2020 has been stressful, overwhelming, and has left many of us unable to relax in ways we have found restorative previously. Many people often attempt to push through stress by working harder, pushing to be even more productive. When things are really stressful, we should be giving ourselves a break and trying not to hold ourselves to our normal standard of productivity. Instead, it is much better for our mental wellbeing to adjust and shift into granting ourselves permission to let go and “veg out” right now. This will help with those feelings of distress a lot more than continuing to push through. This November, with the start of the holiday season, which is often a source of stress anyway, it’s time to relax. For those of you who feel that you should be doing something more productive rather than scrolling on social media, spending four hours working on a puzzle, staying in pajamas all day indoors, or even doing some sort of binge watching marathon, this is the year to embrace it!
Because home has become the place where we also work, socialize, and everything else, I frequently hear complaints from my therapy clients that they feel constantly plagued by an endless chore list. Feeling like things need cleaning or rearranging. They are focusing on fixing up something or completing an additional chore because it’s in their line of sight, often while also trying to work and fix kids a snack or help with school. But even though we are spending so much time at home, it does not mean we should feel even more stress about having to do something productive with every free minute we have. In fact, what might actually be more beneficial would be to slow down for a bit. Stopping your work activity, slowing down physically, and also changing your thought process to something pleasant and relaxing, will recharge you a lot more than assigning yourself an additional task. This year might require that we make peace with little messes and give ourselves more time to decompress.
Though we could always find a more productive hobby, such as crafting or a form of exercise, with current ongoing stressors, sometimes just sitting is the most important and helpful thing for our bodies and minds. Give yourself permission to slow down and stop. Allow yourself to engage without guilt or shame. While it may not seem as productive, relaxing your mind or focusing on something pleasant can be just what you need to recharge and relax and will allow you to be more productive later.
Things to consider for a longer break:
- Start a new television series, and maybe even binge-watch it
- Finally get to that movie you’ve been meaning to see
- Read the book that’s been recommended to you over and over again
- Purposefully change out of work clothes and into cozy pajamas or clothing
- Practice mindfulness or meditation (even for five minutes each day until you get the hang of it) – there are many apps with guided meditations to get you started, I recommend the Calm app
- Do a puzzle
Things to do if you only have a short time, sit down and…
- Drink a cup of herbal tea
- Give yourself 15 minutes to zone out on social media (if this is something you find relaxing, not if it is anxiety provoking!)
- Take 10 deep breaths
- Listen to your favorite song
- Read an article
- Listen to a short podcast or a chapter of an audiobook
This is the year to learn how to let go of high standards, take deeper breaths, learn to listen to your body, and find a way to recharge yourself in whatever capacity feels good. Remember, “you can’t pour from an empty jar”. Take good care!