A Bringer of New Things

Musings on personal growth, books, motherhood, writing, and more.

On Pursuing a Relaxed Life


This is a companion post to my recent post “Waging War on My Stress.” While that post focused on my realization of how stressed out I am almost all the time (apparently my body thinks I’m always in a survival crisis), this post is to focus on the flip side: I am seriously pursuing a more relaxed life.

I’m aware of the irony in that statement (along with the irony [which was intentional, by the way] of “waging war on my stress,” as Emilie pointed out in a comment on that post): pursuing is the opposite of relaxing. But this is a paradox I’m working with right now…

Part of me wishes I had more time and energy with which to pursue relaxation; I would go whole-hog and learn yoga, meditation, and other such things, and I’d research and try other alternative and lifestyle ways of reducing my generalized anxiety levels.

But the rest of me thanks my circumstances for holding me back. I naturally tend to throw too much enthusiasm and effort at things and then burn out, but my physical weakness has taught (and continues to teach) me through “tough love” that I’ve got to just sit back and let things be. In contrast to standard goal-keeping advice (“break it down,” “set deadlines,” “get practical/realistic,” etc.), I often find these days that the best way to pursue a change in my life is to simply be aware of that desire—and then to let life gradually show me ways to meet it.

So that’s what I’m doing with relaxation. I know that I want to cultivate a relaxed mind and life, and I know that throwing myself into learning yoga or meditation is not the way to begin (though I still hope that maybe future time and energy will allow me to explore those kinds of things). For now, I’m pursuing a relaxed life by just staying aware of my goal, and that helps my mind stay open to ways of making my goal a reality. The ways do come, in the form of little ideas for in-the-moment things I can do or changes I can make to be more relaxed, such as:

* Remind myself that the world won’t end if I don’t get ____ done today
* Get up, get away from screens, walk around, and breathe (ideally, go outside)
At work, think of something positive to look forward to, such as reading a novel I’m into later that evening; also, remind myself of truths/mantras that comfort me
At home, do something fun and/or relaxing, such as:
Play the piano or the guitar
Take a candlelit bath
Brush Marvin, my cat who sheds the most (it relaxes us both!)

And the list goes on. (I actually do have a written list of fun and relaxing things I can do at home. I consult it often!) I’m hoping the little things like this, combined with awareness of my goal (and also cutting out caffeine and exercising more, which are both helping a lot), will keep adding up to a lasting change in my life.


6 comments on “On Pursuing a Relaxed Life

  1. emilievardaman
    August 13, 2014

    I still think language could be interfering! Wanting time an energy to pursue relaxation?? Just light the candle and take the bath. If you put too much energy in “trying” to relax it will become another stressor. Cat time, for sure, is quality relaxation time. Try sunsets, too, with chamomile tea. Blow yourself a kiss.
    I surely support you in your choice to relax. It took me so, so many years to stop running.
    And thanks for the mention, Sarrah!


    • Sarrah J. Woods
      August 13, 2014

      I know—but I don’t know what else to do. If I don’t “try” to relax and stay aware of that goal, I just won’t do it, period. My default nature is to stay wound up all the time—relaxing does NOT come naturally to me. So I have to make it an intention, as ironic as that is. It’s the way my brain works, I guess.
      Thanks for your thoughts, Emilie!


      • emilievardaman
        August 13, 2014

        I do wish you the best. My brain didn’t used to work like that, either. Thankfully it does better these days. Sadly, I can relax physically, but these days I don’t sleep. My brain won’t stop. Last night, for example, I slept a total of just under three hours. But at least I’m good at stopping and watching nature’s beauty!


        • Sarrah J. Woods
          August 13, 2014

          I definitely know what you mean about a brain that won’t stop! I hope I do get to a better point where at least physical relaxation is easier. I wish you restful thoughts and sleep!


  2. lucindasagemidgorden
    August 13, 2014

    Something I find relaxing is to concentrate on what I’m doing, or not doing in this moment. If I’m concentrating on the moment, there is no room for other pressures to enter my mind. It’s thinking about all the things I need to do in a day that cause stress for me. Then if I don’t get it all done, I pressure myself with adding to tomorrow’s list. Not good all the way around. Concentrating on the moment helps me feel less stress.


    • Sarrah J. Woods
      August 13, 2014

      Good idea, Lucinda, and it serves as a reminder for me—I used to find help from that technique of “mindfulness,” which for me is not only about what I’m doing in the present moment but also about what I am observing in the present moment—sounds, smells, and “feels” especially. That helps me a lot. Thanks for reminding me of that!


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