Unwinding, A Master Class–Part 2
Sharpen your saw
When a saw blade becomes dull, you put way more work into it than necessary. So it is with you. We’ve talked on this space before about relaxation, and how important it is to practice it as a skill, but it’s high time to revive the topic with some reflections on how to improve your relaxation practice in every area of your life.
The most important work
Unstring your bow, sharpen your saw, whatever analogy you like to use, these metaphors are trying to teach us something about relaxation, and it’s this: relaxation is a form of work–the kind of work that helps you work better. It’s time we start treating it as such. Don’t believe me? Work means change! If you’re doing relaxation well, there should be some change from the beginning of it to the end.
Further, you put yourself to the task for a specific purpose. Unwinding helps you get perspective on your life in a holistic way. True, you need to relax to work most efficiently, but you’re not just a cog in some machine–you’re a multifaceted, complex creature. Sometimes just the right kind of relaxation can help you remember that.
You can pace yourself. Small and incremental change is still change, and it has a sort of compound interest effect as the days add up. The results may be small at first, but they can accumulate over time. Long vacations give you the advantage of being able to go deep in your self-care, but don’t dismiss the benefits of doing a little every day. Establishing habits of self care and relaxation can enrich your life in ways you can’t yet know.
Just as not all stress is the same, so not all relaxation is the same. You need to take that into account before you choose what kind of relaxation you pursue.
Rest the body
This is where regular massage comes in and can be of most benefit to you. The body is put through it’s own stresses, regardless of your activity level, and you need to care for it.
Relax by … moving?
Exercise can be immensely relaxing–not because of how you feel while doing it, necessarily, but how you feel afterwards. Yoga practitioners will talk your ear off about how soothing it is on the nerves, and how good it is for stabilizing both your body and your mood. What any kind of exercise does for you is that it puts your body through stress in small, tolerable portions. When your body goes through this regularly, it grows stronger in order to adapt to this regular, tolerable stress. When something big hits, like a major stressful event, your body is better able to cope with what’s happening, and recovers from the shock of it more quickly.
That aside, a there’s no body more relaxed than a body that’s been thoroughly worked out. If you don’t feel as weak as a kitten coming out of the gym, you might not be getting as much out of the experience as you could.
Regular massage can also play a key role in helping your body recover from exercise and help you get the most out of your workouts. Not to mention that it feels great.
Have you thought of eating as relaxation? It really can be! But it’s not about eating for entertainment–that’s a different thing. Sweets and comfort foods may feed the soul, but a good, nutritious meal can be truly relaxing to your body in the sense that it can prepare your body to do its work better.
A meal that’s truly relaxing to your system
- tastes good
- is well-balanced, both in terms of portions and nutrition
- is light enough to not stress your digestive system
Foodies all over the world are discovering that not only can this kind of eating be good for you, it can be an amazing sensory experience, and an adventure that’s well worth having. What’s more, they’re eager to share what they’ve tasted and how to make it.
Go ahead and add some novelty to the foods you choose when it’s time to party, keeping in mind that what your body really wants is a balance of flavors incorporating whole grains, green vegetables, and lean meat or proteins. Your body will thank you.
Close your eyes and take a deep breath right now. Doesn’t that feel good? Taking care of your breath, and learning to breathe deeply is key to helping your body stay relaxed and help you cope with stress as it comes. Activities like aerobic exercise, massage, and meditation can all help you improve your breathing. Pursue improving your breath with intention, and every day will begin to feel like a gift.
The bottom line with relaxing the body is that your body is after balance. You can’t just live on wheat grass and water all the time, and you can’t expect to stay healthy if your body is under constant strain with no rest or variation. The opposite is also true. Always eating the same things and always doing the same things with your body creates stress and wear over time. Remember that your body is that of an animal–it needs a natural balance of rest and activity, feast and fasting to truly thrive.
Rest the mind
Expel the demons! It can be helpful to feed your mind with something other than the worries of the day. There’s something about humans that makes us crave stories. We want our heart strings pulled and our senses shocked. But make your catharsis meaningful. Whether it’s video games, movies, or a long-form television drama, use with moderation, and make sure the morals, meanings, and messages reflect your values. Entertainment can be a test drive for your emotions. What are you preparing your emotions to do? What kinds of reactions are you training your brain to have to different situations?
Reading, writing, learning
Similar to the exercise you put your body through, reading, writing and learning are necessary ways to exercise the powers of the mind. Is it stressful to the mind to learn something new, or to concentrate the powers of expression and reason? Absolutely. But it’s stressful in the mild, strengthening way exercise is helpful to the body.
Journaling or other creative writing has been shown to benefit health in surprising ways. University of Texas Austin psychologist and researcher contends that journaling actually strengthens the immune cells known as T-lymphocytes. It can also just help you cope with the challenges you’re facing, giving you insights about yourself you might not otherwise discover. It can also help you set aside unproductive worrying and focus your work time more effectively.
Relaxation is a skill you can spend your life improving on and enjoying. Pursue it with gusto and intention rather just going through the motions.
Choose the good life.
Tom Gunn is the blog editor and Marketing Director for The Good Life Massage. You can reach him to help you develop your brand with content marketing by reaching out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org