How can we feel refreshed and ready to tackle the day that follows? Often, we find ourselves feeling constantly drained and unable to pinpoint the cause of our fatigue. Sleep is often the first and most obvious step to storing our energy – mental, physical, and emotional. But using our leisure time wisely can also help us to truly recharge. How many of us lie on the sofa every night and scroll Instagram for longer than we’d care to admit in the name of “taking a break”?
A common habit for overly stressed individuals is “revenge procrastination” – the decision to stay up late to acquire more free time, thus delaying sleep. Often, when we’re stressed, we will take away real rest for counterfeit versions – like watching TikToks for an hour.
While mindlessly scrolling on social media can be fun, it often doesn’t give us the real rest we need. Social media fails to help us tune into our bodies or to relieve emotional and mental strain. Continual usage of social media can inflate our pre-existing stress, and the constant exposure to stimuli never lets our brains take a break.
Did you know Americans open their phones on average 344 times per day? Every time our phones ding with a new notification, our brains release a motivational hormone called dopamine. The rush you receive from that notification doesn’t last long and quickly declines. This can leave us feeling down after such a quick spike. Consequently, checking our phones all day can make our bodies release cortisol as a stress response. Over time this can lead to long-term stress and anxiety.
Americans open their phones on average 344 times per day.
So reaching for your phone yet again doesn’t seem to be the best way to relax at the end of a long day. Here are some tips on what we can do instead, to rejuvenate, lower our stress levels, and achieve the rest and peace we all desire.
Why Is Relaxing Important?
A car can’t work without fuel, and neither can we. Food, sleep, and rest serve as our form of fuel for everyday life. Without it, we will build up stress in our bodies and pay for it in the long run. According to the American Psychological Association, women have significantly higher stress levels than men. We have less confidence in our abilities (this causes anxiety) and show more physical symptoms of stress than men. We also need healthy, loving relationships to thrive more than the opposite sex. Without relaxation being a part of our lives, we become irritable, more emotionally unstable, and stressed out.
We often hold tension in our bodies when we experience stress. This can manifest as changes to our menstrual cycle, sleep problems, panic attacks, worsening health problems, digestion issues, rashes, and more. Finding ways to relax will limit these negative results and will make us feel more at peace with ourselves and the world around us.
How To Physically Regenerate
Getting sufficient, quality sleep is obviously the most important and effective way to physically rest and recharge. But beyond sleep, physical rest is going to be different for everyone, so finding something that we can enjoy is important. Going for a walk can boost our mood, while helping us relax and clear our minds. Spa days are not only relaxing, but a lot of fun as well! Don’t have the time or the finances? That’s okay! A hot bath and a candle can do just the trick.
When we’re feeling strong, negative emotions, exercise is a great way to release some of the tension in our minds and bodies.
Exercise releases endorphins into the body and lowers stress levels. Sometimes when we’re feeling strong, negative emotions, going for a run or hitting the gym is a great way to release some of the tension in our minds and bodies. Try rolling out a yoga mat and doing some stretches. Stretching daily can help release the aches and pains we accumulate from the day.
How To Emotionally Refresh
Many things affect our emotions in our everyday lives. Our emotions tend to control large parts of our minds so it’s important to take care of them. Spending time laughing with friends or snuggling with a spouse can help ease emotional distress. Talking to a loved one about how you’re feeling can help you process emotions and release an emotional load. If it’s something serious, look into seeing a licensed professional for counseling. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about and can often help us process past and current difficulties.
Let’s look at a few more specific suggestions for how you can use your free time to inject fresh energy and joy into your mood.
Mindfulness is a popular method for reducing stress. Karl Albrecht, Ph.D. from Psychology Today says, “Mindfulness is paying close attention to the experience of the present moment, with calm acceptance of whatever is happening.”
A popular image that comes to mind when people hear the word “zen” is a monk meditating in a lotus position. Finding your “zen” is a mindset on how you choose to perceive the world around you, while letting go of the things you can’t control and understanding your feelings. If all you perceive is the stress around you, that’s all you will be able to see. Eventually, you’ll become tunneled visioned to only negativity and miss the joys that life can offer.
Spend some time daily to reconnect to your mind and body by journaling about how you feel.
Overworking yourself nonstop will eventually drain you. Spend some time daily to reconnect to your mind and body by keeping a journal and writing out how you feel. This will release control of the situation and place your thoughts under a microscope. You can’t always control what happens, but you can control your response. Ask yourself questions: What has been causing me to feel this way? How can I change my perspective? How can I calmly respond?
Find a Relaxing Hobby
Meditation, yoga, reading, exercising, sewing, knitting, and jewelry making are all rejuvenating activities. Art and music can be a relaxing way to express oneself and get the satisfaction of creating your own work. Are you a social butterfly and love meeting new people? Get involved with your community, church, college, or school. Go hiking on the weekend. Have brunch with the girls. Love naps? That can be a relaxing hobby as well! Find a hobby that is fulfilling, but relaxing.
Savor the Outdoors
Nature is known for its therapeutic effects and can serve as a great way to relax. Put on some good walking shoes and listen to the birds in the trees. Find a good podcast or audiobook and listen to it on your walks. Go on a bike ride with a friend. Go for a run at a nearby park. Bring a book and read on a mountain. Get creative! There are many ways you can enjoy nature, so find the one that works for you and your location.
Be Honest about Your Needs
Some may think it’s selfish to prioritize your needs, but is it? Many give so much of themselves for their jobs, education, or kids that they end up running on fumes and eventually burning out. By being clear with ourselves and others about our needs, we can give more in the long run. We can show up better for our jobs and present our best selves for our families.
Communicate with the people around you and express what you need right now. Maybe this means dropping a class, working less, or having your spouse watch the kids so you can have some time to yourself. Remember: you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Rest is crucial for our physical, emotional, and mental health. For us to stay on top of our game, whether that be at home, the office, or school, we must make time for ourselves and take great care of our health. So, get off the couch and find a relaxing hobby or spend some time in the great outdoors. Most importantly, have fun!
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