate rest?

What symptoms or negative consequences have you been noticing as a result of pushing too hard without enough rest? (Poor sleep? Headaches or muscle tension? Personality or mood changes? More frequent illnesses? A resentful spouse? The potential list is a long one.)

What would some of the benefits be if you got even just a little bit more rest?

If you’re prone to feeling guilty about taking breaks or time off, imagine how being more rested would benefit others around you. How might it even benefit your performance at work? If you're honest with yourself, you know it would. Tired, depleted people can't perform at their best.

Knowing why you absolutely must take time to rest will help you get past unhelpful, irrational feelings of guilt or discomfort. (After all, if you saw someone you loved pushing themselves without any time to recharge, getting more and more exhausted, I'm pretty sure you’d encourage them to take a break now and then.)

2. Have a go-to list of different ways you can recharge.

My client had to re-learn how to relax. It had been so long that she had to dig into her memory banks to remember what she used to enjoy.

One thing we came up with was reading. She used to love to read science fiction.

We turned this into a rather lovely assignment. She lived in a small town, and on her day off, she was to go to a charming bookstore that was within walking distance. Her goal was to find a book or two that she might like to read and buy something. Next, she was to go home, curl up on the couch, and read.

At first, she felt fidgety and restless as she tried to read. Soon, though, reading on a Sunday afternoon became her favorite way to relax. She also enjoyed playing video games and walking her dog.

If you’re a busy person with a fast-paced life, you need to have a handful of simple relaxation go-to’s in your back pocket that you can pull out (quick!) when you catch a break. The key: They have to work for you and fit into your life.

Some ideas for shorter breaks:

  • Have an app on your phone that guides you through short relaxation exercises (have earbuds at the ready).
  • Keep favorite tea bags on hand; make a cup of tea and sip quietly while you relax.
  • Go outside to a nearby spot that you enjoy; sit, unplug, and enjoy being there.
  • Have another app on your phone with reading material that you enjoy, and use it to escape briefly.
  • Listen to music or soothing sounds (more apps for that!) while you rest.
  • Go for a short stroll.

Some ideas for longer breaks:

  • Have a hobby or something that you enjoy doing, that’s accessible and ready to go.
  • Take a bath or shower, allowing yourself to really relax and unwind.
  • Spend time in nature.
  • Listen to a (non-work-related, ideally) podcast or audiobook.
  • Do a physical activity that you enjoy, and that relieves stress.

3. Take effective vacations.

Make use of any vacation time you have. You don't even have to leave home, but know what recharges you.

Because my life is busy, the last thing I need is a vacation that’s packed with activity and scheduled things. I recharge best when the days are mine to flow with. I need to have space to have a long nap at any time if the mood hits. I'm not a natural napper, so when I nod off while reading in the middle of the day, that's my sign that I'm truly unwinding.

Rest and relaxation are serious business. Your ability to recharge effectively (under a variety of circumstances) will have a significant impact on your physical and mental health. It can make or break your ability to live a successful, impactful, and productive life.

Thankfully, it's quite pleasant to practice and get really good at relaxing. You could probably use a few more pleasant things in your life, I would bet.

Copyright 2019 Dr. Susan Biali Haas