No Time To Stop

“It is nice finding that place where you can just go and relax.” – Moises Arias

“Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer.” – William S. Burroughs

Observation: there seems to be almost a fear of stopping and resting or relaxing in our society today. It seems to me that we have become a society that doesn’t know how to stop and smell the roses as the saying goes. We just don’t really ever stop, slow down, unwind, or relax.  Oh, we may physically go away on vacations, but we don’t really let go of our daily lives and all of the stressors in it just because we leave home for a few days.  We have our smartphones and devices with us all the time so we never really leave work or our hectic lives anymore.  We have notifications that pop up on our phones and grab our attention almost incessantly.  And there’s a constant buzz of stimuli and information coming at us every day, all day.  We are hyper-focused and wound tight practically all the time.

It’s no wonder people are so stressed and at their wits end much of the time. Needless to say this is not healthy of helpful for anyone, least of all ourselves.  Not being able to slow down and relax has an awful lot to do with why so many people are not sleeping well…why so many are sick and/or take a cocktail of medications on a regular basis…why so many people seem to be angry all the time…why we have so many relationship difficulties in our society.  It impacts virtually every aspect of our lives.

But if it has such a negative impact on us and our lives, why are we afraid to stop? Why do we fear resting, relaxing and letting go so much? We all say we desire it, but yet so many of us don’t…can’t do it, even when given an opportunity to do so.  What is driving this strange phenomena?

I believe it is any of a combination of things that we allow to take control of our decision making on a daily basis, the most common of them being the fear of missing out, the societal expectation that we should work hard now (there will be time to play and have fun later), being afraid to be alone with ourselves and our thoughts, and being afraid of other people judging us for not working hard enough/for taking the “easy route” in life.

I was definitely “waist deep” in this lifestyle up until a few years ago. I was focused on work practically all day, every day. My smartphone never left my side…and I checked it constantly.  I was stressed about or worried about practically everything you can think of.  Even when I went on vacation, I was still working, still checking my phone, still stressed.  Finally I reached a point where I wondered if it was all worth it.  For me the answer to that question was no, so I began to make some changes in my life.  And while I still have my moments on occasion, I have learned to stop, relax, rest, and take care of myself in such a way that I have learned to control most stressors in my life, plus I sleep well and it is very rare for me to be sick…basically I am a much happier and healthier person as a result.  So how did I do it?

Well, it wasn’t a fast or easy journey, let me me be clear about that right up front. But the first thing I had to do was make the decision that I no longer wanted my life to be controlled by stress, societal expectations, and anything else that resulted in negative emotional inputs or outputs. Sounds simple, just making a decision, but I had to get to the point where I was tired of being tired, stressed, sick, and always feeling like I was never going to have time to do the things I loved to do…the things that make me happy.  So deciding that “enough was enough” was my first step to freedom.

Then came sticking to my decision, again not so easy as society and life in general likes to test you on an almost daily basis. But I chose to incorporate strategies that helped me stay focused on my goal of learning to relax and rest and not allow external factors to control my choices reactions, and behaviors. Here are a few of the strategies I had success with personally:

  1. Affirmations, mantras, inspirational quotes…anything that inspired me and kept me focused – I kept my favorite ones with me so I would see them throughout the day. They reminded me of what I was trying to accompli–h and kept me on track on many occasions when I felt myself being pulled back in the other direction. They gave me the motivation when I was struggling.
  2. Vision board – hokey as it may sound, I made a vision board that illustrated what I wanted to achieve (the fun, relaxing things I wanted to be doing, how I wanted to feel, etc.) and I hung it where I could see it every day. When I felt stressed, irritated, or unable to slow down, I would just take a moment to look at my beautiful vision board. It serves as a powerful reminder of what I know is a better path for me.
  3. Breathing – sometimes, just stopping and breathing helped me from allowing the stress of a particular moment from winning out…especially when I found myself at work or some other place where some of my other strategies were not such readily available options.
  4. Partner up – finding someone to act as an accountability partner was super helpful for me because there are times when you get so far in it that you don’t see it…but your partner might and can reel you back in. It should be someone you see often enough (maybe even two people – one at home and one at work) that they can help you stay focused on letting go of the stress and welcome in the relaxation.

Not every day is a walk in the park – it is a practice I am continually working on, but it has gotten easier with time and I am enjoying more rest and relaxation than ever before. I do have a job where I am technically on call all the time, but I have learned that even that doesn’t mean the phone has to be tied to me all the time.  I set up times throughout the week that are “no-tech or lo-tech” times – I give myself permission to periodically disconnect, even if it is for a small pocket of time.   I gave myself time to read, meditate, and rest – I allow for time to do the things I enjoy and that allow me to recharge my battery.  I have slowly learned to let go, relax, and enjoy.  And it has been so worth it!

It can be hard at first because we have been taught to think we don’t have time for that stuff…but we can choose to make the time…we should choose to make the time because it is that important to our health and well-being.

“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.” – Sydney J. Harris

“We will be more successful in all our endeavors if we can let go of the habit of running all the time, and take little pauses to relax and re-center ourselves. And we’ll also have a lot more joy in living.” – Thich Nhat Hanh