The thrill in the chill: Learning how to relax

The stubborn intensity valued in the workplace is often misplaced in the home. This article invites family-oriented people to learn how to take a break so that they give their children and spouse the love and cheerfulness required to thrive at home.

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  • If you’re reading this, you probably present yourself as a hard-working, goal-oriented person. However, you fill so many roles that your organizational skills and energy level can’t bear the load. You probably zoom from one task to another; too easily bored to quit and too worn out to take joy in it. You probably don’t know what to do with downtime when you get it. Instead, you start another demanding project. Basically, if you’re reading this, you’re probably a lot like me.

  • I’ve been a stay-at-home wife for eight months which has been a huge challenge after working at demanding, intense jobs for the entirety of my adult life. It’s been eight months of figuring out how to relax and enjoy my time; something that my "go get’em" personality doesn’t do naturally. On this journey, I’ve learned to lower my expectations, be purposeful, say "no," and love myself for who I am, not what I do. Hopefully, you can start to do the same.

  • Be as purposeful about your rest as you are about your responsibilities

  • If you lay there thinking about all of the things you need to do, remind yourself that you are currently doing something on your to-do list. Remember, resting is important, too. Taking a break does not mean you are lazy or a quitter. It means you know your limits. Giving 100 percent all of the time is more effective and meaningful than giving 150 percent only half of the time. If you can remind yourself that your downtime enables you to be a better parent, spouse, friend and employee, it will become easier to give yourself permission to take a break.

  • Make a list of the things that give you energy and joy

  • When I recognize that I need to relax, I turn to my list. My list has ideas for when I am emotionally, physically, and mentally worn out, so that I can address my needs as they come up. They include stretches, lying down, or drinking water for when I am cranky because of unmet physical needs. When I am mentally or emotionally worn out, I can meditate, turn on a movie, snuggle with my husband, or write in my journal. These coping strategies help me slow down and focus on my own needs, which gives me the energy to address other’s needs, too.

  • Think small

  • As well-intentioned as your new list may be, you may find it daunting. Remember: Even if all you do is lay down for five minutes, that’s something. The idea is to learn that it is OK to be still. You don’t have to be perfect at relaxing, yet. You just have to try. Just five minutes of resting your aching back and feet can give you the good cheer you need to serve your family willingly.

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  • Thinking small also means lowering your expectations, especially for yourself. Review the "policies" to which you try to adhere. Do you really need to make dinner every night, or could you make mac-and-cheese? Do you really need to be watching your child every second, or could you let them play quietly while you read? Shrinking your workload to include the things that are essential and practical frees up your time for joyfulness and peace.

  • Protect your break time

  • You will inevitably be asked to fill your time of rejuvenation with more tasks. Say no. “Free time” does not always mean you have time available to give away. In this case, it means time for you to experience the freedom you need in order to perform at your best. When you are at your best, you more readily give smiles to your children and fresh ideas to your community. Don’t give that away by squandering your moments of needed relaxation.

  • After eight months of being a stay-at-home wife, I’m finally starting to see that my biggest contribution to our home is a relaxed and loving attitude. I’ve given myself permission to learn this new skill we call “resting.” I go on walks, call friends, and bake just because I feel like it. The dishes might not get done, but my husband loves that I am cheerful when he gets home, not stressed out. He knows I’d do anything for him, even learn how to take a break for once. If I can do it, so can you. Get started today.

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Sara Hagmann is a stay-at-home wife and writer who loves traveling, cooking, and kissing her husband. A lot.

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