This last week, I was honored by Elizabeth of Betty’s Battleground when she nominated me for the Liebster and Sunshine Blogging Awards. Or as she likes to call them, the Liebshine Blaargh Awards. I could not pass up the nomination to tell the story of Mel and Dave and their quest to unify bloggers. While that was question one of eleven, I still had ten other questions to answer. And in thinking about how I was going to answer those ten other questions, one of them really stood out to me. What are the things that give me energy? Where does my energy reserve tank come from? And this all goes back to the ability to relax. Because in order to make progress on anything, I have to have those energy reserves in the tank. And in order to have those reserves, I need to be able to relax.
Relaxation, according to the definition provided by a Google search (Whether this is of any value we can debate later. Me being the “preeminent fake history writer” out there, I am highly concerned with such nonsense.), is the restoration of equilibrium following a disturbance. Of course this definition disturbed me, clinical in its approach, so it didn’t help me relax. However, there is a larger truth here. Relaxation brings balance. Relaxation is a reset of circumstances allowing a person to move forward in any direction.
Obviously, relaxation is critical to our ability to accomplish almost anything in life. But as a parent, I can tell you that relaxation rarely happens. Whether we have midnight feedings where the baby wakes three times during the night and we trade-off who gets up to take care of the baby, or whether we have teen and tween kids where we run them around between six different practices before finally taking them home at night, we seem to be constantly on the go. Even as a divorced parent, when my weekend comes with my child I feel exhausted at the end of any day. Even if we are excited about the prospect of receiving our cape for being named super-parent of the year, we know that we cannot keep up the madness.
Parents, just like anyone else, need the ability to relax in order to carry out all of the duties of their day. As sad as it may sound, I have done the bit where I have done all the work at home, carried a 40 hour a week job and was in Grad School all at the same time. There were times I felt like I was going to break down. And doing everything in a marriage does not help your marriage. You will crash, sooner or later. And the crash will be long and hard. I remember mine all too vividly.
As much as I would love to say that I have all the answers here, I do not. What I have realized over time and endless research into the bowels of fake science through the wizard of misinformation (the internet), is that different people relax differently. I know. Shock of all shocks, here! Oh the humanity! Finding out that we are not all the same is a big revelation. So I had to peel myself off the walls long enough to figure out what I should write about when it came to relaxation. Would a list of relaxation techniques really work? And for the half of the population that found out that these relaxation techniques did not work for them, did I have to worry about pitchforks, or would I need an army of attorneys to overcome the lawsuits?
I am glad to announce after consultation with the highest legal minds of our generation (found in books at your local library), I can happily announce my top ten ways to relax without fear of legal entanglement. As for the pitchforks, I’m on my own. But who doesn’t love a pitchfork puncturing you through your side now and then? As much as I love those holes through the side, I will still give warnings about these ten ways to relax, like any good infomercial. You know the drill. It will go something like: “Possible side effects of ‘insert relaxation technique here’ are sore muscles, aches, pains, cramping, nervous breakdowns, vomiting, seizures, breaking of bones and untimely death. But never fear . . . death is the ultimate relaxer.” But I digress.
So, before you all run screaming for the hills, The Single Dad’s Guide to Life proudly presents:
The Ten Best Ways I Have Found To Relax (In No Particular Order)
It’s possible that I should not have this on the list at all, as I feel like I am the worst human being in the world as it comes to meditation. I always seem to fall asleep. I suppose that is not a bad thing, as that might be considered relaxing. And as side effects go, one can hardly complain. What I do know about meditation is that it is the practice of being present. What do I mean by that? I mean that we need to be able to focus on where we are at and what surrounds us at that very moment.
Allow your five senses to experience the world in its entirety, and not be caught up in all of its trappings. This practice has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. And if the worst thing that happens is that it causes you to sleep, that’s not too bad either.
Go On A Hike –
If you are a sickly person or are in no condition to hike, please do not try to go out on a hike just because I said it would reduce your stress. And if you are obese, choosing to hike to the base of the Grand Canyon and back up may cause a heart attack. So start easy. Nevertheless hiking does some amazing things for you. It increases your endorphins while you walk, lifting mood and energy.
And then there is nothing like the incredible views you get as you make your way to the top of a peak. (From personal experience, if you are hiking up at 10,000 feet, take it easy. Because pushing yourself will induce loss of lunch, or dinner, or whatever it was you last ate.) Experiencing beauty and getting your body to move will actually help you to relax in truly amazing ways. It seems counter intuitive, but exercise can produce the same positive effects as lying down on a couch, with some added health benefits.
Go On A Road Trip –
For those of you who drive the freeways of the state of California, I am sure that you are wondering if my daughter has the mental facilities on speed dial. And living in the L.A. area, I am hardly immune to the stresses of the highway system. I am sure for many of you that it is an accomplishment to keep the cuss words under 10 on your morning commute, and that you are glad you dropped your kids off at school prior to getting on the freeway. But get out on the open road, with no plans, and no goals other than wherever the road may take you. There is just something amazingly Zen about that. Maybe I am channeling my inner Jack Kerouac. I don’t care. And neither should you. Which makes this road trip to anywhere a perfect relaxation technique.
Go Traveling –
It’s similar to the Road trip scenario but not. In this one you don’t have to fight traffic. Get on a plane. Go on a boat. And go out and see that great big world out there. Stresses and strains will visit you when you get back. So don’t do it in lieu of handling those stresses or you might be suing me for relaxation malpractice when you get back. Go out on a trip so that your mind can take you away to other places out there. Go to where you cannot control everything.
Because, in truth, you are not controlling everything in your world right this moment. This just allows you to be somewhere else, and be present. If you can avoid the phone and the email as well, you will be doing even better. And allow this world to change you. It will be invigorating. And it will allow you to tackle all of those pressing issues when you get back. Or those issues will vanish because you will realize they are not all that important. It’s a win win.
Spending Time With Your Family –
I admit that for some of you, it’s probably inadvisable to spend time with your family as it merely produces stress. Even I have to admit that my favorite holiday of the year was the Fourth of July because we never had the same family acrimony or stress that the other holidays seemed to induce. But truthfully, there is a comfortability there that you will get nowhere else. Being with family means getting to be completely yourself. You don’t have to worry about what others think . . . mostly. Unless, of course, your sibling is bringing over their fiance, and then they are probably so worried about what you think they will forget to be judgmental about you anyway. And for those blessed to have amazing families and loving ones, family creates feelings of comfort and security. I admit when I am with my daughter, I feel like I am home.
Eating A Big Meal With Friends And Family –
I admit that this is kind of like the last one, only its meal specific and it includes friends in the mixture. Food tends to relax the muscles, release the tongue and enables good conversation and pleasant times. I think anyone after a big Thanksgiving meal will admit that they are completely relaxed. Tryptophan or no Tryptophan. Or, come Super Bowl Sunday (aside from the host or hostess), the gathering is relaxed, having a good time, eating food (albeit completely unhealthy food), and feeling good about themselves and the people that they are with. Food brings us together like very few things can.
Listening To Some Beautiful Music –
Music can do so many things for us. Even going back to Biblical times we have the story of David the harpist who could soothe the soul of Saul the king who was tormented in his inner being. Music moves us in so many different ways. Put some poetic lyrics to that music and it set our heart aflame. I know that different music moves different people in different ways. For me to relax put on a nice classical score or aria and I will be transported to a beautiful world where people love and cares fade far into the distance. It allows us to forget our circumstances even for a short while. Watch this sequence from Shawshank Redemption. The dialogue here perfectly expresses the power of music. Music relaxes.
Get A Good Massage –
I haven’t had too many of them in my life. But I have had enough massages to know the difference between good and bad ones. Bad ones make me feel like my body became someone’s punching bag. I suppose for some people that is what they want. It allows them to sleep well at night. Good massages transport your body to heaven and drain every ounce of stress from you. For me, I just need the right amount of pressure put to the right places and it releases tension completely.
I remember the first time I had someone massage me down on my butt. It felt strange at first. But then they hit the tail bone just right and it seemed to release all of the tension in my body. It completely melted away. I was like a big puddle on a massage table. I really don’t even know how I got myself up afterward. Later, I would discover that many men carry all of their stress there, and so it made complete sense.
Be Intimate With Your Significant Other –
As a single dad, I don’t really get this at the moment. But I know what it is like when you are with someone. Sex invigorates the body and yet you never felt so completely relaxed as you do afterward. Of course, it works far better when you are with someone you care about because it bonds you to this person in amazing and wonderful ways. This intimacy goes far beyond sex, but sex does play a large part of it. When you are intimate with your partner you are able to release tension, fears of judgment, and the stresses of everyday life. I will not get graphic here. But if I didn’t list this among the most amazing relaxers, I would be remiss in my duties to you, my readers.
Wearing Comfortable Clothing –
Everyone shops for clothes. Some people think of comfy clothes as frumpy clothing. I suppose it can be. But comfortable clothing means much more than that. I had been shopping for clothes for myself for about 5 years when I finally realized what it meant to find clothes that are relaxing. I was in an Express for Men store. And I saw the clothing they laid out. Most man’s clothing has this masculine, rugged look to it. And it feels like you have been wearing sandpaper all day when you get out of it.
So I remember when I went looking for clothes at this store and went to the changing room to try out a few pair. I couldn’t believe it. The clothing was as soft as a warm hug, and yet it looked rugged and manly all at once. I could be comfortable and I wouldn’t even have to turn in my “man card”. Good comfortable clothes (especially comfortable underwear) make you feel like you can be relaxed and be anywhere. Whether in a board meeting, or lounging around your house, you can feel good and relaxed. And good comfortable clothing can do that.
Continue The Conversation
So what kinds of things do you do that enable you to relax? Do you have to get away from everything, including people? Or does being around close people and loved ones help bring on those positive vibes that make you feel good about life? I know for everyone, life is different. We all need different things to make us relax. I would love to hear about some of yours. Whether watching yoga inspires relaxation, or watching your favorite television show, I would love to know what things help you relax and feel good about your world.
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Until next time, this is me signing off.
David Elliott, Single Dad’s Guide to Life