Everyone approaches relaxation in their own way: Some view having—and taking—the time to relax as their right, and something they prioritize. Others see it as something that must be earned, and is only taken after a particular amount of work, or certain tasks are accomplished (and no sooner). But what most approaches miss is that relaxing is actually a skill.

And like other skills, it’s one that needs to be learned and practiced on a regular basis. Here’s what to know about changing the way you think about relaxation.

How to approach relaxation as a skill

At a time when productivity—both at work and at home—is so highly valued, it’s easy to make the leap to assuming that any time spent not working counts as “relaxing,” and that relaxing is lazy or selfish. But that is not the case.

Meanwhile, there’s also constant talk of burnout, and how it should be avoided. But it’s not as if people who have been conditioned to always be busy can magically start relaxing and recharging at the drop of a hat.

In a recent opinion piece, New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo made the case that literal relaxing—as in, deliberately and physically relaxing your muscles—is, in fact, a skill that needs to be both learned and practiced. But much of his insight is applicable to the broader concept of relaxation, as well.

“I have come to think of relaxation as a skill,” he writes. “The more I relax, the better I learn which parts of my body tend to become tense, what that tension feels like and how to unlock that tension with a quick flick of the mind.”

How to learn and practice the skill of relaxation

Whether you want to learn Manjoo’s muscle relaxation exercise, or are looking to train your brain to shift out of work mode, here are some ways to learn and practice relaxing:

Practicing relaxation techniques can have many benefits, including:

  • Slowing heart rate
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Slowing your breathing rate
  • Improving digestion
  • Maintaining normal blood sugar levels
  • Reducing activity of stress hormones
  • Increasing blood flow to major muscles
  • Reducing muscle tension and chronic pain
  • Improving concentration and mood
  • Improving sleep quality
  • Lowering fatigue
  • Reducing anger and frustration
  • Boosting confidence to handle problems

Finally, this resource from Charleston Southern University,  provides additional ways to practice not only relaxing, but getting your body and mind into a state that encourages you to do so.

The Freeman/Lozier Library has these resources on relaxation:

Relaxation, Meditation, and Mindfulness [electronic resource] : A Practical Guide  Electronic Access: BELLEVUE: Access limited to Bellevue University patrons – click here to view

Letting Go of Stress [electronic resource (video)] : A Guide to Achieving Deep Relaxation





Mastering the Art of Relaxation

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