Redefining Relaxation

Over the last few months I’ve been toying with what I consider ‘relaxation’ after a long day at work. For years this meant coming home and flopping down in front of the t.v. That was soon replaced with surfing shows on the web accompanied by more couch sitting. Doing nothing felt like the only thing I had energy to do. And I could always justify it by telling myself that I just needed to tune out and turn my brain off for a few hours.

The only problem with this sad sequence of laziness was that it was never quite fulfilling. Not at all, really. I often lost track of hours, finding myself dry-eyed and feeling even more drained than before… wondering what time it was (um, usually almost midnight) and slugging off to bed.

Well, no longer. Last Friday my fabulous husband built us a fire in the fireplace, we threw on some jazz, grabbed our respective books (I’m reading Intuitive Eating, he’s running through some old sailor tales), and the amazing release of tension I felt was almost indescribable. It wasn’t tuning out, it was restorative relaxation. I guess I’d never thought of relaxation as restorative before… but now that I’ve turned that corner, I can’t imagine how it took me so long to figure this tricky little secret out!

Yes, it still takes concerted effort to launch myself into post-work activity. Pulling on gym clothes for a quick jog (as much as I try to forget it, 20 minutes around the block is a great way to pay myself back for the damage caused by an 8 hour-plus desk job), turning on the radio instead of the tv or laptop, getting my butt into the kitchen to prep a tasty and healthy dinner… it’s still new enough that I feel like I’m pushing myself beyond the comfortable norm, but all of these things make me feel satisfied in a way that tuning out never did. The other week Alex and I played cards… cards!?

I have no doubt that this sort of thing comes naturally to a lot of people. But it didn’t for me and for that I’m allowing myself to count it as a real accomplishment. I finally feel like I’m living life in between my mid-week work obligations — and can’t believe I’ve cheated myself out of so much by not catching on sooner. I see my friends more, laugh with Alex more, feel better rested, healthier, happier, and more energetic. Just by forcing myself to do something, anything, in those short few hours after work. Who knew!

Tonight I went to the gym after work. It was a long day, and I could feel it all falling away with a little huff and puff and pour of sweat off my back. It’s the difference between the benefit of doing something for myself and the absence of doing. After dinner (which I cooked, btw!), I’ll probably pick up the manual for my new Canon T3i and continue teaching myself all about how to take fancy-pants pictures. All this time for me, and so much to fill it with!

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One thought on “Redefining Relaxation

  1. Nora says:

    love this! I know this sounds lame, but I’m a big fan of puzzles as well as cards. I think they’re a fun group activity you can pick up and put down (a long as you have the table space to keep it up for a bit/don’t have a cat that likes to run off with the pieces). Also recommended, couple said puzzle with some soup and grilled cheese, maybe some hot chocolate, and a fire.

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