A happy mixed race family of three relaxing on the floor and being playful together.

Chicago Home and Lifestyles – Learning to relax

A happy mixed race family of three relaxing on the floor and being playful together.

We all think we know how to relax, but do we really? We all need more rest than we think but we all aren’t adept at relaxing. We often feel guilty because there are so many things that need to be done. You might think: why am I wasting time relaxing? But especially now when we have barely scratched the surface of the psychological toll of 2020, it’s more important than ever to take some time to relax. Here are a few ways to learn how to relax.

The first thing is to know what relaxes you. Just because an activity is known to be relaxing doesn’t mean it is right for you. Napping or a bubble bath may work for many, but you may find it just boring. Many people find scrolling through social media to be very stressful, but others (like me) find it mindless and relaxing. So ‘relaxing’ does not necessarily mean resting. It can be taking up a hobby or having coffee with a friend! It could even be taking a long walk or hike. Relaxing means the feeling you have “after” the activity. So, you might need to experiment with different activities.

Many of us don’t consider something important unless we put it in our schedule. Schedule your time off, or relaxation time, before anything else and stick to it. If you need a day to just surf TV and veg, just do it! Give yourself permission, it’s ok. Know when it’s time to relax and commit to it. Two hours of real relaxation is always better than 5 hours wandering from activity to activity thinking you are relaxing.

Don’t just relax on the weekend. Sprinkle in smaller times during the week. Sometimes we push ourselves during the week only to binge rest on the weekend. Often, we tend to just numb out on the weekend because we’re exhausted from the week. When you are ready to relax, have some kind of ritual that signifies you are going from work to relaxing mode. I take off my makeup and change into comfortable clothes. You could meditate or take a short walk, whatever works for you!

Remember that rest is not a reward. If we feel that it is, we often feel guilty. We think, when my list is done, I will relax. The problem is our lists are rarely if ever complete. The guilt comes creeping in. If you decide rest is something you earn it is really difficult to feel “deserving” of it. You need to remember that biologically and physically rest is needed. Know that you will be more productive if you are properly rested.

Nowadays we are getting messages from all around how important “self-care” is. Unfortunately, this can actually put more stress on people that they are not doing enough and can cause anxiety. But take relaxing one day at a time and figure out what is best for you. Remember that relaxing is not removing the stressors in the world but putting them at bay for a while.

It is important not to let trying to relax bring more stress to your life. Be kind to yourself. If you are still having a hard time relaxing it might be time to consider talking to a therapist. There are more options than ever to find help online at a price point available to almost everyone.

Kathleen Weaver-Zech and Dean’s Team Chicago