Do you hurry through your day, rushing from one high-pressure activity to the next? Do you view taking a break as a waste of time? If so, you may be heading for burnout.
Most of us face a tottering tower of to-do. You may regard any break as unthinkable, fearing it will steal too much of your precious time. Yet, taking a few moments to relax will enable you to return to work refreshed. Your increased efficiency, effectiveness and productivity will more than make up for the time you’ve used relaxing.
We are all hard wired to work hard and then to recuperate from our exertions. Just watch a young child to observe this natural cycle so essential to life balance. They run around like crazy and then conk out.
Failure to honor this rhythm creates mental and physical stress. When you drive yourself hard throughout your day, going from one activity to the next with no respite, you put demands on your body and your mind that they were not designed to handle. Over time this stress can lead to burnout. Yet reestablishing your necessary life balance is easy to do. While taking a nap may not be practical for you, there are ways to relax that take only a few moments and will really help.
Here are five simple ways you can relax and restore balance to your life. Each of these exercises takes less than 10 minutes to do. When you take regular re-creation breaks throughout the day, you refresh yourself and return to work better able to focus and accomplish your goals.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)
PMR entails tensing and relaxing various muscle groups in turn. The power of PMR comes from the rebound effect: muscles which have been tensed relax more deeply once the tension is released. Like any physical activity — playing a sport or a musical instrument — the more you practice PMR, the better you get and the more effective it becomes. Through regular practice you will enable yourself to induce a deep feeling of relaxation in just moments.
For each muscle group –your jaw, your neck and shoulders, your abdomen — first tense the muscles you are focusing on as hard as you can, hold that tension for a moment and then release it. Repeat this process with each muscle group in turn. You can start at your head and work down or begin at your feet and work up. Either way, just make sure you include all parts of your body.
An additional benefit of PMR is increased awareness. PMR teaches you to notice muscular tension when and where it occurs in your body. Those muscle groups where you habitually hold tension will feel familiar to you when you practice the exercises. Develop the habit of checking out these muscle groups throughout the day and when you notice tension learn to relax. Over time you will train your muscles to remain relaxed even when you are under stress.
Close your eyes, put both feet flat on the ground, take a deep breath or two and imagine a scene that for you is very calming. For many people this is a beach scene. Others find themselves in a beautiful meadow or in bed on a lazy morning with nothing to do and nowhere to go.
Carefully observe everything you see and hear and smell and feel in your calm scene. Really relax into the comfort you find here.
By imagining your calm scene at the conclusion of practicing PMR, you will come to associate the scene with the deep feeling of relaxation you achieve. Then, when you do not have the time to go through the entire PMR exercise, you will be able to experience deep calm simply by immersing yourself for a moment or two in your calm scene.
Imagine Relaxation Throughout Your Body
You can achieve relaxation by simply imagining calm and peace filling every part of your body. Imagine yourself breathing in calm and peace. Imagine that tranquility circulating throughout your body, the way the oxygen you breathe finds its way to every cell in your body, with no effort whatsoever on your part. Then, with each exhalation, imagine yourself breathing out any stress or tension. Or you can imagine relaxation like a warm liquid that flows gently down over your head, your neck and shoulders and down through the rest of your body, bringing calm and peace as it flows.
To gain maximum benefit from any of these relaxation exercises, make sure you will remain uninterrupted. Turn off your cell phone and let those around you know that you are not to be disturbed. You may need to leave your office or workstation to find a quiet spot. You will be able to relax more deeply, confident that nothing will bother you.
Relaxation is like any physical skill. The more you practice it, the better you will be at it and the easier it will become.
Stretching creates a break from mental activity while stimulating blood flow. This extra oxygen delivery will help you become more alert and invigorated.
You don’t need to leave your desk to stretch. Sitting straight in your chair, swivel your head to each side as far as you can, hold this position for a moment and then release. Now tilt your head to each side, drawing your ear toward your shoulder without letting your shoulder rise.
If you keyboard regularly, you can help prevent carpal tunnel problems by extending your fingers as far as they will stretch. Make a fist and then stretch your fingers out. Repeat this several times every hour.
To do more elaborate stretching, you may want to close your office door or find a private place, like the restroom. Raise your hands high above your head and then bend over to touch the floor. Do a few side bends. You can also place your hands flat on the wall at shoulder level, place your feet directly under your hips as far back as you can reach and extend your hips backward, enjoying a great stretch in your legs, your back and your arms.
Taking a walk gets you moving. When you exercise, your body produces endorphins, those neurotransmitters that create a natural high. Walking puts you into the meditative state in which creativity flows.
If there is something bothering you, walking around for a few minutes helps you calm down. By creating a bit of distance you gain a different perspective on the challenge you face. You’ll be better able to deal with the situation when you return.
Taking a walk is not taking a hike. A walk can be very, very brief. Just taking a walk around the hallways in your office building or leaving the building to walk around the block can make a difference.
Practice these relaxation techniques repeatedly — at least once and preferably twice or three times a day — and you will improve your life balance. You will find that you are better able to deal with stress. You will be more focused and productive when you return to your work. All of this will help you to achieve your goals and make your good life better.