One of my biggest pet peeves is when people tell me to “just relax”. Ha – if relaxing were that easy we would all feel rejuvenated by the time Sunday evening rolls around, except how many of us can really attest to that? I know I can’t.
As it turns out, there’s a right and wrong way to relax. According to Gail Gaspar, an executive coach and career strategist based in Washington, D.C., my go-to method of sitting on the couch and trolling through Instagram isn’t doing me much good. If this is the case, then what should we be doing to maximize our time off from work in order to relax in such a way that leaves us feeling invigorated for when we have to be on?
Find the right relaxation practice
Gaspar says we often make the mistake of thinking the adrenaline kick we get from engaging in social media or online shopping is recharging our batteries when in reality it’s not. This is because true relaxation involves tending to our inner states. As a result, when we turn to people, technology, or material things outside of ourselves to help us relax, we don’t attain the same level of calm and clarity, she explains.
Her advice to clients is to ask themselves what’s one thing they’d really like to be doing that isn’t consumptive? For many of them it’s something as simple as enjoying a cup of tea everyday for ten minutes without any interruptions, while for someone else it’s gardening or reading a novel. The key is to pick an activity you truly enjoy so it becomes a ritual that will bring you joy. Don’t know where to begin? Gaspar suggests writing in a gratitude journal, taking a nice hot bath or shower, or completing a guided meditation.
Start small and schedule it in
The last thing you want to do is feel like a failure when it comes to relaxation. For this reason, you should set small, manageable relaxation goals for yourself so you’re motivated to keep at it. It’s unrealistic to think you’re going to relax the entire weekend, but setting aside two hours of “me” time every Saturday morning is doable says Fernanda Bressan, a life and business coach located in Miami, Fl. If you’re doubtful you’ll be able to stick to your plan, Gaspar recommends telling someone you trust about your goals and asking them to check in with you so you’re held accountable.
Both coaches highly recommend scheduling in relaxation just like you would a conference call so you can commit to it with the same amount of diligence. And because you wouldn’t post on Snapchat during a meeting (at least we hope you wouldn’t!), it’s important to avoid multi-tasking during your relaxation time as well. “The less you multi-task during your leisure time the better you are able to perform when you’re actually working,” says Bressan.
Set boundaries and don’t be afraid to say no
Prior to becoming a life and business coach, Bressan owned her own mortgage banking business and had clients who wanted her to be available to them at all hours. Eventually, she had enough and told them she was no longer taking calls or emails outside of regular working hours. To her surprise, they respected her decision; and to think all it took was a little honest communication. Without clear boundaries, it’s impossible to be completely present when you’re trying to relax during your off hours, says Bressan. Consequently, when you’re not fully present because you’re thinking about an email you may receive from work, you won’t reap the full the benefits of relaxation. It’s why come Sunday night you don’t feel rejuvenated despite having tried to decompress.
Bressan says we often get in our own way because we don’t establish limits and we’re afraid of saying no. However, saying no is actually very healthy. She tells her clients to think of saying no to somebody else as a way of saying yes to yourself. “If you don’t take care of yourself first then you can’t take care of others, whether it’s professionally or your family,” she points out.
Perhaps this will be the weekend I put my phone away, pick up that book I’ve been meaning to read, and finally relax. It’s going to take commitment on my behalf, but I think it’s high time relaxation and I develop a lasting relationship.