lifestyled . . . so many high quality ways to unwind
Q: I’d love some suggestions for ways to unwind . . . when I actually do find time for myself it’s so difficult to enjoy the moment!
A: “Me time” is as crucial to well-being and illness prevention as vitamins. At least that’s how I see it. And as such, it should be administered accordingly. Power-napping and meditation work wonders for some—unfortunately, I haven’t been able to master those skills. But I have sorted out a few things that work for me, from attitude adjusters to mental unwinders to fortitude enhancers. It’s not science; science makes me tense. Here you go:
Move your body—specifically bounce on a trampoline or skip. It’s impossible to be grumpy while doing either of those. Impossible. Try, I dare you.
Get sweaty—the easiest way is to take a hot bath. It may feel incredibly decadent to take time out for a bath, but that’s kinda the point. Put epsom or bath salts in the water to increase the detoxifying effects. It’s sort of like exercising and relaxing at the same time, I call it laze-ercising and it’s totally good for you. If your internal dialogue won’t shut up, play a podcast or audiobook to divert your mind. I like Radiolab, WTF or The Moth Radio Hour during bath time.
Give to others—I know that when you’re overwhelmed with your own burdens helping a friend with a project, volunteering, or donating to a charity are not usually top of mind. But I always get a boost of perspective this way, and it usually translates into increased vigor and clearer direction in my work. So even when I am feeling most maxed out and overdrawn, weirdly, giving a little more is exactly the ticket to making it all seem worthwhile.
Get inspired—If I could bottle inspiration and sell it I would make millions. But it’s totally free at ted.com. Disenchanted? Blocked? Surrounded by idiots, tools and douchebags? Go to ted.com, watch a talk or two and mooch some passion from the amazing people that are thinking really interesting thoughts, and just generally being brilliant. It’s a fascinating food-for-thought kind of diversion that juices my problem-solving engine, stokes my “f this mediocrity bsht, we are all capable of greatness” fires, and re-kindles my delight with the human species. Sometimes I google the MacArthur genius grant recipients . . . that works too.
Relax your mind—A few years ago I stumbled upon some hypnotic relaxation recordings, loaded them onto my ipod, and struck gold. The beauty is that it’s really hard to carry on your own annoying internal dialogue when someone else is talking to you. When that someone is telling you to breathe slowly and relax deeply, I do what I’m told. When that someone also helps me sort out a problem that my mental hard drive is chewing on, then that’s progress. I call it producti-laxing and placebo or not, I feel better after I do it, so that’s reason enough.
Pleasure yourself—Oh yeah, it’s good for you. So good. But I’m not just talking about the act that you’re thinking of . . . mostly I’m referring to the idea of consciously doing something healthy that gives you pleasure or brings you joy as a gift to yourself. Eat a square of dark chocolate slowly, massage the tension out of your jaw/forehead, get a pedicure, stretch for 10 whole minutes, or polka dance in your underwear. Fun!
Play a song, play along—We all know that good music is transcendent, but we aren’t always ready or available to be awestruck. Shortcut: divert yourself from your real issues by engaging with the song in a physical way. My recipe: listen to Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne,” while drinking a cup of Oolong, and slowly peeling and eating a mandarin, i.e. “tea and oranges that come all the way from China.” Works.
Happy unwinding! – Amy
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This was originally written for Modern Ink Magazine, Oct. 19, 2011. I have made a few edits and updated the links. Read the article at moderninkmag.com