Musing

Relax Hard

I’ve been working hard at relaxing today. It’s not a skill I’ve used a lot in the recent years, and I’m out of practice. Just like exercise, you may find that if you don’t make an effort to laze around, it gets really difficult to do. 

I know this may sound odd, but I’m not writing with tongue firmly in cheek here. For many years, I’ve joked (but was really serious) that I am a recovering workaholic. This past year, I slipped back into old habits, old anxieties, like pulling on the comfy sweatpants of nonstop effort and spinning my wheels until I’d fall down sick because if I wasn’t going to schedule time off, my body was going to get the necessary downtime in other ways. 

Now that we are finally in a place that my lizardbrain has decided is safe, it’s time to break those habits again. One at a time: diet, exercise, and rest. The trifecta. The three things that can break a human, given enough time and dysfunction. There’s another factor, but I think that’s a post for another time, as I haven’t been struggling with it as much recently: purpose. 

The diet and the exercise seem obvious. The rest? Not always so easy to see. Don’t get me wrong. Today was a relaxed and laid back day and I: watered the plants, dealt with laundry, unpacked a box of random stuff and put it away, dealt with another box that needed to be packed and set aside for a future garage sale, made a big meal, cleaned up after it… and I also went out for breakfast with my husband and friends. I laid down in the afternoon and dozed, read, dozed and finally just read until it was time to start cooking dinner. It felt wonderful. It was not easy to do. 

I’ve chosen Sunday as my rest day for many reasons. One, Saturdays always seem to be a whirl of activity. Two, it’s traditional, and many times traditions hold up to scrutiny when you really dig into them. Third, it lets me start my workweek on a high note rather than sliding into it ragged and exhausted. I’d like to give my job my best. For someone else, another day might work better. Schedule one day a week, and try it out for at least a month, if not six weeks. See if it doesn’t make an improvement in your mental and physical outlook. 

Something I can’t recommend enough is that, like diet and exercise, having an accountability partner/group is very helpful to prolonged habit building. In my case, friends gently but oh-so-firmly made the case that I was killing myself by constant runrunrun and only falling down sick when I had no options and beating myself up until I could stagger out of bed and back into the fray. I thought I was giving my family what they needed from me at this time by never taking time for myself. It feels selfish – I won’t lie, I very much felt selfish and hedonistic today curling up in bed reading – but contrariwise, you are doing something they need. Not only are you more whole and capable in general, but you’re modeling for them that it’s ok to stop and smell the roses. Or read. Whatever works. I do both, depending. 

The inner dilemma of ‘there are things! That must be done!’ may take a while to eliminate. If I ever do. But by having done it today, and sitting here in the evening with a clean kitchen, full and happy people in the house, and a desk ready for work tomorrow, I’m pleased with the effort of having relaxed. Now! To write! Fiction, that is. 

6 thoughts on “Relax Hard

  1. God rested on the Seventh Day.

    Do you think that you don’t need to rest thus that you’re “better” than God? 😉

  2. Yeah, I’ve been out of academia for two years now and it’s really hard not to feel guilty for not doing some sort of work on the weekends. I’m getting there.

  3. When I retired, it took about six months before I finally caught on that all day does not require me doing something. I now have the ability to sleep until I wake up (unless taking Mom to a medical appt), decide if I feel like doing a chore today or not, and simply enjoying idleness. My stress level dropped to zero for the most part and being sick is a rarity.

    Sky’s up, dirt’s down — life is excellent.

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