Making Time (and Giving Myself Permission) to Relax

Woman relaxing in the grass

I have a confession to make: Sometimes I feel guilty when I’m relaxing.

Does this ever happen to you? Personally, I find it very annoying. When I’m relaxing I just want to enjoy it (isn’t that the point?), but I find it difficult to turn off the running list of things I need to do that’s going through my mind. Often there is so much to get done that I feel selfish for allowing myself any “me” time. For example, just recently I took a few hours to head to the beach (because of the insanity that is wedding-planning and grad school), but spent most of the time laying in the sand asking myself if I remembered to send the final meal count, or whether I printed enough programs. I felt bad that I was “wasting time” at the beach when I could have been doing something more productive.

But the thing is, you have to allow yourself time to take a break—this should be something that is scheduled just like your doctor’s appointments or meetings with clients. If we keep piling stuff on our ever present ‘”to-do” list, we’re going to either eventually become completely overwhelmed; have a meltdown, and flip out on someone; or crash and burn. We have to squash the guilt, and savor the relaxation. It’s okay—I promise!

Here are three reasons why you should relax:

  1. You deserve it. Think about everything you accomplish during one week. You might be working, cleaning the house, ushering the kids from one activity to the next, meeting with teachers, fulfilling obligations on the weekend, etc. People’s schedules these days tend to be packed to the brim, which means that you definitely deserve a time out for yourself every now and then.
  2. It will make you happier. You will enjoy the time you take to get away for a while. Taking a break for yourself is refreshing—you will return to your everyday life happier and more energized. Quietly reading a good book in the park for an hour could potentially make you a happier person for the rest of the week. Quality relaxation—that’s what it’s all about.
  3. It will make you healthier. In my opinion, happier people tend to be healthier people. Think about it—what good does stress do for us? These days stress levels are through the roof for many people. If we give ourselves time to put aside our every day stressors in exchange for time to unwind and do something for our own enjoyment, it will help balance out our stress levels and in turn promote a healthier lifestyle.

And three suggestions for helping you enjoy it:

  1. Take time for yourself, by yourself. To me, quality relaxation often means alone time. Take some time to think, to enjoy the quietness of an afternoon without anyone else. When I lived in Hawaii for a semester in college, I loved exploring by myself. Of course I liked doing things with my roommates, but I also truly enjoyed my “me” time that I was lucky enough to have. One of my most favorite memories of Hawaii is visiting the Honolulu Museum of Art multiple times on my own to mosey around. It was quiet, peaceful, and inspiring—a very relaxing experience for me.
  2. Turn your phone off (and your iPad, laptop, etc.) When I am “relaxing” I often find that I’m scrolling through Twitter, checking Facebook statuses, catching up on personal e-mails, and so on. I’ve realized that this isn’t exactly the way to achieve serenity. Allow yourself time to fully unplug. If you’re away from your children and need to stay in touch (or something along these lines), that’s ok! Flip the switch to silent, and check for missed calls every so often. That will make you feel better and worry less, which will make for a more pleasant experience overall.
  3. Eat certain foods. According to The Huffington Post, eating specific foods can help you de-stress. Stock up on chamomile tea, ginger, and flaxseed oil. Lay off of too much coffee and processed foods. And don’t forget to get to the gym, or go outside for a run or walk. Remember, healthy often equals happy.

Say goodbye to guilt, and hello to a happier you!

— Colleen Mescall