Relaxing is something I only want when I can’t have it. Every time exam season came around, I would spend 24/7 studying, wishing I was doing something else. I thought about all the TV shows I would watch and how great it would be to sleep in. Only to find out that when I finally had the time to relax, I wasn’t the least bit interested. I ended up feeling guilty for not being productive, not using my time in some sort of valuable way. I would wake up at 8am, because that’s what productive people do, but for no reason. I got less sleep and had more of the day to spend moping. Something had to change.
I should be learning, I should be working, I should be taking over the world. When what I actually should be doing is relaxing.
This inability to relax is a common symptom of individuals with anxiety disorders. Of course, we cannot relax, when we are so busy thinking up Plan A-Z for future events, or thinking about all the conversations we have had over the past day, analysing them for mistakes. Not to mention, we take on other people’s pain and anxieties. We feel when those around us are tense, and it makes us tense. Often, I forget that it’s not actually me who has the problem.
My CBT therapist said free time was turning into my enemy.
I had finished university, and my job gave me very few hours. I am swimming in free time. Instead of enjoying it, thinking about how many people would want to be in my position, I was sit down and feel guilty. I thought about all the things I should be doing. I should read more, I should exercise, I should clean up. I was desperate for a job, something to distract me, and therefore I wasn’t relaxing.
So, what did I do?
I tricked myself into relaxing. It’s not a new concept. I found hobbies that were relaxing enough for my body to de-tense but were engaging enough that my mind could only concentrate on that sole thing, rather than 1000 other worries.
Here are a few of mine:
I’m not a massive gamer, but I grew up in a household of gamers, and when your dad works for major video game corporations, you cannot avoid games. Recently, while agonising over what to do, my dad told me to go and play a game called Dishonoured.
Best. Decision. Ever.
I was so busy focusing on the game, trying to complete all the missions, I forgot to worry. It felt productive in some sense because I was working towards completing the game. When actually, sitting on my butt playing a video game is far from what we would consider productive. It helped me relax, my brain shut off from everything else. I would play for two hours, and then come off feeling refreshed, ready to take on the rest of the day. There was less pressure to ensure the rest of the day was productive or valuable because it felt as if I had ticked that box.
The problem with mindlessly watching Netflix is that my brain travels. I look at those sitcoms and think, why don’t I have that many friends? How dare they get to eat bread! Etc. So while watching shows I love, I like to draw. I’m not perfect, I also only copy images I see on the internet, but it’s still fun. I am so focused on copying the image, my body relaxes and I stop thinking about all the things that are going wrong. The best part is that in the end, I have a picture I created that I can show and flaunt to everyone.
This is similar to drawing, in the sense that I can do it in bed while watching TV, and therefore am in a relaxing environment. Embroidery has a very repetitive nature to it and requires just enough concentration that it still feels active while being relaxing.
In the end…
These are a few things I find trick me into getting myself to relax, to sit down, to stop obsessing, and just chill. It is important to note that I am still trying to learn to just stop and relax, without this need to be doing something; mindfulness is helping with that. But in the meantime, I have found a way to take a breather that doesn’t fill me with endless amounts of guilt. (Blogging is another way I do this!)
There are so many other activities that you can do in your free time to relax, I would highly recommend looking at the Fun activities Catalogue created by the Centre of Clinical Interventions, which composed a list of activities that depressed individuals found to be useful, relaxing ways to spend their time.
Do you experience a similar feeling? Let me know! Like, Comment, and Share.
(Thanks again for the recent Blogger Award nomination, and welcome, new followers!)
Activities that make me feel less,
Anxious and Hungry