Learning to Relax

“ People say they are so busy doing the “shoulds” – whether that is working, caring for family or being a part of demanding friendships – that by the time an evening or weekend comes around when they might do what they want, there is no energy or motivation left for anything but “flopping out”. That’s a difficulty because how is life enjoyable or satisfying in the long term if you’re only doing what you should do the whole time?”

– Rachel Andrew, Clinical Psychologist

As the new school year approaches, students have started to get anxious about grades, assignments, exams and many more of the responsibilities that school education makes compulsory for them. Not only students, but generally the whole world is under constant stress at any time. And even when we have plenty of free time, we always look for things to do and somehow make ourselves busy. In fact, the only time we do not do anything is when we are asleep which can also be disturbed by the unstopping thoughts that somehow appear in your head in the middle of the night. These not only take the joy out of life, but they also come back to an individual as mental health disorders which then can lead to physical damages. But all these can and must change in order to enjoy our one and only life by incorporating several habits into our daily routines. 

“ I’ve noticed a rise in my practice, certainly over the last three to five years, of people finding it increasingly difficult to switch off and relax. And it’s across the lifespan, from age 12 to 70.”

– Rachel Andrew, Clinical Psychologist

Relaxing is increasingly difficult in our current always-busy digital world. Most of us had to give up the time where before we were all focusing on ourselves and doing activities that were good for both our mental and physical health. However, now, we have lost the sense of time as the limits are gone. Now, we don’t work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Work period finishes, but here we have the online systems developing and enforcing new tasks for that late night. Now, we don’t have school from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. School ends, but here we have the online office hours of the teachers which were somehow optional before, but have been made compulsory for the past year. Even when we have found a little time to save for ourselves, we do not know how to do so. 

“ Whenever I have any downtime, I feel as if I am panicking a bit or trying to plan the next thing.”

– Gwen Stefani, American musician

The overall situation of always being in search of things to do is called “restlessness”. It refers to a situation, not to confuse with mental disorders, where an individual cannot spend time sitting idle and gets bored after a few minutes of doing so. It is common among today’s populations, especially in those individuals who are dealing with stressful conditions, not incorporating meditative exercises into their daily routines, and consuming over the normal dose of certain supplements such as caffeine. These people tend to have difficulty managing their time and plans, and thus have an unorganized social and work life. So, how can you determine whether you are dealing with restlessness or not? There are common behavioral symptoms that you can look for: hyperactivity, agitation, tapping feet or hands, impulsivity, distractibility and insomnia. If you are dealing with several of the symptoms above, it is better to see a mental health professional since restlessness could lead to several mental disorders such as anxiety, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), autism, bipolar disorders, and depression. 

We might look from another perspective and say that restlessness is actually beneficial because you get more tasks done in one day. Sorry, that’s not the case. Research findings have shown that people who are so exhausted and overwhelmed with non-relaxing tasks tend to experience dissociation. Dissociation is when your mind does not accept more workload and you totally zone out, not knowing what you’ve been doing for all the time that passed. Basically, while you think you are getting more things done, you just waste the precious time that you could spend listening to music or going out for a little walk.

But, there are always ways to deal with your problems, we just have to learn them. For so long, we have forgotten our priorities and given the control of ourselves to the hands of digital life. But now, we will remember how to enjoy life and ourselves! Before the classical examples that I will recommend to you below, I want you to go back to your childhood and search for activities that you really enjoyed back then, and then try to find an adult version. If you can, that is for your best interest, pursue that! But if you are not sure, take a deep breath, then here we go. For restlessness and related disorders, one of the things you can do is to increase your physical activity. Any type of exercise such as yoga, working out or playing a sport for at least 30 minutes a day will improve your cognitive behaviour and help reduce stress and anxiety which leads eventually to restlessness. In this context, you can also try meditation and mindfulness practices. They help raise your awareness about how you feel and having absolute honesty about your feelings is an important step. You can also try reducing your intake of certain supplements such as caffeine by changing the cup of coffee or tea you drink in the morning into a glass of water or orange juice. Having an area of interest beside your work or school is also an essential factor to run away from all the complications of life. Finding yourself a hobby such as painting, dancing, or even cleaning would better help than just watching the same TV series over and over again on Netflix. Spending some quality and fun time with family and friends could also be an option. Most of the time, people find expressing their thoughts on paper or to someone else very beneficial in terms of the relaxation it gives. If you’re one of those people, you can consult a mental health professional or simply do journaling each day for five minutes to chalk your thoughts out of your already-so-busy brain. Or simply do whatever you find creative: cook some new recipes, make pottery or simply clean your house. Every single step you take towards yourself will eventually change your wellbeing.

With the COVID-19 pandemic surging the world, people were more in need of some simple source of relaxation. Last year, there was a 13.3% increase in the sales of self-improvement and spiritual guidance books as well as an initial surge in downloading various meditation apps. However, the largest impact you can see on your mental health and relaxation is to drop off the Internet for at least an hour a day. No more words from here on because it is now your turn to close whatever technological device you are reading this article from and go do something you would enjoy.

References

[1] Bhardwaj, Nikita. “Can’t Sit Idle Even for 30 Minutes? This Is What It Says about Your Mental Health.” Healthshots, 31 Jan. 2021, http://www.healthshots.com/mind/mental-health/cant-sit-idle-for-even-30-minutes-you-might-suffer-from-restlessness/. 

[2] ​​Sarner, Moya. “’Learning to Relax Can Be Life-Changing’: How to Find Your Comfort Zone.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 26 Dec. 2018, http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/dec/26/relax-life-changing-how-to-find-comfort-zone. 

[3] “How to Be a Calmer Person.” Benenden Health, 7 Sept. 2021, http://www.benenden.co.uk/be-healthy/mind/how-to-be-a-calmer-person/. 

[4] image only: https://www.dailysabah.com/life/health/3-steps-to-relax-after-a-tough-day-at-work

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