I’m learning how to relax for the first time in my life. It’s sounds
crazy but no one, not even parents, taught me how to relax. And things
that could be relaxing (videogames, reading, playing, talking) were
given a negative value because they weren't seen as productive. One of
the symptoms of not relaxing is the inability to let go of things.
Another is a mind that races when trying to fall asleep.
A good friend suggested that I try to relax by doing something simple, something that doesn’t involve activating my brain. Aha! I suggested that I could play more videogames to relax. Nope, she admitted, that usually activates the brain because it is goal-oriented. It’s the same with reading a book, unless that book is fairly mindless drivel. See, I’m the type of person that goes to the beach, sits down and thinks, “okay, yeah, I’m relaxing. Sure. But I should probably be doing something useful.” And that’s the problem. All my life I’ve been trained to be goal-oriented and now someone is telling me that, to relax, I need to do something without a goal.
I was stumped. I felt stupid but I needed her to provide a concrete example. She said to think about doing something simple with just your 5 senses. Sometimes focusing on just one sense, and sometimes mixing them. For instance, smell something that makes you feel pleasant and just focus on that for a few minutes. Buy something you like the flavour of, taste it, and savour that flavour. It’s not about thinking about the pleasant flavour, it is about experiencing the pleasantness. And we’ve all been there. Maybe it is a colour you love to look at. Why is it pleasant? Who knows, it just is. So find that colour and look at it for a couple minutes.
I’ll admit, my current relaxation technique is not completely fulfilling
my friend’s suggestion. But it works for me at this moment, so that’s
what matters. I have found success in counting my breaths (in my head).
I find I need to keep track of things in numerical format, and I’m not going to prevent me from doing that. In this case, I just breath normally and count for each inhale and exhale. If I’m breathing faster, that’s fine too. There’s no goal or pattern I’m hoping to meet. If my mind drifts and I forget the count, that’s okay too. I start again at 1 with no judgement. If I make it to 100, I start from 1 again as I find counting “one hundred and one” takes more than the normal breath to think.
Since starting two weeks ago, my relaxation technique is working wonders. I use it to fall asleep faster (rather than lying awake for two hours) and to calm myself when I’m in a situation known to induce anxiety. When I have difficult decisions at work or in life, I find the relaxation technique doesn't work 100%, but I try not to fret. It is just a technique that takes time to master, and sometimes my mind just needs to process the worry and move past it. The technique helps mostly by putting a cap on the amount of anxiety or rushing thoughts that happen.
If you can relate to these words, I hope that you find a technique that works for you. Just like buying new clothes, you may have to try a few things out first before it fits. Once you do find something that fit, it will feel great. Best of luck!