I am on a bit of a yoga and relaxation kick at the moment. I used to think that I was just too fidgety and impatient to get any of the benefits of those activities that are supposed to relax you; yoga classes, meditation, even soaking in a long, hot bath – I couldn’t switch my mind off for long enough to enjoy it. I always had a sneaking suspicion that I could be better using all that time doing something more useful and productive than ‘just’ relaxing.
Gradually, the lack of time for myself crept up on me. I was getting stressed out by things that I would usually take in my stride and at the end of one long, hard week when I was feeling particularly sorry for myself, I realised that I had been overloaded and exhausted for months. I was burning out, living for my days off (which I then spent pretty much comatose because I was too exhausted to do much else) and spending a lot of time fantasising about spa days and long, lazy holidays.
It was actually while I was taking a not-very-long-but-extremely-lazy holiday that I had time to think about this properly. In the run up to the holiday I was seized by fear of missing out and spent hours on Tripadvisor researching the best activities and must-see destinations, but after spending the first couple of days doing nothing more strenuous moving between my sun lounger by the pool to my sun lounger on the beach, I realised that my normal attitude to relaxation is extremely stupid. I don’t need to wait until I’m completely knackered to have a rest, or until I’m injured to enjoy a yoga class – time spent relaxing has an intrinsic value, it’s not all about putting up with a boring activity so I can do something more energetic in the near future and it is definitely not a waste of time.
I also realised that I don’t need to spend a lot of money on a spa break or expensive treatments to relax – it is surely be much more effective to build this time into my normal routine, making relaxation a simple and sustainable habit rather than a big production every few months. With this in mind, I am consciously building time for myself into my schedule every week. I have been attending restorative yoga classes twice a week and although the first class felt more like being guided through an hour long nap than any kind of exercise, I was feeling the positive effects for days afterwards. I’m also trying really hard not to follow my normal pattern of behaviour, which would be to rush headlong into a time specific challenge with a physical goal at the end (like 30 Days To Advanced Wheel Pose! or something similar) and start feeling stressed about achieving it. Of course there is nothing wrong with having a target in mind and following a structured plan in order to reach it, but I have so much of that in other areas of my life that I want to keep my yoga practice as free and easy as possible. I’m also looking for other smaller ways to bring the chilled out holiday vibe into my daily life, perhaps doing a DIY digital detox or at least unplugging for a couple of hours every day.
What part does rest play in your work/life balance? What do you do to relax and do you find it easy to switch off?