The pace of life these days is pretty crazy. You work a full-time job but the new definition of full-time seems to mean 24/7, round-the-clock insanity. You check your work email on your iPhone in the middle of the night and are never far from your laptop in case someone needs you, even on the weekends. You have so much on your plate you can barely take time to eat a home-cooked meal, let alone stay in touch with the people that you adore. Taking it easy and actually allowing yourself to relax seems like such a weird, useless concept. Relaxation is reserved for those sick days you can’t afford to take and for beach vacations that don’t happen often enough, right? Well, wrong. If you don’t let your body and mind relax every once in a while, you’re going to get exhausted, sick or worse. It’s not easy but it’s possible. Here are 13 ways to force yourself to relax.
13 Break A Sweat
Exercise is an amazing way to get some much-needed down time. According to smarty-pants at Harvard, it may not seem like working out counts as relaxation but it does. You feel less stressed after a sweat session and that’s exactly what the doctor ordered. You can do anything that you want: go for a run (or a jog or even a long walk), head to a dance class, try that pilates workout your BFF always raves about. You’ll feel the difference after you’re done. If that’s not enough for you to head to the gym more, remember that exercise can help you get to sleep if you typically toss and turn all night. And more sleep means a more relaxed you.
12 Forget The Yoga
Yoga is usually considered an amazing mind/body workout. Women everywhere brag about their lowered stress levels and claim they never get sick and basically think they’re the healthiest people to walk the earth. But if you hate yoga, that’s totally okay. You don’t need to force yourself to try yoga if you find it slow or boring. If something isn’t for you, don’t do it. You’ll be much happier if you do something else that can relax you in the same way. Even sitting for 10 minutes a day in a quiet space counts. You could even hide in your office bathroom and take a few deep breaths.
11 Cut Back On Caffeine
Sob. Sorry, coffee, it’s not you. It’s definitely us. You’re delicious. You give us life when we’re struggling to open our eyes after a late night, and help us get through the most boring of work meetings. But too much coffee can lead to anxiety and that’s not good for anyone. You will never be able to truly relax either during the day or at night when you’re trying to read or settle down before bed if you down too many cups of joe. So watch your coffee intake and you’ll feel more relaxed in no time. Plus, your wallet will love you since you’ll be paying for less pricey pumpkin spice lattes.
10 Watch Less TV
Before you freak out, it’s not about stopping your TV habit altogether, but about cutting down a little bit. TV is amazing, in a word, but it can be too much of a very good thing. If you watch a lot of fast-paced, dramatic shows with juicy plotlines, especially before you head to sleep, the visual and mental stimulation could be keeping you up at night. If you can watch one less hour of TV every evening, you’ll have more time to chill out before your head hits the pillow. Maybe you can even read that bestseller everyone’s been raving about at work.
9 Make Weekends Your Time
So many people are working all the time these days that the idea of a weekend off seems like a crazy notion. But downtime is more important now than ever, since everyone is spinning in all cylinders all the time. If you absolutely can’t take two full days off – maybe you freelance and run your own business, or have an especially demanding job – then at least take Sundays off. It probably won’t bankrupt you and since everyone needs this break, you don’t have to feel guilty. You really don’t. Feeling guilty will only ruin any benefits you might get from a Sunday afternoon off.
8 Bake More
You could be the world’s worst baker (but you’re probably not) and you’ll still get some health benefits out of spending a weekend afternoon baking. In short, baking is super relaxing. While you’re measuring butter and sugar and flour, you can work through any issues you’re going through in your mind, and by the time your creation comes out of the oven, making your kitchen smell wonderful, you’ll probably have a solution. That alone time that you’ve given yourself will free up your mind so you’re not constantly thinking about things that are bothering you.
7 Eat Healthier
You know that junk food isn’t the greatest food to eat and there’s another reason: it can make you feel pretty anxious. Unfortunately, it’s kind of a chicken-and-the-egg situation. You eat junk food when you don’t feel great and then you don’t feel great because you ate junk food. Why? It’s the processed food/ingredients, according to experts. If you get into the habit of eating fruit, veggies, protein, and good-for-you carbs (forget the white bread and pasta) then it’ll become second nature for you and you won’t stress out about what to eat all the time.
6 Read For Fun
No, not for work. You read reports, articles, essays, and those endless emails that are always appearing in your inbox all day and all night long. Now it’s time to read for pleasure. You’ll immediately feel a rush of relaxation if you focus on consuming the stuff that makes you happy. That could be romance novels, the thriller that everyone’s obsessed with on social media right now, women’s magazines, etc. The goal is to forget your worries, forget that scary Monday morning meeting and just read. You’ll be transported to another world which is totally the point of reading, anyway.
5 Enjoy Your Commute
You have to get to work some way. Maybe you drive and curse the morning and evening traffic every day of the week. Maybe you walk and groan about how out of shape you feel the whole way there, or maybe you brave the crazy crowded subway. However you get to the office and back home again, you need to enjoy your commute more or you’ll never feel relaxed. A stressed-out commute means a stressed-out day and night. Thankfully you have tons of options. You can listen to your favorite singer’s new album, check out a podcast that your best friend is addicted to, or even call your mom or friend. Just make sure that person can actually lower your stress levels instead of raise them.
4 Complain Less
Was your New Year’s Resolution to stop whining and complaining and start appreciating the little things in life more? Probably not because it’s kind of cheesy and boring. But honestly, getting out of the habit of complaining all the time is good for your stress levels. And it’s good for everyone who has to deal with you on a regular basis too. The thing is, when you complain, you’re just frustrating and upsetting yourself. That’s no way to relax. Of course it’s not realistic to think that you would never complain. But maybe only complain once or twice a day. Just try it. You can do it.
3 Plan Your Relaxation
Sure, it might seem like actually planning a time when you should relax defeats the purpose. But it’s a good idea, because you spend so much time stressed out, that the only way you’re really going to chill out is if you put it on your calendar. So go ahead and decide that Tuesday at 6 p.m. you’re going to eat dinner on your couch with a good romantic comedy, or Thursday at noon you’re giving yourself an hour’s lunch to walk around the block and listen to your fave album. You deserve it.
2 Only Watch Comedies
Everyone’s addicted to shows about murder and violence these days, and it seems like with every day that passes, there’s a new collective obsession. Sometimes those dark TV shows only depress you and seriously bum you out. If you’re feeling more stressed than normal, you should only be watching comedies. Try a Judd Apatow movie (always good for a few laughs) or some classic sitcoms like Seinfeld or Friends. The easiest way to relax more is to laugh. Even if you adore horror movies or action flicks, save those for when you’re already feeling pretty chill. Your blood pressure will thank you.
1 Make An Effort
Some days you practically jump out of bed because you’re so excited for the day ahead, and other days you can barely drag yourself out of bed. When you’re super exhausted, you have to make an effort to relax more and feel happier, because it’s not going to magically happen (it would be so awesome if it did). Smile more, chat with that coworker who sits beside you, watch a funny YouTube video. Anything worth having in life takes some hard work and making it a point to stress less will definitely be worth it.