6 Ways To Teach Yourself To Relax, For People Who Feel Like Their Minds Never Stop Running

It's become so incredibly difficult to relax nowadays. With phones buzzing and media not only controlling our lives, but assuming our expression of identity (hello, social!) it can almost feel as though your life is a constant job, and it's always up for consumption. It's really not to say that generations prior (and centuries ago) there weren't more pressing stressors, but it is to say that the problems we, as a species, once dealt with were... different. When the problem is starvation, you find food, and that problem is resolved. When the problem is existential disassociation because you've confused media for interaction... well, it becomes a lot harder to solve because it's hidden within your psyche. 

You have to teach yourself to relax the same way you had to teach yourself to cook and budget and pay your taxes on time. It's pretty safe to just assume that relaxation isn't always a natural byproduct of the world (or the bodies!) we're living in, so we have to create it for ourselves. I assume that what you're expecting from here on out is a list of green tea concoctions and binaural beats and spiritual self-help books, but you'd be wrong. Those treat the symptoms, not the problems. So here are a few ways to get down and dirty with your zen game, by starting where it matters: at the core. 

Treat Meditation The Way You Do Your Workout

When it gets exhausting and you want to give up, do you? (Don't answer that.) Kidding aside, get on your meditation game like you were training for a half marathon. Why? Because the point isn't to sit peacefully for 10+ minutes, it's to actually train your brain to focus, to let thoughts go without adopting them thus creating feelings of them, and so on. 

Remember That You Are In Control Of Yourself 

When we're stressed, it's because our subconscious is still trying to figure out whether or not we should "fight or flight." This is what happen when we aren't taking action in our lives, or think we cannot take action in our lives. The truth is that even when it comes to the things we cannot control — impulses, deaths, loss — we can control how we respond to them and how we react to them. It's trying to find control in our lives rather than in ourselves. Because even when we start acting or thinking or feeling in a way that seems decidedly out of our control, we can then choose how we respond and what we do next. The first and biggest part to life is just realizing that you're behind the wheel. 

Compartmentalize Your Life

You need to be able to say: "This is work time, this is fun time, this is family time, this is me time." For people who don't like to adhere to strict schedules, that's fine — you don't have to operate like a robot, you just need to be able to define these parts of your life as separate. As someone who has struggled tremendously with this — I work from home, I'm thinking about or doing something for work almost all of the time — I can tell you that the trick is in the little things: don't take your phone out to dinner, make sure you work in a separate space from where you relax, and relax in a separate space from where you sleep, tell the people closest to you that you're working, and that you need your boundaries respected, and so on. 

Learn To Give Your All To What You're Doing

The difference between people who can let go of their work (or family, or relationship) thoughts without having one area bleed into another and the people who cannot is that the people who do are the people who try their best in each area. They are the people who can walk away knowing that they did what they could, for as long as they could do it, and so pretty simply, they don't feel hung up or regretful about it. There's really no way to relax if and when a major part of your life is in jeopardy, and fortunately for us, that's what ensures we keep the balls juggling. TLDR: Take care of what's actually pressing or urgent, to the best of your ability. Prioritize. Let the rest fall onto the "to do" list for tomorrow.  

Give Yourself Permission To *Freak Out*

There's a very subtle but very crucial distinction between falling into a pit of despair and self-loathing and just letting yourself freak out a bit. Life hack: the former usually happens when you suppress the latter. When you stuff your emotions down into a black abyss, they become metaphorical monsters in the closet. Your job is to shine a light inside and show yourself it was only ever in your mind anyway. Emotional intelligence is not composure, it's the ability to productively feel and manage every feeling you have. That's all. 

Streamline The Things You Need To Do To Survive 

Streamline your cooking process (cook on Sundays and freeze!) automate your bills, pay in cash, burn your credit cards, get a real alarm clock and keep electronics out of the bedroom so you sleep better, pack your bag for work the night before you go, clean dishes as you dirty them, do a 10 minute clean up each night. The point is that you don't have to exist in a sustained state of chaos. There is a way to streamline what's necessary so you can get to what's important (sometimes we don't think they're the same). In this case, what's important is being able to give yourself some peace of mind. 

Images: Unsplash; Giphy 

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