You’ve had a long day. Your muscles are tired from sitting hunched over a laptop and you can feel the tension creeping up into your temples causing a slow, dull ache.
Shutting your laptop with a snap, you walk into the bathroom, light a couple candles and turn the hot water on.
With the tub filled to the brim you slowly dip your feet into the warm water, lowering your whole body until you’re fully submerged. Ahhhhh…
Close your eyes. Breathe deeply. In.. then out… In then…
Suddenly your eyes open.
You look around at the candles and the bath and remember the paper you have to finish and the readings you haven’t done. You try to tell yourself that it’s okay to relax once in a while, but your thoughts keep swirling back to your thesis statement and how you feel like it’s starting to fall apart in the third paragraph of that essay you’re supposed to write.
We live in a world that tells us that taking time for ourselves is selfish and lazy. Where having a 4.0 GPA is more important than mental health and landing a high-paying career takes priority over spending time with family and friends.
The guilt we feel about taking time off to relax has been forced in our heads by a society that cares more about what’s on our resumes than what’s in our hearts. We simply can’t turn it all off — there is always something we are supposed to be doing. Which is why we all need to learn how to relax.
It took me four years of university to finally learn how to unplug. And when I mean unplug, I don’t just mean put my books away and stop working on my schoolwork and emails. I mean airplane-mode kind of turning off.
Whenever I feel like I need a break, I try to step away from everything I’m doing and be mindful of how I’m feeling so I can choose the right way to relax. Do I feel stressed out? Maybe it’s time to bring out the watercolours and calm my brain with a quiet hour of art journaling. Do I have a headache? A hot bath with Epsom salts and a cup of peppermint tea will do the trick.
I like to think of these moments as productive relaxing. This might sound a little crazy because we’re all under the impression that relaxing is supposed to be unproductive, but stay with me…
This idea of productive relaxation means listening to your body. Take note of the reasons why you need a break, and use the time to do things that will make you feel recharged and refreshed. This could mean going for a walk or to the gym. Indulge by taking a bath and listening to your favourite podcast, playing an instrument or taking a nap.
Whatever works for you.
It’s about taking the time to let your brain focus on something that makes you happy. Not only will you feel recharged and ready to tackle your to-do list, but you’ll also have the satisfaction of saying that you finished a book or got in a great workout.
We know that taking time to relax increases our productivity levels and sex drive, helps maintain a healthy weight and your overall mental health. If you think of it that way, relaxing is actually necessary to being a functional and happy human. So let’s unplug, get rid of the guilt we feel over taking a moment for ourselves, and relish in the thought of doing absolutely nothing.
On that note, I’m going to run a bath with my favourite LUSH bath bomb, and you should too.
*originally published on the Dal Gazette*