How to relax... and improve your health, joy, and productivity
“Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer.” – Leonardo Da Vinci
I do NOT feel like doing this right now. I can’t even focus for longer than five seconds. Maybe I’ll just take a break. Watch an episode on Netflix, make myself some tea, go for a walk. See if my friend is around for coffee. Maybe I’ll just take the whole afternoon off and pick this up tomorrow.
We’ve all been here before. The big question: is it procrastination or relaxation?
I don’t know about you, but I struggle to relax without feeling guilty about all the things I “should” be doing. Especially with a ever-present business looming in the background pulling at my resources, I often find myself in a place where it’s difficult to tell whether I’m relaxing or procrastinating… so I choose to feel bad about it either way.
I finally gained clarity in this area while supporting a friend with his own struggles. You know how your greatest moments of wisdom appear when you’re in the service of others? It was like that. He was dealing with a lot of pressure coming from multiple directions. After listening to him, I said, “It sounds like you have a lot going on. I get that once you create these circumstances, it’s hard to see your way out of the jungle. Let yourself be quiet. Your solutions will appear when you’ve created space for them.” The truth of my own words sent vibrations down my spine.
We tend to have more compassion and forgiveness for others than ourselves, which is why our clarity and gentleness show up when we’re around other people. I decided to turn this compassion towards myself, and I realized a few things I want to share with you. Especially in sleepy August when the sun is out and things are slow, I want to see you truly, genuinely recharging and having some old-fashioned fun.
Procrastination is not an avoidance of work. It’s an avoidance of stress. When I procrastinate, I numb out my deeper feelings through eating, drinking, and sleeping a lot. Other people I’ve talked to binge-watch TV series in an attempt to dive into another reality and escape their stress. These activities can look a lot like relaxation, but they definitely don’t feel like relaxation. They feel like temporary band-aides of numbness. You know that when the meal is over, the alarm goes off, or the episode ends, the stress monster will be waiting for you. This is because nothing has changed.
If procrastination is an avoidance of stress, what is relaxation? Relaxation is misunderstood. It doesn’t mean checking out, shirking your responsibilities, or doing nothing at all. It means actively pursuing activities that quiet your mind and bring you joy. A good form of relaxation is to reconnect with your body and let your mind chill out for a while, whether that means meditation, exercise, or going for a long walk and leaving your phone behind. Mental pursuits for their own sake are also relaxing… sitting in the shade outside and reading a good book, strumming your guitar, sketching and listening to music, cooking a time-consuming dish, gardening, or meeting up with a good friend and having a few laughs without dwelling on work.
Because identifying the dividing line between procrastinating and relaxing is difficult for me, I’ve made a few changes in my life to make it easier. I created a division of space in my home by moving my office downstairs, so I can relax upstairs without being reminded of work. I moved my phone charger into my kitchen so that my room is for relaxation only, and I set my phone to “Do Not Disturb” after 7pm so people have to call twice for it to ring. I have consistent meditation and journaling rituals that help me be present and aware each morning. This helps me stay grounded when I feel overwhelmed, to recognize the symptoms of procrastination when they come up, and to allow my mind to rest when it needs to. Have I sold you yet?
Most importantly, I reach out to people I love. You never ever need to be a one-woman army. I have people in my life who are absolutely in my corner. I open up to them and I ask them to support me. This helps me release some of my negative energy and transform it into self-love… because most people, in their infinite wisdom, offer love to those in trouble. A lot of the time the people I confide in are going through the same thing, and we can offer support for one other.
Today, divide a piece of paper into two columns. On one side, make a list of things you do to procrastinate (avoid stress), and things you do to relax and re-invigorate yourself. Notice how reading each list makes you feel. Awareness is the first step to making some positive changes in your life!
What is your most common procrastination activity? What is your favorite way to relax? Share with us below!