How easy it is to forget what it feels like to be relaxed.
Help, I can’t relax! – is what the majority of my clients say when they start working with me.
The most typical scenario looks like this:
You have a lot on your plate. There never seems to be enough time in a day. You burn the candle at both ends.
Your mind is on fire trying to plan ahead, analyze what worked well and what didn’t (mostly what didn’t!), and stays constantly vigilant for where the next challenge might be coming from.
Your body – in full mobilization – tense and ready for action.
Your heart – shut down – a thick protective shield built around it so that it can wait for better times to come.
You feel it’s all quite uncomfortable and you keep saying to yourself ‘I need a break, I need to slow down, I need to relax’. But it turns out that apart from Netflix (or scrolling through FB, shopping on Amazon, etc.) which helps to distract your attention, nothing else works.
You can’t focus on reading your book, you feel too tired to go for a walk, you don’t even try meditating as you know that your thoughts will not give you a break, even for a few short minutes.
So, you collapse on the sofa and watch Netflix until you fall asleep and… life goes on.
Yet if someone asked you ‘How are you doing?’ you would most probably say: “Thanks, I’m grand!’
Are you, really? Have you forgotten how it feels when:
- Your mind is clear and at peace,
- Your body is warm and soft,
- Your heart is open and curious?
Can’t Relax? Here’s Why It May Be Becoming A Problem
**CAUTION! SNEAKY STRESS AHEAD!**
We all know that chronic stress is one of the biggest silent killers in our modern society.
But it seems we remember more about the word ‘killer’ than about the word ‘silent’.
But chronic stress is SILENT and SNEAKY.
You cope with all the life challenges the best you can, time goes by and at some point, you start to feel just a bit more uneasy, tense and/or tired.
Nothing alarming though, no need to panic. That’s just life, you think, simply ignore it and go on. After a while, you get used to it. And after another while, you start to treat it as your new “normal”.
Why? Because you simply forget what it felt like to breathe fully, have relaxed shoulders and a soft belly. You forget how it was to feel full of energy, even in the evening time (!) and wake up excited for the day.
And once this new ‘well-being normal’ is established, the process continues.
The symptoms get just a bit worse, and again you feel a bit more tired, stressed, overwhelmed or maybe even anxious at times.
It’s a bit more difficult now to get up when the alarm rings and your cozy sofa and Netflix seem like all you’re able for evenings (apart from binging on sugar in every shape or form).
But guess what? No need to raise alarm. You can get used to that, too.
And so the story continues. Day after day. Week after week. Month after month. Sad but true.
It is only when you are not able to function ‘normally’ that you ‘suddenly’ have to STOP. Because you are depressed. Or physically sick. Or burnt out. Or having panic attacks. Or your relationship is breaking down.
And you stand there dumbfounded. …How exactly did that happen?
3 Tips To Retrain Your Mind & Body When You Can’t Relax
It is so much wiser and saves a lot of pain and suffering to stop this downward spiral before it stops you! These are my 3 best tips to start reminding your body mind and heart slowly, gently but very consistently; what it means to relax and how amazing life is once you are able to do so!
1.Stop burying your head in the sand!
The first step is always to stop burying your head in the sand and pretending you can’t see what’s going on here. Stress is dangerous and you always pay a high price for trying to ignore it.
Research shows that 60-80 % of doctor’s visits are stress-related, not to even mention how it affects the quality of your life – your joy, your zest for life and your relationships!
Start observing gently but very consistently what is going on in your body, mind and heart. Start your day with a few deeper breaths and observe for a few moments how your body is feeling/ what is happening in your mind/ what your heart is calling for. End your day in the same way. Make it a habit to stop a few times during the day to take a few breaths and feel all the sensations in your body. And if you don’t like what you notice make a commitment to yourself to start doing things differently. (This will give you a great start!)
2.Work with your nervous system not against it
Quite often we can’t relax because we try too hard. But relaxing is not about trying hard or pushing through. In truth, the more you work hard to relax the tenser you become.
Instead, the best way is to understand how your nervous system works and how you can support it to stay in the optimal levels of arousal – where you feel safe, grounded, curious and open, able and eager to connect with others and are your energy levels are just right.
Once you start paying attention to what is going on in your body, mind and heart it will be easier and earlier for you to notice what triggers your system to go into the mobilization mode – the fight/flight response – and what you can do to bring it back DOWN to safety and peace.
You will also notice that some situations make your nervous system go into withdrawal/play dead mode – freeze/collapse response – and learn what you need then to bring yourself back UP to the optimal level.
For example, when your body is in hyperarousal – agitated and shaky – meditation might be too much of a stretch, but a brisk walk in the park might relieve a lot of tension and bring you huge relief.
On the other hand, if you have no energy, feel down and apathetic, it might be a warm shower that will bring your energy up and do the trick for you. There no one, fit-all recipe – you need your own unique wellness list of activities and practices that work for you in different situations.
Relaxing means giving your body, your mind, and your heart a chance to have a break from constant mobilization and vigilance and coming back to the feeling of safety. It doesn’t always entail entering the state of blissful tranquility and it wouldn’t be even reasonable to expect your body and mind to be able to do that after staying in high levels of stress for days, weeks or months (or is it years?)
But there are plenty of things which you can do to bring your system a few notches down/a few notches up to where you feel much, much better.
And from there you can start slowly and gradually build your way up to this amazing place where your mind is at peace, your body feels soft and your heart is open.
3.Sorry, no quick fixes on stock – you need to do the work!
Are you still waiting for something or someone to fix this for you? For a solution to arrive in a magic bottle and make all the stress disappear? A quick fix that will make your body relax in an instant? A miracle shortcut to calm your thoughts down and stop this constant chatter in your mind?
We all look for instant gratification. We all want the results to happen now, in a quick, easy and ‘no fuss’ way.
Unfortunately, this is not how things work when it comes to your stress levels and your ability to relax, let go, and … thrive. And nothing will change if you keep waiting for a miracle solution to appear right in front of you.
You need to do the work.
You need to stop playing the victim.
You need to take responsibility.
You need to ask and answer uncomfortable questions, come up with different choices and practice gentle but radical self-discipline.
The good news is, that although we call it ‘the work’, once you get the gist of it, it feels more like play than work. Find the right attitude – stay non-judgmental, curious, gentle and compassionate – and your way back to feeling more relaxed and at ease will be rewarding, uplifting, heartwarming, and nurturing.
Because it is a way home. Back to yourself. Back to living as we were all meant to live – in a full, rich and meaningful way.
There has never been a time when finding gentle but effective ways to cope with stress and practicing true and authentic self-care was more important. The pandemic that has been going on for over a year now has been a huge stretch for each of us in one way or another. And if you weren’t a PRO in finding time and ways to relax before, it is high time to start doing things differently. Don’t waste a day!
Download my EMOTIONAL RESILIENCE CHECKLIST where you will find plenty of easy but powerful practices to start you on the way to a peaceful mind, soft&heathy body and open heart!