For many of us, relaxation does not come easily. It can feel like there is something more productive that we should be doing, rather than giving ourselves the space to unwind and decompress. The world around us is constantly sending messages that if you are not being productive or actively working on a project or task, you are wasting valuable time. Perfectionism within American culture demands optimal and “productive” use of time at all times, and it always expects more. Through this narrative, we start to associate guilt with relaxation. “Why am I sitting around when I have things to do?” We are led to believe that relaxing is just laziness. “I should be able to grind out this work, I’m just being lazy.“
If you are feeling tired, uninspired, or burnt-out, your body and mind may be communicating that you need to recharge. Just as we may need to pause after running a long distance and catch our breath, our minds need time to replenish after devoting so much of our energy to productivity. We are not meant to be exerting ourselves 24/7, and it is unfair to expect ourselves to do so. When you give yourself space to mindfully relax, you not only fill up your battery to do better work, but you also reconnect with the activities and people that bring you joy. That alone strengthens your mental health more than checking items off of a to-do list.
The reality is – there will always be tasks that need to be done; if you put off relaxing until you feel as though there’s nothing left to do, you may never get a chance to rest and engage in pleasurable activities. So next time you are feeling overwhelmed, instead of pushing to finish a task or start a new project, try giving yourself permission to relax. It may make all the difference in your energy and mindset!
By: Mel Signore
Mental Health Counseling Intern