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Why It’s Really, Really OK To Relax

Taking time out for ourselves is not something to feel guilty about

Imagine trying to write a list of everything you’ve done for someone else in the last week: every family meal you prepared, every room you cleaned, every school run you did, every bedtime story you read, every email you replied to, every piece of paperwork you completed…. The chances are it would be a pretty long list.

Now imaging writing a list of everything you’ve done purely for yourself. Hmmmm, if you’re struggling to think of more than a handful of things to add maybe that’s a sign that it’s time to redress the balance a bit.

Life is hectic for just about all of us. Simply getting through a day at work can be hard enough. Then throw in running a household, looking after the constant needs of the kids and getting through all the other everyday tasks and it’s easy to see how every second of our day can be taken up with jobs, chores and the demands of others.

We often tell ourselves that we will get around to taking a break, just as soon as this busy week is out the way or once that big work project is completed. But somehow it never seems to happen and we end up with just as much on our plate the following week too. So we struggle on through the exhaustion, with our temper fraying and our neck and shoulders getting more and more tense. Sometimes we can even feel anxious about giving ourselves a break because how on earth would we ever get everything done if we were too relaxed??

Being under constant pressure to get everything completed, remember every appointment and not let anyone down can really take its toll on us though. Continual feelings of stress can lead to all kinds of unpleasant side effects such as short temper, painful muscle tension, shallow breathing, digestive problems and, if left unchecked, poor health.

But here’s some good news; it’s easy to start redressing the balance just by building in a bit of relaxation time for yourself. It doesn’t need to take up too much of your time and it can leave you feeling so much calmer, clearer and even able to sleep better. We shouldn’t look on it as time wasted because once we’re feeling calm and relaxed we can actually be more focused, more productive and better able to cope with whatever comes along.

If you’re not sure where to start here are a few ideas for easy ways to build in some relaxation time to your schedule:

  • Start the day with a few minutes of meditation. Evidence for the benefits of meditation seems to be growing all the time. Although it can be tricky to get the hang of, it’s really worth persevering with. There are a wide range of books, websites and apps to support and guide you. Or why not look out for meditation groups in your area.
  • Get some exercise. Not only will you get the physical benefits, exercise can also be great for your mind. It can reduce feelings of stress and releases endorphins, the body’s ‘feel good’ hormones. And you don’t have to sweat it out in the gym for hours. Your activity could be something as simple as taking a brisk walk in your lunch hour, going for a jog after work or 20 minutes of yoga at the start of the day.
  • Treat yourself to a relaxation evening. When you feel everything start to get on top of you why not take an evening out and concentrate on yourself by turning your own home into a mini haven of relaxation. It’s free, easy to do and can really make a difference to your well-being.
  • Book a massage. If you’re suffering from neck and shoulder tension brought on by stress, massage is a great way to combat it. Plus you get all the fantastic relaxation and stress reduction benefits at the same time!

So next time you feel like you need a break DON’T FEEL GUILTY! We all need some down-time to keep ourselves healthy and at our best.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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