Please help me learn how to actually relax during relaxing time.
November 15, 2010 12:30 PM   Subscribe

Please help me learn how to actually relax during relaxing time.

Every Sunday afternoon, I have an actual real (although usually mild) panic attack because the week is about to start and I HAVEN'T RELAXED YET! Even if I have spent time walking the dog, and reading, and napping, I still never feel rested and relaxed, unless it's on a vacation of a week or so. How can I get to that state in 2 or 3 days?

I don't generally think about work on the weekends, and while I do have plenty of personal projects I don't spend all of my weekend time on them. Somehow, though, I've forgotten how to actually relax, and can only think of all the things I want to get done and how much I need to relax, and how I can't do either. Please help me wind down!
posted by lemonade to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
make a pot of tea and light some candles. try doing yoga/meditating. sometimes you have to work on being relaxed. it's hard at first, but gets easier with practice, like everything else.
posted by sabh at 12:42 PM on November 15, 2010

It's a common error to think that we're in control of our minds.

Instead, picture your mind as a small yappy dog or a fractious toddler.

It will run around thinking of things, jumping from idea to idea.

Don't let it.

Sit somewhere comfortable, breathe in and out, close your eyes.

YOU'LL THINK OF SOMETHING OMG OMG now don't try and stop thinking of it - that will never work. Instead, take that thought and hold it.

Think of it from all angles, sort of just regarding it. When it tries to dance away and be replaced by something else, pull it back. Don't think of its implications, don't think of related things, think of it.

Eventually it will dissolve. Enjoy the space before another thought comes, then do the same thing when it does.

Eventually no other thoughts will come. Enjoy that space too.

After , get up.

This is a technique that takes practice, like all techniques, but once learned will serve you for life.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:44 PM on November 15, 2010 [16 favorites]

The thing is, it's possible to relax while getting stuff done. It's not a binary situation - accomplish stuff OR relax. I think the biggest problem here might be that you're stressing over not relaxing, instead of just not stressing at all.

What sorts of things do you find to be relaxing? Do you like to sit and veg in front of the tv, or read a good book, workout, or play a video game? Do you like working on personal projects? For me personally, the sense of accomplishment that comes with being productive is a very therapeutic thing.

Try setting aside a small amount of time each weekend day - and hell, each weeknight - and do something that's purely for you, and for enjoyment purposes. Go for a little walk and enjoy the weather, go star gazing, close your eyes and listen to music, read a book, play a game, something. Give yourself permission to indulge yourself - thirty or sixty minutes at a time, or even in smaller increments more often throughout the day - in whatever way feels most relaxing to you. Practice mindfulness meditation, as Sebmojo describes above. I think if you start setting aside more time strictly devoted to caring for yourself, and make sure that you get enough sleep, you'll start feeling better soon.
posted by lriG rorriM at 1:15 PM on November 15, 2010

It depends on what you mean by "relaxed". Do you just mean calm and mellow or deep zen relaxed?

If I want to be deep zen relaxed I do that old meditation technique. It's like this: you lie down, close your eyes, and gradually relax each part of your body. You start with your head and think about all the muscles in your scalp going slack, then your neck, you tell your neck muscles to be completely passive and limp, etc, working your way down to your feet. By the end you should be a total rag-doll! Then you just lie there and breath.

The other thing that relaxes me is getting my hair cut. I don't know why but something about having someone touch my head is really soothing. If I don't need a haircut then I just think about having one! Maybe there is something like that for you. Some people get weekly massages at home.

I like little rituals too like having a coffee and sitting outside and breathing fresh air for a few minutes.

Good luck, I hope you find something that works for you!
posted by red_lotus at 1:46 PM on November 15, 2010

use guided meditation/relaxation (or hypnosis) audio tracks. you might need to try a few before you find one which works for you
an eye pillow helps too.
posted by Bwithh at 2:10 PM on November 15, 2010

In addition to the excellent meditation technique suggested by Sebmojo, try some Progressive Muscle Relaxation. It's remarkably easy to start and only gets better with practice.

Here's how it was introduced to me:

Wherever you are, find a position which allows you to get comfortable and move if you need to.

Notice how you are feeling at this moment. What name would you give to this feeling? Notice the feeling(s') effects. How does it show up in your body? Where are there areas of tension or even pain? If you are simply tense and not sure why, notice the tension and see where it is.

Notice where you are less tense. What are the differences between these areas and tense ones; how does the difference feel? Does the tension stay in one place, or does it change? Be calmly aware of increases or decreases in the tension.

Feel free to let the thoughts flow as you are noticing things. As thoughts come into your mind, do they increase or decrease areas of tension? Where does this happen? Notice any changes in the muscles of your body. What thoughts or feelings come afterwards; how do these feel physically?

Continue this examination of the muscles in your body for as long as is comfortable. You may have to work through a number of uncomfortable thoughts before things calm down; this gets easier to work on with practice.

Two things that are stressed for progressive muscle relaxation: Noticing the difference between a tense muscle and a relaxed muscle as you go through, and Remembering to inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth.

The basic theory is a kind of minfulness: Noticing one thing and following where it leads. But it's mindfulness with an emphasis on how the body and mind states are linked (especially when it comes to stress.) Just noticing our emotional states and linking them with our perceptions of how the body reacts is a kind of biofeedback. It has other uses besides relaxation; PMR is the most commonly used muscle relaxation technique for the management of headaches, and has been used in a number of anxiety treatments.

Good luck!
posted by Hardcore Poser at 3:09 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

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