There is no doubt that life is busy these days, and sadly many people simply don’t know how to relax. In just one generation we seem to have lost the concept of a day being divided into 8 hours work, 8 hours rest and 8 hours play.
Throw in social media and a flurry of posts depicting nutritionally balanced artistic looking meals and lots of individuals in active wear celebrating physical activity achievements. Giving us the false impression that health and wellbeing is about perfectionism. Then for us to create balance and relaxation, enters the concept of self-care! Great idea….but where on earth does a working mum like myself fit in that 20 minute soak in the bath or establish child-free time to meditate or do breathing exercises without being interrupted by kids and Hubby or, worse still, risk falling asleep?
Unfortunately we never put relaxation on our to-do list or in the diary. And, if by some chance of a miracle some R&R is scheduled in, it is admittedly the first thing to be cancelled if life gets too busy. The truth is it should be a daily non-negotiable for our wellbeing.
The good news is it doesn’t have to be time consuming, we can simply add in a few moments to each day. Chances are you may have meditative, mindful activities in your daily routine already without realising. Let’s take a closer look at some simple strategies to ensure mindfulness and relaxation can easily be a part of your busy schedule.
Breathing Exercises– don’t need to be complicated and don’t have to require downloading an app. One of my favourites is ‘square breathing’. It is simple and easy to remember and can literally be done anywhere at any time. For example,sitting in the traffic or whilst taking a shower. Simply chose a number, say 4, then;
- Inhale for the count of 4
- Hold for the count of 4
- Exhale for the count of 4
- And again, hold for the count of 4
- Repeat for a few consecutive rounds
Ensure you are breathing through your nose and breathe deep down into your diaphragm. A minute or two, or a few rounds, is enough to reset your stress response. You can do it whenever you are feeling stressed but, better still, I encourage you to commit to a few rounds each day as this will help you retrain your brain to breathe more efficiently overall.
Singing, Whistling or Humming – if breathing exercises don’t take your fancy the good news is that when we sing, whistle of hum we are essentially doing breathing exercises without realising. Making sound also stimulates our larynx and pharynx which stimulates our vagus nerve (the part of the nervous system that assists with the relaxation response). If you have children, they will love that you want to sing in the car or get involved the next time they are watching Playschool.
Exercise – does not always need to be vigorous and exhausting. Why not consider some exercise in your week that also ticks off your relaxation requirements at the same time. The obvious choice for combining exercise and relaxation is yoga, and places like WonderYoga will ensure you feel relaxed as soon as you walk in the door (and you are guaranteed to feel even better after your class). A little walk in your lunch break could be considered a form of both exercise and relaxation to break up your workday or, again, how about a dance in the living room with your kids? Whatever you choose, just ensure you let your mind switch off for a bit.
Flow –is the new buzz word of the psychology world, although developed in the 1970s it has re-emerged in positive psychology practises and is even being taught in some of our local schools. Let’s face it, meditation and mindfulness can be challenging at times. I believe that the concept of flow acknowledges this by allowing mindfulness to be an ordinary every day activities. The only parameter is that the activity allows us to be in “the zone”. Hobbies such as creative outlets are a good example, but daily tasks such as cooking a meal, walking the dog, hand washing the dishes and even housework can be considered FLOW. Just be sure it is an activity that has you fully absorbed in what you are doing – brain-food so to speak.
Do Nothing At All –this one is by far the hardest way to relax regardless of it sounding the easiest. How often do you truly sit and do nothing, no phone in your hand, no tv or radio chattering away in the background and no multi-tasking? Just stopping and pausing at some point in your day has huge benefits. Again, let’s be creative with ways to accomplish this with your current routine…perhaps have your morning cuppa sitting in silence, spend a few extra moments in the shower letting the water wash over you or simply step outside into the fresh air and just breath for a few minutes. Simply pausing is a form of relaxation in itself.
See, it really isn’t that hard. You don’t have to put off relaxation until your busy schedule allows time for self-care. Simply review your daily routine and consider what healthy habits might allow you to put the brakes on a little in your day. Your health and wellbeing will benefit enormously.
As they say, ‘small steps can lead to big changes’.