It’s absolutely essential for your health to bring some form of relaxation response into your daily life. Volumes have been written about relaxation, meditation, and mindfulness, but here are some of my favorite ways to replenish and repair.
When you hit the wall of overwhelm, stop everything. Unplug. Step away from your cell phone, stay off the internet, turn off alarms and notifications, and take some time to be a human being — not a “human doing.” It takes downtime for productivity to blossom, clarity to return, and your mood to smooth out. It could be a minute, an hour, or a vacation! But when you need it: cave.
Take a Bath
Before you go to bed, or anytime you need to soak up some relaxation response, fill your tub with water as warm as you can tolerate, add one cup of Epsom salts and seven drops of lavender (or other relaxing) essential oil, and enjoy. If you have candles, light them, and soak away your troubles, practicing a few minutes of deep breathing while you’re in the tub.
Practice a Daily Ritual
A daily ritual can be as simple as a cup of tea or coffee, sipped in peace and quiet for 15 minutes, a regular 30-minute walk alone or with a friend, a five-minute meditation, or a hot bath. Pick one ritual that you make your own. If daily is too much to fit in, pick one evening or one weekend morning a week for self-care, mark it off on the calendar, and make it happen. Religiously. You have to show up for yourself.
Grab a pen and a notebook and write what comes to you — journaling doesn’t require great writing skills. Two journaling techniques to try:
Worry Journal: 30 minutes before bed, write out your fears, worries, and troublesome experiences. This has been demonstrated to reduce cortisol, alleviate anxiety, and help to overcome PTSD. It has also been shown to reduce the frequency of visits to the doctor and reduce chronic illness and inflammation.
Gratitude Journal : Several times each week, write down three things you’re grateful for. Practicing gratitude has been shown to have numerous health benefits and improves quality of life.
Reset After Work
To prevent your cortisol levels from being jacked in the evenings, make it a daily end-of-work habit to decompress for 15 minutes with any of the relaxation response practices in this article when you get home. My favorite end-of-day practice is a solo dance party. I play loud music and dance like no one is watching — even if someone is watching. I don’t care. I sing really loud, too.
Lastly, give yourself one evening a week completely off from work and chores. This simple act can work wonders to keep you feeling like you’re a human being, not just a ‘human doing.’
Try a Digital Detox
Information overload is a new kind of toxin that is addling our brains and making us feel that we never know enough, do enough, or are happy enough (especially if you believe everyone else’s perfect happy-life pictures on Facebook!). Additionally, staying on the computer and other electronic devices too close to bedtime not only introduces other people’s agendas and a whole lot of social concerns into your awareness, but also the blue light itself emanating from these devices keeps your cortisol elevated and inhibits melatonin production, both of which interfere with sleep. So I dare you — unplug yourself from your digital habit every evening by 9 o’clock, and for one full day each week be internet- and device-free. No cell phone. No email. No Facebook. No computer. It’s a game changer, I promise.
Get Some Fresh Air
Ancients have always known what science now proves — that nature heals your brain, reduces cortisol, reduces inflammation, and shifts you to a calm, happy, mindset. You don’t have to buy a farm or a vacation home in the country; walking in a park for 30 minutes a couple of times a week can make a difference. Or try standing in the sunshine, bare feet on the ground, and breathe consciously, even if just for three minutes, directing your breath to wherever you feel discomfort or tension in your body.
Play is as necessary for health and happiness as exercise, and laughter puts you straight into the relaxation response. Make some time to play with friends or your kids. Pick up a hobby that you used to love but haven’t let yourself enjoy in years. Do it with no pressure, no self-judgment — just for pure pleasure. Fun is good. What do you miss doing? Roller-skating? Riding a bicycle? Pottery-making? Hula-hooping? (I have a hula hoop!) Just do it.