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What if I'm Too Tense to Relax?

iStock_000003409665XSmall.jpgQ: From a Living by Design Reader: “I’m stressed and I know I would benefit from relaxation, but I feel too tense to start. Whenever I try and slow down, things seem too slow and I feel frustrated that I could be getting things done rather than sitting “doing nothing”. How can I find a way to try relaxation and get used to the feeling?”

When you’re busy and getting lots done it feels as if you are moving fast, like when you’re driving on a motorway, you are covering distance at speed, when you take an exit and have to slow your speed down, it feels really slow in comparison to the pace you where travelling at just seconds ago.

For many busy people, relaxation feels the same way. Rather than settling into the pleasure and calm of a contemplative state, they find it too slow, or too alien to their usual state of productivity and drive.

When Adrenalin Sets the Pace

When you’re used to operating in an adrenalin fuelled state, relaxation and meditation can feel strange, and they can seem pointless too. Why would you want to stop and sit still when you have so much to get done?

The trouble with running at high speed as your usual pace, is that eventually your body will call for you to stop; so why not meet it half way and find a way of relaxing that doesn’t feel like you’re putting your foot on the brake.

Try Active Relaxation

One excellent way to do this is to engage in active relaxation. Active relaxation means that you can enjoy the benefits of relaxation while you are still operating under the momentum of your busy life. Going for a brisk walk, going swimming, or learning a yoga sequence that keeps you moving but stretches out all your muscles are all good starting points for relaxing without a sense of tedium!

But the key is to do them with focus and purpose. For walking, you could try Energy Walking, it contains multiple benefits packed into a ten minute commitment. For yoga, try spending ten minutes cycling through the sun salutation sequence, but with full focus and acceptance that for just these ten minutes you are doing this and nothing else. For the good of your health, for the benefits of relaxation and for the benefit of giving your mind a break.

There’s an excellent video walkthrough of the sun salutation sequence on YouTube it’s quick and clear with no spoken intro or fluff. Perfect for busy people who want to get on with the benefits.

Meditation for Busy People

Once you’re used to letting off steam and reducing tension in an active way, you might like to take things a step further and teach your body to love the feeling of deep relaxation. It doesn’t have to take long, you can benefit in just 5-10 minutes. One way to do it is to gather a collection of relaxing music or guided meditation exercises on your ipod, then you can take a break at lunch, or anytime you choose.

The benefit of guided meditation is that someone talks you through the exercise, and helps you settle quickly into a relaxed state. If they are experienced, they know how to talk you through your tension and into a place of pleasurable calm. These meditations are not the ones where you spend 20 minutes or so at an ocean in your mind, these are short semi-active experiences, where you can learn to breathe deeply and free yourself from stress.

Getting a Taste for Tranquility


It’s important to try your chosen activities regularly, you could choose one 10 minute energy walk a day after work, or a 10 minute sun salutation sequence every morning, or spend 5 minutes practising a deep breathing exercise before settling down to sleep. If you do this regularly you will very quickly feel the benefits. Physical tension will begin to melt away and your body and mind will prompt you to keep it going because they like it!

From these simple beginnings it’s easy to begin to vary the meditations and perhaps do some stretching in the morning, and spend a spell in meditation in the evening, before you know it you will be enjoying feelings of relaxation and you may be surprised to discover that as a reward for taking care of yourself your productivity will actually increase.

(CC) Flickr Photo by: Spiralz


Useful links: 

Deep Breathing Guided Meditation MP3

Quick and Easy Meditations for Busy People


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  • Response
    Response: Meditate Now
    We prod you to take some extra time looking up meditation information.

Reader Comments (4)

A very good post. Quite often, in order to deal with something, you have to get some space to work first. One thing that helped for me was I would start to monitor my breathing. I got to the point where if my breathing slipped into the patterns of stress, it would set off a mental alarm.
Nov 26, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJohn
Very good, Ananga..."active relaxation"!
I have heard it said that the benefit of meditation is the silence between the thoughts. The same thing would surely be achieved during a strenuous walk. After 8-10 hours walking the mountains, I feel completely released from my concerns.
Peace and wonder,
Nov 28, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterCG Walters
Nice, informative article. Can I suggest another form of active relaxation? Consciously tensing all the muscles in the body, as tight as you can, for 10 seconds, almost as if you are having a whole body spasm. Then release... repeat until you feel good ;)

Albert | UrbanMonk.net
Modern personal development, entwined with ancient spirituality.
Hello Albert,

Thanks for stopping by and commenting - your suggestion is a great way for relieving tension and it's one that we plan to include as part of our audio Anxiety Relief Kit.

with best wishes
Dec 2, 2007 | Registered CommenterAnanga

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