What does it mean to “relax”?

Ever since I can remember, people always told me to relax. Too excited, relax. Too angry, relax. Stressed out over exams, relax. But what does it mean to relax? And why is it such a hard state to reach?

What does it mean to relax? Take a break? Be at peace?

Are those people who are described as “chill” or “laid back” considered relaxed? Should you be relaxed all the time or just some of the time?

As someone who has anxiety, I’m not familiar with the feeling of being relaxed. Even when I’m reading a book or watching a movie, I’m on edge to know what will happen.

I worry about tomorrow. I reminisce about yesterday. I try to be mindful, but it’s a struggle. Sometimes I’m able to have a few moments of absolute peace and contentment and I just sit and look at my loved ones and feel so lucky, until a few moments later, my train of thought is crashed by anxiety train, bringing with it doubt, fear, insecurity and overanalyzing every micromovement as a sign that I am not happy and that I was delusional to think I could be a good person.

Back to the main question, what does it mean to relax?

I searched “relax” on pinterest and came up with several things.

In other words, here are some things I don’t find relaxing:

1. A bath with essential oils, candles and a book!

I don’t mean to rain on anyone’s parade, because if those things work for you, good for you. But for me, that’s the instagram version of relax. You know, set up the scene, take pictures, then put everything away. Don’t tell me you actually read books in the bath! Won’t the book get wet? Besides, I tried taking a bath before and got so bored. I shower with lavender and coconut oil so yes the essential oils in the shampoo do have a relaxation effect because they smell and feel good, but I don’t find baths relaxing at all, and a candle in the bath is not so practical.

2. Reading in front of nature or in front of a fire!

Sorry, but, you either focus on the book or the scenery. Sitting by the fire while talking to a friend is relaxing. I did that once. It was nice. But I tried going to the park and reading, and I don’t recommend. I kept getting distracted by the trees and flowers. I find nature in itself relaxing, and reading in itself helps me feel productive and less stressed. But together, it’s too confusing for me.

Now to the things I do find relaxing:

1. Yoga:

Maybe it’s the stretching, or the yoga tune on the application I use, but it works. I rarely do yoga nowadays, (I go through phases), but it really helps, especially on the days I don’t feel like exercising.

2. Reading

On the couch, at a table, completely focused and immersed in a book, no props or instagram settings, just me and a book and my imagination.

3. Looking at a body of water:

Feel better now? For me, it’s watching the waves at the beach, or if you live near a lake, or a river, or the ocean, looking at a body of water is like natural meditation.

4. Trees:

I mentioned above how trees and books don’t mix, and not just because books are made of paper which are made from trees cut down, but also because in order to be mindful, you must not multitask. You need to give your full focus on the relaxing activity. Watch the branches as they sway, listen to the breeze, the birds chirping, the feel of the breeze on your face. Inhale the pure oxygen. The farthest you can be away from pollution is when you’re closest to trees, because they literally purify the air.

5. Mind your diet:

There are certain foods that increase stress and foods that decrease stress. I’m always advised to cut down on caffeine because it increases stress and agitation, but I haven’t brought myself to even cutting down to 1 cup instead of 2 cups a day. However, I eat oats sometimes, and avocado (but rarely) so I guess I have some work to do?

There are many other things you can do to relax, like doing your nails, going for a walk, inviting friends over, taking a nap, coloring, or going to the gym.Basically, relaxing is something you do to feel it. You practice mindfulness to feel mindful, which helps decrease stress and anxiety and helps you feel relaxed. It’s a practice, not a state of mind. Nobody can be relaxed all the time. Chill people are usually lazy, but anxious people can be lazy too.

I just felt that it was an important reminder, with everything going out of control in the world, to focus on what you can control, and relax. If taking a bath with scented candles and a book does that for you, go for it! Just remember that relaxation doesn’t come to you. If you’re feeling anxious, do something to relax. After all, when you’re happy and relaxed, so will everyone around you be. And you will be happier and make others around you happier. It beats yelling all day and getting mentally exhausted from being irritated about everything and everyone.

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