I don’t think of myself as someone who needs to relax – I think of myself as someone who needs to get more done. How much time did I spend this week watching YouTube videos, not to mention TV and scrolling through Twitter? I left the house only a few times and I sure didn’t send out enough job applications.
I am spending a lot of time doing ‘relaxing things’ like watching Dancing with the Stars and annoying my brother. But I am always multi-tasking. At any given moment, half my brain is reading and the other half is beating myself (itself?) up for not being more productive. It is a relentless barrage of “You should be.. you should be… you should be..”
How do I turn that off? How do I say to myself “I’m doing the best I can and right now I need to relax, it does me not good to try and work right now?” Then, how do I get myself to listen?
I have been trying to use a work schedule, establishing a rule of no job searching after 6. I am also recovering from a concussion and am limiting my computer use to 1 hour at a time. This helps me conceptualize breaks as “recovery” in a more meaningful way. But often this leads to more general ruminations, not about the day in particular but about how my life is going overall. Why are I doing more? Going places? Making things?
Often times the only way I can successfully relax is when I am sick. Like when period cramps would knock me out for half a day, leaving me to watch Judge Judy as I clutched at a heating pad on the couch. Or when I caught the adenovirus in June and was sick and fatigued for five days. Only when physical forces intervene can I justify a relaxing morning or an afternoon episode of TV. Even then, I think to myself about how I should have taken better of my body: eaten more vegetables slept more taken more vitamins exercised more.
Recently I have been making some progress on the ‘learn to relax’ front. Over the weekend, my parents were away and it was just my brother and me at home. The arts festival we wanted to go to had been rained out and the sour weather prevented any afternoon hikes as well. The Patriots were playing at 1. The two of us spent most of the afternoon on the couch, brainstorming quarterbacks they should sign and walking the dog during halftime. Sundays are an easy day for no obligation, especially when my dad is not home with his errand list. We made nachos and watched the game and knit. I relaxed.
I sometimes feel like “relax” just becomes another item on the long list of “things I should be doing”, another thing to worry about. I should not be worrying about whether I am doing self-care right. But it’s also becoming a gift to myself, something that I can look forward to, whether it’s lunch on the patio or my Wednesday night sitcoms.
Slowly, I’m learning.