Our son came to visit last week. He doesn’t live close by, so although we talk at least once a week, we only get to see him a couple of times a year. We had a great week together, and I was sorry to see him go. While he was here, we did some painting together. As some of you may know, I’ve been trying to learn to watercolor, and I thought he might enjoy it. He’s much more artistic than I am, so I knew he’d do well with it. While we were painting, he remarked that it was relaxing. As I agreed with him on that point, it reminded me of how important it is to set aside time for relaxation.
With chronic illness, a lot of our rest is “enforced” rest – we rest because we’re in too much pain or too exhausted to do anything else. Although we’re not doing anything, it’s almost a sure bet that we’re not really relaxed. Our bodies may be still, but our minds certainly aren’t.
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If we want to truly relax, we have to make time for it. It’s easy to get bogged down in the busyness of everyday life and not set aside time to take care of ourselves.
There are lots of ways to quiet our minds and calm ourselves, but what one person finds relaxing, another may find excruciating (fishing comes to mind….). So how do we figure out what works for us? One word — experiment! Sometimes we just have to try different things to figure out what suits us best.
Here are just a few activities many find relaxing:
For people who enjoy quieter, more solitary activities:
Meditation – As we discussed in Could Mindfulness Meditation Improve Wellness, many people experience great benefits from meditating.
Arts and Crafts – Knitting, crocheting, ceramics, jewelry making, painting, making pottery, drawing, adult coloring….. The possibilities are endless.
Reading – Reading a good book can allow us to escape to another world, experience adventures, or learn something new.
Writing – Many people find the process of writing therapeutic.
Enjoying a nice cup of tea or coffee – Sometimes just taking the time to sit quietly and savor a nice warm drink can help us relax and have a calming effect on us.
Walking or biking a favorite trail – Although this may be a little more active than some of the other “quiet” pursuits, being out in nature can rejuvenate us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
For people who enjoy more active and/or social pursuits:
Working out – For people who enjoy exercise, a good workout can leave you feeling relaxed. Of course, we’ve all heard of the endorphins released when we exercise, which can help us feel better overall.
Going out with friends – Sometimes going out with friends is just what the doctor ordered. Although going out can be difficult for some of us, we can still spend time with friends – just do a “girls’ (or guys’) night in” instead of going out.
Walking or biking with a group – For people who enjoy being with others, this can be a great way to relax and socialize at the same time.
Taking Classes – There are all sorts of learning opportunities these days; gardening classes, cooking classes, art classes…. You name it, you probably can find a class for it. Many Community Centers offer classes of all kinds at little to no cost.
Relaxation looks different for every person, but it’s a critical part of our Self-Care Plan. Each of us needs to find what helps us unwind and let our minds take a break for a while. Even more important is actually making time to participate in those activities.
What helps you relax? Do you actually set aside time for relaxation? Please share!