In this rat race we call life it’s not always easy to find five minutes of ‘alone time’ or quiet time to unwind and just breathe. But it’s critical to do just that. Slowing down, stepping back from challenging situations and finding time to focus on the joys of life help improve our lives – your blood pressure can lower, you can better make decisions when distanced from a situation, and your overall outlook on life can improve. I know it’s not easy finding those five minutes, let alone 30 minutes. But it can be done. Everyone in today’s society is so quick to go on and on about how busy we are but the reality is we’re not really that busy! We choose to fill our lives; sometimes with things that are required, such as jobs. But there are activities that don’t need to take hours of your time to help you relax and unwind. Don’t we deserve to take care of ourselves? Here are some activities that help release the stress from my life.
1. Close your eyes for 5-10 minutes to visualize a calm scene. I usually picture a soft breeze blowing through a field of bright sunflowers, or multiple horses grazing peacefully in a meadow. Take deep breaths and keep your mind focused on this calming scene. If your mind starts to wander, as mine so often does, bring the focus back to allow you some quiet moments. This activity can be done at your desk, in a parked car (perfect after a hectic day at work!) or most anywhere.
2. Practice yoga. I love yoga in that the breath is the main focus on the practice. Maintaining a clear breath helps focus on your body’s movements and ground you to the moment.
3. Read a book. I have always found books to be a good escape from the crazy of life. I often like to read for a few minutes when I get home work, as a way to decompress and relax after a busy day. When I need a good laugh, I choose fiction authors, such as Sophie Kinsella or Jennifer Crusie. Their books never fail to bring a chuckle. A nonfiction book that had me laughing aloud was Bill Bryson’s Walk In the Woods.
4. Exercise. Lots of studies have found that exercise releases anxiety and stress. My favorite forms of stress-relieving exercise are Zumba, biking, hiking and strength training.
5. Take a hike or bike ride. Fresh air, muscles working and moving scenery cause an instant drop in my stress level. Morning bike rides and hikes are my favorite when there are less people and distractions.
6. Laugh. Truly, there is not much better than the feel and sound of laughter. Especially the belly laugh. Laughter releases so much negativity from your body and mind. I need more laughter in my life.
7. Nap. Even a short nap can help refresh and restart your thoughts.
8. Sex. Yes it’s true. Sex is a great way to unwind and release some stress. Plus, it brings you closer emotionally (and physically, of course) with your partner.
9. Phone a friend. Sometimes there is nothing better than the voice of a caring friend. Some of my best, most relaxing conversations with friends have been about nothing in particular. I think it’s the simple thought of knowing someone is there to connect with and share a bond.
10. Journal. I love to write (a surprise, right?) and find it very refreshing to release my emotions and thoughts to paper. When I have been going through a particularly difficult situation, I sometimes write my thoughts and emotions, then shred the papers. It may sound odd but the act of releasing those emotions to paper, then destroying the paper helped me let go of that challenging situation.
Bonus tip: Find your happy place and go. For some people, there is a quiet spot to escape to from the world. For others, it is an activity. For me, I enjoy a multitude of things but the moment I am at my most relaxed is laying with my husband’s arms around me, talking about nothing important or not talking at all. I can become so relaxed that I sometimes fall asleep! In those moments, I feel safe and my worries are for another moment.
What helps you relax after a long day or challenging situation?