These are difficult times. It’s been a year since COVID19 hit us. Some people suggested at that time that this situation may last up to 1 - 2 years. It seemed crazy then.
This is a major global ‘shock’. Most of us have not witnessed something as long and deep as this in our lifetimes. It has put human beings under unimaginable stress. We are all putting out a brave face and holding strong. But deep within, the social changes caused by the virus have been nothing less than a shock. Let us recognise this and be a little gentler on ourselves and each other.
I pray that you and your family are ok. If you have been affected, I pray for your strength and healing - physically and emotionally.
Even before the pandemic, I believe that as a society we were moving headlong into a mental health crisis. I see it clearly in the work that I do with people. Changing lifestyles, competition in every sphere, social media and instant gratification created by technology has affected us deeply.
I want to say this to all of us - lets learn to stay relaxed, and lets help each other stay relaxed.
Usually, when we use the word 'relax' we visualise a holiday. We think of time off work. We imagine being in the lap of luxury and comfort. And that's great. But, why wait for that to happen?
I wish to shatter the illusion that in order to relax we need to break away from our everyday life.
When I am relaxed I perform better, I relate better, I take better decisions, and I create more abundance.
Relax and work.
Relaxing is not the opposite of working. Just because you are not working, it does not mean that you are relaxing.
Work <-------------------> Idle
The opposite of work is idleness. Being idle is not the same as being relaxed.
Relaxed <--------------------> Stressed
The opposite of relaxed is stressed. Work does not have to result in stress.
I have worked 16 hour days and yet been relaxed. And, I have been on extended periods of doing hardly anything and yet been stressed. The two are not connected.
To relax is a skill. One must learn it, practise it and make it a part of one’s life.
You cannot fulfill your life's true potential if you dont learn how to relax-at-will.
Not just a skill. A critical skill.
To be able to relax, especially when things are not what I expect them to be, is a critical life skill. Just like any other skill, it needs to be learned, practised and used regularly.
Why do I call it a skill?
Do you study better when you are worried?
Do you work more effectively when you are tired?
Do you relate better when you are feeling irritated?
Are you more innovative when you are in a rush?
The brain has a ‘stress response’ which gets triggered by certain stressful events in our life. A chain of chemicals flows into our nervous system and puts us on high alert. It is a survival mechanism.
We may not be able to short circuit the stress response but we can definately teach ourselves to snap out of it quickly.
When I can relax-at-will, I think clearly and act decisively.
Great leaders, sportspeople, stage performers, entrepreneurs, and students always seem to remain calm in situations that make mortals fall to pieces. Here are some people are well known for their ability to stay relaxed under pressure:
MS Dhoni - India's 'captain cool'
James Bond - Shaken, not stirred.
Jim Lovell - the Apollo 13 astronaut who said ‘Houston we have a problem’
Steve Jobs - Stay hungry.
Nelson Mandela - I never lose. I either win, or I learn.
Our ability to relax determines the quality of our life.
"If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…" Rudyard Kipling
3 things that help me relax-at-will
Take a break from complex stuff and do something basic.
Cook, chop, eat, feed, draw, dance, sing, walk, declutter, clean, play. Make it a habit to take regular ‘get basic’ breaks. Do this even in your most high-pressure periods - exams, intent work pressure, deadlines, etc. Dance for only 5 mins, but dance! Draw only for 5 mins, but draw!
Write down all the things that are bothering you.
Prioritise them, and focus on just one of them. Then, write down the next step you must take. Write only one next step. Writing down forces me to clear my mind. Thoughts and ideas can be like dark clouds. Writing them down is like precipitation - rain - it brings the clouds down in the form of water and clears up the skies once again!
Go help someone.
Make someone feel better. Share your love. This always works. Even in the midst of madness, you can always make someone feel better. Send someone an appreciation note, remind someone of something good they did, do some chores for someone, call someone just to say ‘you made a difference in my life.’ Need not be a big thing. But do something to make someone feel better. You will be amazed at how it makes you feel.
There are 7 types of rest.
To be able to relax you need to be well rest. Rest is not just about taking a break from work and watching some shows. Here are 7 different dimensions of rest and we need all of them.
Physical rest - sleep, a hot bath, a massage
Visual rest - visual processing takes up 60% of our brains energy, take a screen break, be in nature, close your eyes for some time, put cucumber slices on your eyes
Mental rest - slow down the flow of thoughts, do a hobby, art, music, sports, chanting a mantra, singing, dance
Emotional rest - be with people who love you, help someone, express gratitude, take a break from pleasing someone, express how you feel, stop diplomacy for some time, say no to things and people pressuring you
Intellectual rest - break from intense analytic or creative work, leaving goals aside and being in the moment, do things that are easy, clean up your desk, water the plants, call a friend
Social rest - me time, sit with a cup of coffee, stay off social media, go for a walk alone, put your phone off for a few hours
Spiritual rest - feel gratitude, take a step back from your problems, have wonder in the little things, feel connected with existence, nature, God, energy, strengthen your faith in the intelligence of life, practise acceptance
Figure out what kind of rest you need right now.
Getting well balanced rest increases your powers of relaxing-at-will exponentially!
This is adapted from an original article written by Dr Saundra Dalton-Smith, M.D., author of Sacred Rest: Recover your life.
Here's my parting question. Try asking this to the first 3 people you meet after reading this!
Is there a thought that you think, that makes you instantly feel relaxed?
For me that thought is 'Everything happens for a resason. I trust life'
For my wife Aarti knowing that her family is safe, calms her down in any situation.
Would love to receive a letter from you whenever you feel like.