Everyone approaches relaxation in their own way: Some view having — and taking — the time to relax as their right, and something they prioritise. Others see it as something that must be earned, and is only taken after a particular amount of work, or certain tasks are accomplished (and no sooner). But what most approaches miss is that relaxing is actually a skill.
And like other skills, it’s one that needs to be learned and practiced on a regular basis. Here’s what to know about reframing the way you think about relaxation.
How to approach relaxation as a skill
At a time when productivity — both at work and at home — is so highly valued, it’s easy to make the leap to assuming that any time spent not working counts as “relaxing,” and that relaxing is lazy or indulgent. (It’s not.)
Meanwhile, there’s also constant talk of burnout, and how it should be avoided. But it’s not as if people who have been conditioned to always be busy can magically start relaxing and recharging at the drop of a hat.
In a recent opinion piece, New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo made the case that literal relaxing — as in, deliberately and physically relaxing your muscles — is, in fact, a skill that needs to be both learned and practiced. But much of his insight is applicable to the broader concept of relaxation, as well.
“I have come to think of relaxation as a skill,” he writes. “The more I relax, the better I learn which parts of my body tend to become tense, what that tension feels like and how to unlock that tension with a quick flick of the mind.”
How to learn and practice the skill of relaxation
Whether you want to learn Manjoo’s muscle relaxation exercise, or are looking to train your brain to shift out of work mode, here are some ways to learn and practice relaxing:
- Progressive muscle relaxation exercises: In addition to the one Manjoo describes in the second-half of his article, there are other instructions available from University of Michigan Health, Mayo Clinic, and the University of Toledo.
- Approach relaxation as a goal: This is a strategy for tricking the most work-obsessed brains into relaxing.
- Structure your downtime: Notice we didn’t say “schedule” your downtime. There’s a big difference.
Finally, this resource from Charleston Southern University provides additional ways to practice not only relaxing, but getting your body and mind into a state that encourages you to do so.