Time to read (using avg wpm): 8 mins
The only way that I could think to introduce this topic is as follows:
So a turtle, Jim, was talking to his buddy Henry, a bird, outside Maddi’s bedroom window.
Well, less talking, more — arguing.
Henry was saying that relaxing is only something that losers do. He said that in order to be productive and live life to the fullest, you needed to stay amped up. Quote: “You can relax when you’re dead!”
Jim argued that relaxation is a completely necessary part of living a successful life. The benefits of making relaxation a part of your day as well as knowing how to relax in the moment outweigh living life in a constantly amped up state.
Naturally, Maddi overhead the whole thing and told me about it.
I was attracted to Jim’s points and I am happy to relay them here because it was enlightening but mostly because I couldn’t think of anything else to write about.
- Relaxing in the Moment
- Routine Relaxation
- Doug’s Take
- Final Words
So who is this turtle guy and why should we listen to him anyway?
Just kidding. Why is relaxation important?
Well, there’s the obvious reasons:
- Relax away stress
- Decrease muscle ache and tension
- Improve mood
- Decrease anxiety
But there are some lesser known reasons which are also quite important. Relaxation can help with your productivity. It can help with your interactions with people. It can help with your memory and your creativity! Relaxation, as a betterment strategy, should be a part of your arsenal if you are striving for a better life.
Awesome. Let’s see what we got.
Relaxing in the Moment
This section is about the times when the decision to relax is a situational choice– for the better.
These are the situations you will be presented with where implementing your relaxation techniques will help you:
- Be Creative
- Make Better Decisions
- Make the Shot
We can all agree that sleep is extremely beneficial right? It’s benefits including:
- improved memory
- improved attention
While lack of sleep has negative effects such as:
- impaired focus
- higher risk of depression
A made up sleep anecdote to make the point:
So you get home kinda late and you have a big day planned tomorrow. You only have 6 hours until you have to wake up so you can’t get your 8 hours and you are already behind. You realize that you better go to sleep now and get the most out of it that you can.
You lay down, pull your sheets up and close your eyes.
BOOM! Everything that you did today and everything that you have to do tomorrow starts streaming through your mind. You have an active stress response and this will eat away at your ability to calm down and get good rest. You won’t get enough quality sleep and now you think you will certainly fail the test to move on to the 3rd grade…
This, I’m sure, has happened to you before. That terrible, all of a sudden, feeling of your mind getting away from you when you need to sleep.
Now put yourself in that situation after reading this post. Your mind races; 3rd grade state tests coming up! No sweat. You begin your progressive muscle relaxation technique and fall asleep before you can even get to your stomach. The next day you pass the test so well, they send you straight to 5th grade.
Well executed relaxation techniques will reduce a stress response and effectively send you to bed sucking your thumb sleeping like a baby.
This will also be explained through a story about a hypothetical you.
Once upon a time, you lose your job.
Now you have bills creeping up and only a small amount of savings. You need to come up with a way to make money and you are sick of working for others. You decide to start your own business and slide down the loot chutes. You do all the research, figure out how to ship, hire, price, legally protect yourself, etc… Now you just need a product.
You psych yourself up. Come on, lets think of something! Hmm… nothing… More energy! You drink an energy drink. Think, think, think! Aha! Double-sided eraser pencil!
Wait, no that’s awful.
You give up and crash. You are exhausted and you realize all of that was for nothing, you will be applying for a new job tomorrow.
You go to take a failure bath. Suddenly, while you are shampooing your hair… an idea!
You implement this product idea and make start making some income. Wow, thanks Average Optimized. You’re welcome.
Now, apart from realizing how great Average Optimized is, you also should have seen how when hypothetical you was relaxing and performing an unthinking task, you came up with your brilliant idea.
This is because when you are consciously trying to be creative, your brain is expending it’s energy on your conscious thoughts and efforts. While you are relaxed and in default mode your subconscious mind will be able to work on the idea using everything in your brain that it has access too (which is much more than your conscious mind).
Some even think that the subconscious mind has access to an idea ether that connects all human minds– but sadly, that’s just crazy talk.
It may seem like an unnecessary waste of time but it is absolutely necessary. Clearing your mind or doing a menial task (entering default mode) while relaxed is one of the best ways to access your subconscious and your creativity.
Make Better Decisions
Hmm– all pretend anecdotes so far. Not this one.
Henry’s point here was that you need to be amped up to make better decisions. Here’s what Jim said:
When you are amped up your nervous system is in fight or flight mode. You have hormones cruising through your body, like adrenaline, pumping you up and sending energy to your muscles and where you would need it in a dire situation. You are wasting energy.
Depending on how amped up you are, your body is ignoring things like digestion and other processes that aren’t preeminent aspects of your situation. You brain is focused on your situation and thinking of how to solve the problem or get away from it.
That last part sounded good right? Well really what this whole process comes from is way back when your problems were not first world problems, they were, “Oh gosh– that tiger looks hungry.”
This process is not optimal for solving your problems of today like how to organize your business or how can you best study for this test. You will one-track-mind it, maybe come up with a solution– a solution which should have been much better– and then crash afterwords.
The problems most faced in society now-a-days are ones which require relaxed and creative thinking, not heart pounding and head vein bulging. The best decisions are made by those who can use emotional intelligence, common sense and a relaxed mind and body.
Make the Shot
This is how you get past your anxiousness and fear in the situation where you must make the shot.
I work at a bar. This bar I work at has a pool table and we host an 8-ball tournament every year. Since I work there, I play in the tournament, so naturally I want to be good so I try to play at least one game every other night when I get off from work.
Here’s the thing though. I am a massive choker. Anytime I’m about to win a match and all I have left to shoot is the 8-ball– I choke. I forget the angles, I get distracted by the shine in the ball and I miss the shot by miles. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big game or if I’m playing by myself. The 8-ball knows how to get into my head and start pulling wires.
For the past couple months though, I’ve been beating the 8-ball. I remember hearing in a podcast at work that when you get anxious and have to nail that presentation or hit the buzzer beater, to get your best chances you need to relax. Do a quick breath exercise and clear your mind.
This has been working fantastically for me and now the 8-ball is just another ball.
I realized that when the 8-ball shot comes up, I think of how I can win if I make it but if I miss I will lose. This sets my sympathetic nervous system into action and my breath gets shallow and my muscles tense up in preparation for fight or flight. This is completely unnecessary but the body is kind of an idiot.
When I do the breathing the body relaxes and untenses. My grip lightens, giving my more control and my mind clears for more ability to focus on the shot.
If you are presented with an anxious situation where it’s up to you to “make the shot”– don’t overthink it. Breathe, relax and do what you do.
Wow, this is alot longer than I thought it would be.
Lets cut it here and make a part 2.
In Part 2 we get to:
- Routine Relaxation
- Doug’s Take
- Final Words