4 Things I’ve Learnt in my

Quest to Relax

By Laura 

How to get better at relaxing

If you’ve read any of my other blogs you’ll know that relaxation doesn’t come easily to me. But it’s not because I don’t prioritise it. I’m not one of those people who find it hard to treat themselves (sadly I find this all too easy judging by my bank balance!) or has such a busy life that they find it impossible to make time. I do make time for it. I just find it really hard!

Over the past four months or so, I’ve made a huge effort to re-train my brain to slow down a bit to support the healing of my body. Again, I don’t want to be boring but let’s just recap briefly. I live with chronic back pain, it makes me very tired but in a cruel twist of fate, it also makes it very hard to physically and mentally let go. I didn’t realise this for a long time. I felt like I was spending a lot of time lying around. But I realised during my hypnosis sessions that my body was thrumming with tension, my muscles were over-engaged even in a “relaxation position” and my brain was ever a hive of unhelpful activity. All of this was very tiring. And ensured I existed in a constant state of stress in “fight or flight mode.” Basically not good.

So… what did I do? Well… I tried to relax of course. But as we know easier said than done. I want to share with you 4 tips I’ve learnt over the past few months that have helped take me from crazed to calm (ish).

#1 Find Your Anchor

Picture the scene, you’re lying down for a much-anticipated back massage, a well-deserved treat. Ping. Inane thought number one has entered the building. Ping. It’s joined by inane thought number 2, then 3, then 4,5,6,7,8 then before you know it your brain is busier than Kings Cross and your therapist thanks you and tells you it’s the end of the massage. You leave the massage feeling much the same as when you entered… only £60 lighter and twice as frustrated as when you entered. 

Maybe this isn’t you. And you can just “switch off.” If this is you I feel like it needs a standing ovation. Still, chances are at some point you find it hard to let go mentally. So what do you do?

Work on finding an anchor. This is commonly used in meditation and helps to stabilise and centre your thoughts when your mind starts to wander. (Note it’s not about having a “blank mind” - it’s more about a “light mind.” Those distracting thoughts are able to drift away and you don’t attach to them. 

The most simple anchor I routinely use is a breath in for two and breath out for two pattern. If I start to deepen this breath too much, I can start to feel panicked. It’s not a pranayama (breath) exercise, it’s just about maintaining an easy and steady rhythm. 

Other anchors include visualisations, imagining that beautiful beach or calming forest scene. When your mind wanders keep coming back to that image, adding in layers if you need to develop the picture. 

Play around with what you can use to anchor yourself. It’s deeply personal and incredibly important if you want to get into a calm state.

#2 Don’t Force It

Woo, this is a big one.

Have you ever had insomnia and the more frustrated you become, the more you will yourself to sleep, the further away it gets? This is certainly the case for me. I do lots of meditations whether that’s Reiki, Sound Baths, Facial Treatments or listening to calming audios. The more I want to relax, the less relaxed I am. It’s cruel!

I know I sound like a broken record with this “light mind, heavy body” milark but this is the main strategy for me. I concentrate on my anchor, allow the thoughts to flit around across my head and I don’t chase the deep relaxation state. I should say at this point, what even is this state I’m searching for? The closest I can say is when you’re in the best ever snooze state, no children to do breakfast for, no work to get up for… all you have to do is keep hitting snooze on your alarm. You know that feeling? That’s what I want. I’m not fully asleep, I’m cognizant of my surroundings but I’m in a blissful sleepy state. 

Just trust that the more you let go, the more it will come to you. Now you can see why it’s a challenge!

#3 Don’t Get Disheartened

If it’s not working that day, don’t lose hope. Try to calmly accept, okay I have a lot going on at the moment, I’m finding it harder to relax but that’s okay. I can re-visit this. It doesn’t mean it will be hard again next time. 

Be gently inquisitive, last time you had a great relaxation, was anything different? Did you pay extra care with your surroundings? What was your mindset? The point isn’t to berate yourself but just be a reminder some days things are harder. That’s life.

The worst thing we can do is not try again.

#4 Make Time. Real-Time

Permission to relax. What does that mean? If I’m sitting at home and I have a few moments to myself, can I simply sit down and enter a deeply healing relaxation state. No of course I can’t. I know there’s dishes in the sink, I’ve forgotten to take the washing out, I need to order a boring online shop… the list goes on. 

I need to carve out specific time for myself. On Tuesday at 6 pm I am going to Reiki. I will lie in a nice room where I have nothing to do. On Monday at 10 am, I will leave my phone at home and I will go for a 15-minute walk, I will lie on the grass with my eyes closed. I don’t need to be anywhere else. You get the point. 

Calendar that in. It doesn’t need to be anything expensive. Walk on the beach or grass. Have a bath. Give your face a massage then lie and listen to some nice music. Again it’s personal, find what works for you.

I was going to include 5 things, but I think that’s enough for now! I really hope you find my musings helpful, I’m very much still on the road, I haven’t reached my destination when it comes to calm, and maybe I never will, but I can honestly say since prioritising this, I’ve learnt a lot about myself and it has had a profound impact on my daily pain, so imagine what it can do for you. 

© Copyright Jasmine Wellbeing Tynemouth