Why is it so damn hard to relax anyway?

Productivity and Stress

Are you one of the millions of Americans who deal with stress and find it difficult to relax? Since COVID, the American Psychological Institute reports that nearly half of adults state their behavior has been negatively affected by stress. Increased bodily tension, mood swings, being quick to anger and snapping at a loved one are all listed as common outcomes of living under a state of high stress.

I have seen, in myself and my clients, the glaring correlation between high stress lifestyles and the need to constantly be “doing” or feeling productive.

Do you struggle to shake the feeling that you are never doing enough?

Given that this is my particular area of expertise, and something I have helped many women in changing their lives with, I am extra hard on myself when I can’t simply stop the feeling that I must be productive.

This morning I’m stressing out about meditating and then meeting a friend at the beach. Two activities I enjoy and delight in, yet I feel rushed, hurried, and am having difficulty sinking into the present moment.

Washing my face and catching a glimpse of my wild hair and red face, I realized I need to take my own advice. Be in this moment. Right now. And that’s it.

For those of you screaming “great advice, but how?” or “those aren’t stressful activities so how do you know what I go through?!”

I hear you.

I’ll walk you through what I do, and what I specifically did on this occasion last week. You are welcome to try these tips at home. Try them right now as you’re reading, in fact.

I feel it in my body, the tightness in my chest, the irritation closer to the surface than usual. This all or nothing standard I hold myself to. Either I relax and tune out the world or dive in and bury myself in work and “productivity”.

Process: I am recognizing a pattern in how I approach things. For me this pattern is “all or nothing” Can you begin to recognize familiar patterns/thoughts/behaviors that occur for you when you are in the midst of a productivity or stress frenzy?

Then I remember. I remember the all or nothing is not helpful, and it is a lie. I remember I can breathe and feel unproductive, that it won’t kill me or even have a lasting effect on my life or business.

Process: I am able to feel uncomfortable, but to stay with myself. To breathe and feel my body instead of contracting and hardening myself against the discomfort. Notice what happens in your body when you begin to get stressed or uncomfortable. See if you can stay with yourself.

I worked with a client on a similar issue the other day. We spoke about the difference between being enough as a human, and doing enough. It’s an important distinction, and as I write these words so furiously fueled by frustration, I recognize that I, as a human, am more than enough. I honestly think I am pretty fucking great. I notice the lift in my chest and the half smile as I write this. It’s true, I love myself wholeheartedly, and with the enthusiasm of a bounding Labrador to a patient master, with the depth and devoutness of a deep soulmate connection. I have arrived here, at this place, with myself, and fought hard to claim my enough-ness and my beautiful expansion as a human.

Process: I take a moment to remember who I am inside. I allow myself to feel kindness and love towards myself. I recognize what I have gone through to arrive here. I notice the changes that occur in my body as I stay with this new awareness. I also love the image of a bounding Labrador, and that lightens my internal world.

Can you take a moment right now, right here, with me in the words on this page and recognize that you are enough? Just you, as you are, right here. If you need permission to feel like you are enough – I am giving it to you.

YOU. ARE. PLENTY! If you still aren’t sure, then ask yourself, “Am I doing the best I can?” If your answer is yes, and I bet that it is, then rest easy – you are enough.

In my own recognition of my enough-ness, my furiously frustrated fingers stopped mercilessly slamming down on the keys, the frenzy subsides. My chest feels lighter, more expansive. I track my body and nervous system more easily. I feel myself going into teaching mode, make edits appropriately, and hope this portrayal of my own process informs and helps to guide you.

Process: I observe what I am noticing in my body. I stay with the changes and explore the opening and more pleasant feelings that accompany a shift.

Maybe you hold the metaphorical keys and keep locking yourself out while frantically searching everywhere for them except in your forgotten front pocket. Maybe remembering our own enough-ness is, well, enough.

Maybe the doing is just extraneous bullshit that keeps us distracted from remembering how great we are. How pure and connected and lit up we are inside.

The key is in the remembering.

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