In the early days of retirement, a frequent comment to me has been “now you have time to relax” or “now you can take it easy”. I have smiled and agreed. However, I am learning that relaxation does not come just because you are no longer working. There are always distractions and there are always diversions; these may or may not be relaxing. Retirement does not automatically bring relaxation. For many people, it increases stress and the loss of the structure of going to work creates stress. Admonishments to relax go unheard.
In the first few weeks of retirement, I have been enjoying the freedom from the workplace structure and have had no trouble filling each day with lots of activities –visiting with friends and family, entertaining, pursuing hobbies, and goofing off. Have I been relaxing? Sometimes, but not always.
Learning to relax is a skill that many of us need to learn whether we are retired or still working. Alas, there are no courses on relaxation. There are courses on specific practices such as meditation or restorative activities. These are helpful steps and many people find that meditation, breath practices and mindfulness are essential for relaxation. Others do not share such experiences.
In thinking about relaxation as a way of living that is free from tension and anxiety, it seems important to learn how to re-create oneself regularly and how to care for the inner child that allows you to live and love fully. There are techniques that can help you to understand relaxation and to move to restore equilibrium — or, in the vernacular, to un-wind.
- Begin with the realization that relaxation techniques need to be individualized and customized to reflect the uniqueness of each of us. What you find relaxing may be frustrating, stressful or boring for someone else. What your spouse or partner finds relaxing may not be relaxing for you. You need your own techniques and you need a good repertoire to allow selection as per the type of day or mood.
- Take some quiet time and think about those things that make you relax. These will be your own private things and will be things that are meaningful and helpful to you. These are private so think about the ‘tried and true’ (music, a glass of wine, a long bath, etc.) as well as your infrequently used, but effective, strategies for decompressing. Remembering those things that you enjoyed as a teenager or young adult often helps you to connect with strategies that will be unique to you.
- Write a list of 10. Include those activities that you find restorative. It may include activities that mainstream culture considers to be time wasters — like watching TV or playing video games. The list may include restorative activities like spending time with nature or taking a nap. Try to include lots of ‘fun’ activities involving other people as well as solitary and reflective activities that you undertake alone. Make the list personal and practical and allow space for it to lengthen as you learn more about what makes you relax.
- Be honest. This is about the real you –not the you that is presented to the world. If being alone is more relaxing than being with others, then eliminate those activities that involve others. If being alone creates stress and you need social interaction for relaxation, then focus on activities where social needs are met. The list is about you and reflects how you can sustain yourself and find pleasure.
- Make time to do those things that you find relaxing. It is too easy to fill up every day with obligations, tasks and duties even if you are retired. For the postworksavvy, taking the time for restorative activities is essential for maximizing the pure enjoyment and pleasure of increased leisure time.
As you strengthen your capacity for relaxation you will stay grounded and focused on those aspects of life that are important to you. Relaxation will ensure that you stay enthusiastic about what life offers. Learning the techniques that fuel your capacity to relax will strengthen and feed you. Your capacity to enjoy life, to love yourself and others, to work or play will be enhanced. The people around you will be the beneficiaries of you being relaxed. Like all skills, true relaxation takes some learning, but is worth the effort.
What techniques have helped you to learn to relax? Please share your favourite relaxation strategies in the comments to this post.
Thanks for reading this blog post. If you like my blog please become a subscriber, email my posts to others or tell others about this blog. I appreciate your support and interest.