On Day 5 I’m sitting out on the terrace of my bungalow feeling unbelievably fortunate. Waves crash below, and the sea breeze tickles my face. And then my gorgeous partner looks up at me, the sun setting over the sea behind him, and announces an idea for a new article.
“How about you write one called ‘how to relax?'”
Where on earth could he have gotten this absurd idea?! I’ve taken to this island’s relaxation like an iguana takes to its favorite iguana thing. Could it be when I insisted we wake up at 7:45 a.m. to secure the optimal beach spot? Or later on, when I hoarded any and all available beach chairs surrounding our own so as to maintain shade throughout the day? Surely I exhibited incredible mindfulness when I budgeted to the second for our arrival to last night’s dinner, including taking a test route earlier on in the day.
Or…maybe he has a point. On a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the world’s worst relaxer, I’m an 11. But our weeklong window into heaven has given me some much-needed insight. If you, too, are a high-strung bag of crazy with 10,000 ideas and not enough hours in the day to accomplish even five of them, you may relate. From my bungalow in paradise, I present: How to relax if you’re absolutely terrible at relaxing.
1. Don’t assume conventional methods are going to work.
I really, really don’t like baths, despite the world trying to convince me they’re god’s gift to relaxing. Like me, you might need to try options other than those commonly suggested (candles, baths, Enya, etc). Personally, I really like seeing movies by myself to calm down.
2. Learn to listen to your body’s cues.
Everyone has an inner voice. Mine sounds like a husky, angry and disturbingly witty old Jewish lady named Babs. Babs was the first one to say “You don’t even DESERVE a vacation, you worthless sack of herring!” (she’s tough). Despite this handicap, I try very hard to listen to Babs and my body’s overall reaction to her. I’ve learned to figure out my own warning signals before I reach absolute meltdown status. In fact, the mere presence of Babs’ voice is my first indicator.
3. Calm YOUR inner Babs.
While we’re talking about inner voices, try my new trick: “Listen, [insert name of your one or many inner voices here]: I hear and respect you, but lay off my friend.”
4. Have sex.
I know this sounds like the terrible stereotypical aid your partner suggests when you have a headache, but real talk, it works. Whether it’s with someone else or yourself, this is a surefire way to turn your brain’s volume down (as long as you/that someone else is good at the job).
5. Do something that has a clear, tangible outcome.
If you’re feeling like your life is spinning out of control, focus on a small task whose outcome you can control. Do laundry, fold it, put it away. Clean the house. Write a letter and mail it. These sort of rote assignments send the message to your brain that despite your feelings of complete worthlessness, you actually are capable of accomplishing things. Also, your house will be clean!
6. Reward yourself when you deserve it.
Once you’re done with that task, give yourself a present. If you train yourself to receive rewards that make sense (healthy rewards like a walk or a call to a friend are more ideal), you’ll induce a positive feedback loop and will be able to do more efficient work going forward. Personally, when I finish this article I am going to eat. A lot. This is basically just high-fiving my brain, and putting Babs temporarily in the mah jong room.
I wish this weren’t true, but it is: Exercise relieves stress. Even if you’re like me and the lady in this Jezebel article and don’t get that storied “runner’s high,” you can still benefit greatly from getting active. Also you’ll sleep and look better.
© Joe Raedle/Getty Images
8. Use the same compassion with yourself as you would with a child.
I learned this from a dear friend who teaches elementary school. When he’s stressed, he asks himself if he would ever treat a 5-year-old the way he’s treating himself. Real talk, I would never, ever treat any living thing the way I treat myself when I’m stressed. So ask yourself simple questions: Have I eaten? Have I slept? Am I hydrated? Have I showered? If not, take care of those things. No matter how professional you are, you were once an incontinent screaming baby! Try and remember that. You’re welcome.
9. Turn off the freakin’ Internet.
I could talk to you about the Internet for days, but odds are you already know and have read everything about it and how our brains are turning to mush and how we’ll never be good humans again and how it makes us write extremely long run-on sentences that our copyeditors will flag and then we’ll explain we were trying to be funny but maybe took it too far. Seriously though, this nonsense is an addiction. Curb it.
10. Take a break.
We’re all doing a LOT of things these days. Breaks are important, but they don’t have to be spent in Curaçao to be effective. Do a bit of research and see if there’s anything close to you that might qualify for a glorious and low-budget staycation. If you have a weekend, I recommend spending it hiding from the Internet and work (except for Netflix, which should be loaded up with ’90s classics like She’s All That). If you’ve only got half an hour, start reading that book you’ve had on the shelf for months. The important thing here is to maximize your free time and resist the urge to multitask/control everything. Look in the mirror every so often and pretend you’re a L’Oréal commercial. Tell yourself you’re worth it. You are! Cheers and happy relaxing.