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Published on March 31, 2020

How to Relax, Unwind and Reduce Stress

How to Relax, Unwind and Reduce Stress

Many of us work hard to achieve a successful career. We spend years in school, and then get a good paying job that we think will bring us a comfortable life. Then one day we realize that all we seem to do is work and have forgotten how to relax.

There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious and trying to attain a comfortable living. The problem that many of us have is that we don’t maintain a good work-life balance. We know how to work, but we don’t know how to unwind and enjoy life when we’re not.

“Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is relax.” ~ Mark Black

In this article, I’m going to show you how to relax with some simple and enjoyable activities, so you can find more peace and balance in your life.

Why Should You Relax?

Some of the reasons for relaxing may be obvious. You will feel more calm and at ease, and less stressed out. Some of the less obvious reasons are improvements in your health.

Relaxation can have a significant impact on your health. Some of the benefits are lower blood pressure, lower risk of heart disease, fewer digestive problems, and more. Relaxation can also help you think more clearly, which leads to better decision-making and improved memory.

Overall, your quality of life will be much better. You’ll feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally. Through the course of your life, you will preserve your good health as long as possible. That is, you’ll live longer, healthier, and happier.

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Unwinding Is Easy

Relaxing and unwinding is easier than you might think. It is actually more normal for you to be relaxed than stressed out. You see, if we leave our mind alone, it will naturally slow down. It is much like driving your car down the road. Take your foot off the accelerator, and eventually the car will slow down to a crawl.

The problem is that we never leave our mind alone. We’re always agitating it through our various activities and background noise. Relaxing and unwinding is a process. It takes a little time of reduced sensory stimulation.

How to Relax

As you’ll see, most of the suggestions below revolve around doing less, or diverting your attention to more pleasant things. They will help slow down your mind and give you a break from the things that cause you stress.

1. Take a Warm Bath

A warm bath has several benefits. It will help you relax physically and mentally. The warm water will relax your muscles and relieve tension and soreness.

In addition, the quiet environment will help calm your mind and improve your mood. By promoting both physical and mental relaxation, the warm bath will help you sleep better, which reduces stress and anxiety.[1]

2. Take up a Hobby

Get involved in your favorite hobby, preferably one that is relaxing. The ones that are most relaxing are passive activities, such as watching television, reading a book, or listening to some soothing music.

The important thing about choosing a hobby is doing something you love. This will help you divert your attention from the things that cause you stress, and give your attention to things that bring you joy and happiness.

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Remember, your job is only one aspect of your life. Its purpose is to provide you with the things you need to survive and that bring you fulfillment. Don’t neglect the latter.[2]

3. Create a Bedtime Ritual

Before turning in for the night is an ideal time to relax and unwind. It is a time we associate with tending to our personal needs, a time for rest after a busy day. The important aspect of a bedtime ritual is repetition. This will train your mind to automatically go into a relaxed state as you begin your ritual.[3]

Here is a sample bedtime ritual to unwind: Turn down the lights; maybe light a candle. Climb in bed and feel the cool sheets on your body. As you sit there, take a few mindful breaths to begin calming your thoughts. Read a few passages from an inspirational book, and take a few moments to savor the wisdom and beauty of the reading. Turn off the lights, get comfortable in your bed, and go to sleep.[4]

4. Take a Bathroom Break

It’s amazing how much a bathroom break can help you relax. I think there a couple of reasons for this. First, it’s easy to give ourselves permission to go to the bathroom. Second, by closing the door behind us, we can shut out the world for just a few minutes.

The great thing about a bathroom break is that we can do it anytime, and by nature, most of the things we do in the bathroom are relaxing.

5. Go Outside

Like a bathroom break, going outside can get us away from the busy world for a few minutes. The fresh air and change of scenery can help us clear our mind.[5] In addition, seeing the rest of the world helps us put things into a larger perspective. It helps us see beyond our own busy lives.

So, go outside: smell the fresh air, listen to the birds sing, admire the beauty of the trees and flowers, and just take it all in.

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6. Spend Time With Loved Ones

For many of us, our family and friends bring us a great deal of joy and fulfillment. Spending time with them helps us relax and unwind, especially after a busy day.

When spending time with loved ones, it’s important to make sure you are fully present. Don’t let your job or your troubles dominate your attention when you are with them. It is truly disheartening when you are with a loved one whose mind is somewhere else. This simply creates more stress and conflict in the family.

7. Take a Vacation

One of the best ways to relax and unwind is to take a vacation. Make sure it is a real vacation, that is, at least a week or two long. It can take several days for you to get your mind off work.

Another aspect of a good vacation is that you go some place you’ve never been to before. The reason for this is that unfamiliar surroundings force your mind to be in the present moment, which can help you relax.

On the other hand, if you have a place that you really love and where you have an easy time relaxing, then by all means go there. The important thing is that you’re able to forget about work for a few days.

It is also a good idea to go some place where there isn’t cell phone reception, or at least keep your phone off and put away most of the time you are on your vacation. It’s hard for many of us to get away from our mobile devices, which are a source of mental agitation.

And last but not least, make sure you relax while you’re on your vacation. Don’t schedule a bunch of activities that will keep you busy your entire vacation. Schedule in some quiet time to relax and unwind. You don’t want to go back home needing a few days to recuperate from your vacation.

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8. Try Meditation

Meditation is a powerful tool to help you relax. A recent study found that just 15 minutes of meditation is the equivalent of one day of vacation in helping you relax.[6] Now, that is pretty amazing!

There are various forms of meditation. The one I recommend is mindfulness meditation. I like mindfulness meditation because the practice is simple, robust, and flexible. You can use it to fit your schedule and suit your lifestyle.

The other great thing about mindfulness meditation is that it is non-religious, so you don’t have to adhere to any religion or doctrine. All you basically have to do is sit quietly for a few minutes and follow your breath. You don’t have to do it perfectly, and you don’t have to meditate for long periods to get the benefits.

There are lots of resources for learning mindfulness meditation, such as books, CDs, and articles. Find a resource that actually teaches you the techniques.

Final Thoughts

On our path to a successful career, most of us are never taught how to relax and unwind. We learn all about our field of study and how to be successful in our careers, but rarely are we taught how to be successful in life.

A successful life consists of a good work-life balance. It’s important to work hard at something we like and be able to relax and not let our work consume our whole lives. We need to learn how to enjoy our lives along the way. If we don’t, then what is the whole point of working so hard?

If you want more balance in your life, then make relaxation a part of your routine. Not only will you feel better, but you will also be more productive and gain more satisfaction from your work and your personal life.

More Tips on Relaxation

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Charles A. Francis

Author, meditation teacher, and director of the Mindfulness Meditation Institute

How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying About the Future 5 Ways Mindful Breathing Calms Your Nerves How to Stop Intrusive Thoughts from Eating You Alive 20 Best Guided Meditations for Sleep and Insomnia How to Cope with the 5 Common Stressors In Life

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Last Updated on October 20, 2020

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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  • (1) Research
  • (2) Deciding the topic
  • (3) Creating the outline
  • (4) Drafting the content
  • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
  • (6) Revision
  • (7) etc.

Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

2. Change Your Environment

Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

6. Get a Buddy

Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

7. Tell Others About Your Goals

This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

Reality check:

I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future. Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

Bonus: Think Like a Rhino

More Tips for Procrastinators to Start Taking Action

Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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