You’ve probably heard the phrase, “kids say the darndest things”. While usually the statements are funny, they often carry with them very profound messages. For example, the other day, my grandsons were playing in the backyard in the sprinkler. The youngest one Carmine, came to sit with me on the porch. His brother Antonio shouted for him to come join him to which Carmine replied, “I’m chillin’ out, I’ll play with you later.” He had been playing hard all day and it was time for a rest. Hearing this come out of a four year-old’s mouth made me laugh hysterically inside, but it also reminded me of the importance of relaxing. Most of us have busy schedules everyday and even those that have their days well-planned and are very effective with their time schedule "appointments" to just chill out. No matter how good our diets and exercise routines are, our minds and bodies regularly need rest. Our nighttime sleep, of course is one major way we can do this, but often we need more. In fact, if we’re finding that our stress levels are rising and we’re having trouble focusing, problem-solving, or coming up with new ideas, chances are it’s because the body and mind need a break. This is in no way a waste of time–it is actually a time saver, because, in simple terms, when we can dampen the neurons that are active in stress mode, we give our creative, innovative, and inventive neurons a chance to fire. I’ve experienced time and again that some of my best ideas surface when I 'turn down the volume” so to speak. Here are a few ways to do that:
Meditation. Many people meditate first thing in the morning when their minds and the atmosphere are the most quiet. But anytime throughout the day when you can find a few minutes to sit comfortably, close your eyes, and try to slow down the mind by either concentrating on your breathing, emptying your mind, or even visualizing something calming or joyful works wonders. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve come up with new ideas or solved problems while I was I’m lying on my yoga mat staring at the ceiling just breathing. It’s actually one of the reasons that I value my yoga practice so much.
Thinking. Now that the weather is nice, I love to sit outside on the porch first thing in the morning with a cup of coffee or glass of water, take in my surroundings and just think. Think about what I want to accomplish for the day; think about where I’m going, etc. It’s very rare that we give our undivided attention to this activity, particularly in a non-stressful and non-judgmental way. Yet, you’d be amazed how many of your questions will be answered (by you!) when you take the time to think. This also goes hand-in-hand with meditation.
Reading. Doesn’t it seem like a luxury these days to be able to sit down with a cup of tea and a good book and just read? It is something to be grateful for and it’s a perfect way to redirect the mind to more calming places. Books are also a valuable source of thoughts and ideas and can often trigger our own minds to create something new.
Taking a nap. While most of us like to reach for the mid-afternoon coffee or sweet, a nap would be far more beneficial. Fifteen to thirty minutes of sleep would give us a chance to reboot. Sleep is actually one way that we solidify new learning and memories and when our brain does its housekeeping, so naps are a great way to stay sharp. I know it’s difficult for so many to find the opportunity to take a nap, but if you can, take advantage of it–don’t feel bad about it!
Pampering. Nothing can calm the body and mind like getting a massage in a dark room with a few candles and soft, soothing music. It's a wonderful way to de-stress and detox. Getting a pedicure or a haircut are great ways to slow down as well. For me, there’s something about having my head worked on that calms me down. Even taking a bath with some Epsom salts and a few drops of lavender oil will soothe the body from the inside out. Treat yourself when you can.
Walking. Taking a walk may actually be more doable for people during their workdays. Although it involves movement, it’s a chance to step away from your work, get some oxygen and get the circulation going. It’s a non-stressful form of exercise that will allow you to return to your workspace relaxed and clearer.
If you don’t now, try to schedule moments of rest and relaxation into your days or weeks. I know that everything mentioned here is obvious and just needs to be put into practice, but life has a way of sometimes making us forget and we just need to be reminded. Any way you can come up with to slow down and rest on a daily basis will have profound benefits on your performance, your sanity, and your health.