We live in a culture that is focused on constantly doing, engaging, and working. We only value those who work hard to contribute to society and often look down on people who choose to relax as “lazy”.
I’ve only recently realized how pervasive this attitude is and how deeply I have ingrained and accepted it into my view of the world. When I try to relax I feel guilty. When I have take time for self-care I think I’m neglecting something. When I choose to disengage and recharge I feel lazy.
I don’t think I’m the only one.
In fact I’m guessing most people struggle with feelings of guilt when taking time to relax. It’s so easy to constantly think of our long to-do list and the many things we “should” be doing instead of relaxing.
A year ago I traveled to Mexico on vacation. Part of the trip was spent in Cancun and the purpose of that portion of the trip simple: relax and recharge. Yet I couldn’t. I was exhausted, burnt out, and desperately needed sleep but I felt an inexplicable urge to not “waste” my time in Cancun. So I visited Isla Mujeres, played mini golf, and swam in the pool.
Yet, there were several times while on vacation that my body caved to exhaustion and I slept for several hours in our hotel room. I woke up apologetic and feeling terribly guilty that I hadn’t at least slept on the beach. After all, we were in Cancun and all I was doing was sleeping!
The entire purpose of that portion of the trip was to relax and rejuvenate, yet I was giving myself grief for doing exactly that! It was entirely unnecessary yet I continued to do it. Why is it so hard to relax? I believe the expectations we put on ourselves to enjoy every moment, to take advantage of every opportunity, and to accomplish every task drain away our happiness and ability to actually experience the joy and delight of relaxing.
When we think we are relaxing but allow ourselves to run through our to-do list of the next things that need to be done or put pressure on ourselves to relax in the most productive way possible, we don’t gain any benefit from relaxing. Our body may have stopped moving, but our brains are not relaxing.
It was so easy for me to beat myself up and set expectations for the best way to relax on vacation. It’s even harder at home during a normal week or on the odd day off.
Even when I have time off of work for a holiday I am tempted to form my to-do list of home and yard projects that need my attention. I want to think of all the things I can accomplish with an extra day off. I want to plan to take full advantage of all the fun activities.
But instead I’m going to give myself permission to relax.
I’m not saying the to-do lists and chores aren’t important, but rather that we often don’t take advantage of the time that we have to relax. We fill our days and don’t allow ourselves any downtime. Or if we do relax, we feel guilty and lazy.
Our culture has prioritized work to an unhealthy extent. Relaxation is necessary to our well-being and I refuse to participate in the workaholic aspect of American culture.
Relaxing is on my to-do list this weekend because it is just as important as the rest of my holiday plans. I was much happier for it in Cancun and I’ll be much happier for it now.
This weekend I’m going to spend time with family, work on a yard project, and begin the planning process for our patio. But I’m also going to do at least one relaxing thing each day without worrying or thinking about other things. I encourage you to consider allowing yourself to relax as well. Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. Give yourself permission to relax with your entire soul at least once.