What does this Monday’s mantra mean to me?
I recently read an article about the mental health issue of perfectionism that has become increasingly pervasive in millenials. Living in a society where we are constantly comparing ourselves to others via social media and competing on a grand scale with our peers, we can be made to feel like we are never good enough. These feelings eat away at me when I spend a chunk of time on a leisure activity versus something that leaves me feeling like I’ve taken full advantage of my day. Taking time to curl up in my bed and watch cartoons for a couple hours on a Sunday morning or laying by the pool reading a book all afternoon feels wasteful. This week’s mantra is about enjoying these relaxation activities without harping at myself for “wasted time”. Sometimes it feels like rather than simply enjoying my life, I am competing to fit in to some perfect ideal. I feel like every moment needs to be spent on something “worthwhile”: learning new recipes, practicing yoga, working on this blog, hiking, running, etc. Although I do love all of these activities, my ability to enjoy them is eroded when I partake out of a sense of obligation rather than for the love of them. By allowing myself to relax without guilt, I can acknowledge the worth in slowing down and letting myself just be. My father recently sent my sister and me a quote by Kurt Vonnegut to help us let go of this guilt — “We are human beings, not human doings.”
For me this week’s mantra is about listening to my body, intentionally incorporating relaxation into my routine and spending less time worrying about missing out on a workout. Two weeks ago I found myself in the emergency room with my right shoulder so tight that when the doctor asked me to lower it from up beside my ear, I could not. It was a little bit of a wake up call about how stressed I allow myself to be and that I need to relax more. I am constantly on the go: either at work, at the gym or doing something productive at home. Like Madeleine, I enjoy these activities that fill my time, but I also find myself participating in them with a sense of obligation. There is certainly value in having willpower to do activities that you have little to no interest in, but finding balance is essential. For me this week’s mantra will be about working out a little less without worrying that I will get weak, slow or lose my athletic physique. Additionally it will mean letting go of the small tasks when I am feeling drained, in order to restore my energy.
What will be the challenge?
A big challenge for me is that I will often think I am on a slippery slope. If I let myself relax for a few hours watching reality TV on a Saturday afternoon, then I tell myself it’s not long before I am spending whole weekends laying on the couch accomplishing nothing. I know that this is a logical fallacy and that I can allow myself guilt-free relaxation without becoming completely sedentary, but sometimes I tend to forget this. I expect to quickly revert back to my teenage tendencies when I used to spend my summer vacations playing video games and watching TV marathons.
I love exercising and definitely benefit from the endorphin rush that comes along with physical activity. Nonetheless, when I push myself to the point of injury, or leave myself no time to relax, the benefits of fitness are outweighed by negative impacts. For me body image plays a large role in my difficulty relaxing. In a world of Instagram and Facebook, it is hard not to see six packed fitness models and internalize this standard of beauty. These photos are captioned with workout routines and emphasize the importance of consistency. I will need to remind myself that my happiness is not tied to my image, and that I can be healthy, perhaps even healthier with increased relaxation in my life.
How will I stay positive and focused?
I think the best way for me to stay positive and remember to apply this mantra is by finding relaxation activities that truly bring me joy. One of my favorite things to do is re-read the same beloved book over and over. I’ve re-read the Harry Potter series at least a dozen times. I know other people think it’s silly to continue to re-read the same books, but there is no reason to feel bad for enjoying something simply because someone else might think it’s a waste of time. By finding these sorts of things that I really love and engaging in them without guilt, I can apply this mantra in a positive and healthy way.
I love routines, so one way that I plan to stay focused on this mantra is by intentionally incorporating relaxation into my routines. I will select one day that I would have typically either gone to the gym or completed errands and will instead go home to either read, complete light yoga or even just watch a few extra episodes of a favorite television show. I hope that with increasing my relaxation, I will find greater joy in physical activity on the days that I do workout. Additionally, I will be less likely to be drained emotionally and physically. Nonetheless, I will still check-in with myself and allow extra rest as needed. This can be a scary process because I am used to pushing myself to exercise even when I would rather not. Having consistently exercised for the past fourteen years, however, reassures me that I will not turn an occasional extra day of rest into a complete exercise sabbatical.