8 Ways to Relax
Dear Izzy, Max, and Kate,
This morning I studied the trees. It’s fall and the colors are changing. Brilliant shades of orange, yellow, red, and purple.
Several minutes passed as I stared and considered how I prefer mystery and beauty to science. I feel myself changing too.
I was relaxed.
A few weeks ago I wrote to you about Contentment. Despite the various ways I’ve learned to focus on being content I think I’ve still been struggling with learning to relax. They’re different.
Here are a few ways I’m able to relax.
1. Quiet Time – Our modern world uses us up. Our time is filled from the moment our eyes open until we lay down to sleep at night. Our phones, our televisions, our radios, our tablets, and our computers occupy our minds and attention. I’ve learned to start my day with a few quiet moments. I generally sit at the kitchen table, before anyone in the house is awake, and read devotionals or scripture. I shut out all other sounds and distractions. These few moments have become critical to my days success.
2. Take it Slow – Because our time is overfilled with things to do or focus on, we tend to live in a perpetual hurry. There’s a guy at the pool in the mornings who rushes in the door, strips down to his tri shorts, and jumps in all in one motion. I’m usually standing there stretching a little, trying to wake up. He eyes me as he makes his move for the one remaining free lane. He’s in a hurry, so I let him have it. Trying to get to that lane before him doesn’t matter. I’ll get a lane – or I won’t. It’s okay. I’ve found myself rushing to do most things. I do that so that I can get on to the next thing. Lately I’ve been moving slow on purpose. Letting the people who are in a hurry stress themselves out. I sit in the slow lane of backed up traffic now, instead of moving over in the still moving lane that will have to make a last second merge eventually. We’ll all get there.
3. Read to your Kids – It seems simple enough. Everyone reads to their kids, right? When I considered how I was “reading” to you kids I found out that I was rushing through it instead of appreciating it. I felt anxious to get through them. I was skipping pages, hoping you wouldn’t notice. My voice was terse and by the end of the book I’m certain we were all more tense than relaxed. Lately, I’ve stopped doing that. We sit down now and you kids gather in my lap or around me. We dim the lights slightly. And I read. Slowly. In a quiet deep voice. It’s soothing for all of us. In the end, when you ask me to read it again, I do it. One more time. Slowly and more quietly than the first time.
4. Breathe deep – We all feel anxious or stressed sometimes. When I feel that way I’ve started breathing deeply. 10 deep breathes before I react. I’ve found that how I respond is effected greatly by this brief pause and reflection. I often stop on top of some of the tallest climbs near our home when I’m on my bike. There, high above our town, I’ll look across the horizon and breathe. In that stillness I can focus on the rhythm of my own breathing and feel gratitude.
5. Let Go – I’m a control freak. No one has ever accused me of that or called me one, but I know I am. I hold onto things that are mine. I’ve been analyzing the things in my life that I hold onto too tightly. They included; decision making control at home, strict schedules for you kids, my hobbies, and a grasp for power/leadership in my career. I’ve found lately that by letting go and doing what I can do in the moment is an easier way to live. I’m trying not to override Mommy’s decisions in our home. I’m learning to accept that everyone has their own triathlon dreams and that they aren’t simply stealing mine. We’re taking bed times, play time, bath time more casually now. I found out that if I let you kids have influence on determining these things you end up doing them the way I wanted to begin with. That saves all of us the stress of rushing to adhere to the schedule. At work I’ve learned to stop protecting my stuff. Allowing others to help and contribute makes my life easier, and makes me more successful at my true strengths.
6. Listen – I spend time alone in the woods in the fall during my trail runs. I often stop on the trail and just listen. The sound of the wind in the trees, animals in the distance, and my own breathing is my only company. I’ve also started trying to listen to people when they talk, instead of formulating my response in my head while they’re still speaking. I’m trying to just listen more and not come up with a response, a solution, or a rebuttal. We all want to be heard sometimes. Afford that opportunity to people more often.
7. Read a book or listen to music – I’ve always loved words. The way they sound together and create rhythm in our hearts. I find books that help me relax and inspire me to reflect, but not necessarily act. Sometimes I reflect only the pattern of the words. I’m guilty of reading one page or one paragraph several times before moving on. I do the same with songs I love. Learn to appreciate art deeply before rushing on to consume more.
8. Reflect on love, not the mystery – I get lost sometimes wondering what life means. Instead I’m learning to appreciate the beauty of love in general. Be still in the moment.
I love you,
“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe