Sometimes when we’re exhausted, we gravitate toward activities that drain us even more. Or we think we don’t deserve to take a break, so we ignore our body’s whispers for rest. But only in helping ourselves can we help others and do good...
Sometimes when we’re exhausted, we gravitate toward activities that drain us even more. Or we think we don’t deserve to take a break, so we ignore our body’s whispers for rest. But only in helping ourselves can we help others and do good work.
Just in time for the long Memorial Day weekend, here are 20 ways that can truly help you relax, refresh and recharge.
And, if you don’t think you have the time to unwind, don’t worry! Many of these activities take just a few minutes.
1. Use your breath.
We often forget to focus on the simplest, shortest (and one of the most restorative) activities available to us: our breath. Yoga teacher Anna Guest-Jelley suggested taking five deep breaths. “As you do, notice the natural pause between your inhale and exhale, and then between your exhale and your next inhale. Your body has a built-in break — how great is that?!”
2. Release the tension in your jaw.
“Many of us carry tension in our jaw, often unknowingly,” said Guest-Jelley, also a body empowerment educator and founder of Curvy Yoga. To loosen the tension, “open your mouth wide for half a minute or so, breathing naturally through your nose. When you feel you’ve stretched a bit, allow your mouth to gently close.”
3. Tend to yourself.
“When I need to rest and restore, I tend,” said Rachel W. Cole, a life coach and retreat leader. She defines tending as “care with intention.” And it can take many forms. Cole tends to her home by cleaning the sheets, washing windows and “getting rid of unused and unloved items.” She tends to her body with a “hot bath, self-massage and a dab of perfume.”
She also whips up delicious and nourishing meals in her kitchen. And on some days, she tends to her finances and “need for a walk in the sunshine. Tending brings calm, order, and a deep reminder that I’m cared for and safe.”
(Cole shares other ideas for tending to yourself in this post.)
Some people like to unwind by writing pages in their journal, said Lisa Kaplin, PsyD, a life coach who helps her clients during particularly stressful times in their lives and teaches stress management classes to corporations. Others prefer to jot down one or two lines about their day, she said. But if this becomes another task on your to-do list, skip it, she added.
5. Make a list of the day’s triumphs.
Other people like to write down what they’re grateful for, Kaplin said. This is especially helpful for relaxing. “When we’re stressed, we tend to focus on everything that is going wrong, which makes it even harder to unwind,” said Natasha Lindor, a coach and founder of The AND Factor who helps professionals have a successful career while working less and living more. She suggested writing down the top three good things that happen to you today.
Can’t think of anything? Focus on the seemingly small things. In her book How to Train a Wild Elephant & Other Adventures in Mindfulness: Simple Daily Mindfulness Practices for Living Life More Fully & Joyfully, author Jan Chozen Bays, M.D., suggests focusing on your hands:
“Some Zen teachers say that the way the body takes care of us, without our even being aware of it, is an example of the beautiful and continuous functioning of our Original Nature, the inherent goodness and wisdom of our being. Our hand pulls back from fire before we even register heat, our eyes blink before we are aware of a sharp sound, our hand reaches out to catch something before we know it is falling.”
6. Get clear on what you need to do.
It’s hard to unwind when our thoughts keep returning to our endless to-do lists, Kaplin said. “Get clear by sitting down for a few moments, making a list of what can be done today and in what order and then let the rest go until the next day.”
7. Identify what you can and can’t control.
Getting clear also includes focusing on what you can and can’t control. That’s what Kaplin does when she feels stressed and overwhelmed. “I think about precisely what I’m concerned about [and] then as