Relaxing Doesn’t Have to Mean Doing Nothing

Honey, you need to relax.

Relax? What does that even mean? It’s always been a word that sounds like it’s from another language.

This is a phrase I have heard my whole life and, for the most part, it’s always said with good intentions. I am an animated ball of stress. I’m constantly wound up or anxious so, of course, the first piece of advice would be to relax.

However, when I try to chill out, I’m usually met with “that’s not how you’re supposed to do it! Relaxing means doing nothing.” Well, I’ve tried doing nothing and do you know what happens? I get more stressed. When I express this, I usually get some variation of “You must not be doing it right.”

But that has nothing to do with me. I’m “doing it right” but it’s not the right thing for me. If you Google tips for relaxation, you’ll get a barrage of articles telling you to drink tea, take a bubble bath, journal, meditate, deep breathe, count, be present, just stop overthinking, smile, focus on your heartbeat, and a plethora of other tactics.

These are nice and some of them work at times, but they are not the be-all end-all of techniques. They, on their own, don’t do anything for me because 1) they don’t provide any relief, 2) they aren’t productive, 3) they’re just band-aid solutions to cover a bigger problem, and 4) they aggravate my anxiety.

These feel-good methods leave my brain free and open to go right back to what I was worried about in the first place. I end up looking at the clock and see how much time I’m wasting when I could be accomplishing something. They make me feel every single bit of my depression and unrelenting tension.

Doing nothing doesn’t work for everyone.

Relaxation doesn’t just mean lounging in a bathtub. It can mean dancing wildly in my apartment and feeling the blood pump through my veins. Because then I get in some intense exercise.

It’s belting out the notes to my favorite songs and pretending I’m singing to an invisible audience. As I’m doing it, I’m reminded of my choir days and that gives me a confidence boost.

It’s watching Wendy Williams while I’m doing the dishes so I don’t have to think. I get to hear celebrity gossip and clean at the same time. All the while, I’m successfully distracted.

It’s taking a hike and feeling every muscle straining against the terrain. I can feel my muscles getting stronger and it makes me happy.

It’s making a gift for a friend knowing I’m giving something back to someone I love. It feels amazing knowing I’ve created something one of a kind out of what little I have. The labor of love doesn’t feel like work at all.

It’s experimenting with my hair texture just to see what it can do. After many years of not knowing how to take care of it, I finally know what I’m doing. I appreciate my hair and I’m reminded of how amazing it is.

It’s listening to an interesting podcast and having an aha! moment I didn’t expect. I get to learn and become a more rounded person.

It’s finding a new show to watch that makes me connect with a story I wouldn’t otherwise be familiar with.

For me, relaxing means doing something productive, something multi-beneficial. If it isn’t, it’s not relaxing and no amount of deep breathing is gonna help that.

I do know how to relax, it’s just not the kind you’re told to enjoy. Not only that, I know what it means. So while everyone else is going to saunas and counting back to ten, I’ll be singing with the vacuum on feeling just as calm.

© J.M.Cools 12/2018

Life lessons as they come and other things. Email me johanie.cools@gmail.com or tip me on Venmo @Jojo-MC

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