A man leans back in his chair looking relaxed with his hands behind his head
Relaxation is critical for personal well-being, health maintenance, and for life itself.
Photo Credit: Wavebreakmedia / iStockPhoto.com

It's Not Lazy — It's Healthy

While billions of dollars are spent annually in the pursuit of happiness and relaxation, most people fail to obtain those elusive goals. Knowing about the necessity of relaxation fails to convince many of us to take time out and simply be.

In fact, most people pride themselves on being “unable to simply sit still.” Unfortunately the frantic pursuit of happiness often leads to disappointment, fatigue and ill health. Many responsible adults would not consider taking a day off from work simply so they could relax, yet they would consider it irresponsible not to take necessary medication.

Relaxation is critical for personal well-being, health maintenance, and for life itself. If you are among the majority of individuals who do not make relaxation a priority, it may be time to reevaluate your perspective on this critical subject. Your happiness, health and very life depend on it.

Relaxation Can Keep You Well

Many minor and life-threatening illnesses are stress-related. Stress and the lack of regular relaxation harms your immune system. As a result, you catch colds, get cold sores, and contract common illnesses more readily.

If you are a person who feels you are doing your co-workers a favor by going to work when you are not completely well, you are actually harming yourself and fellow workers. When you are sick, stay home and rest.

Unfortunately, employees are sometimes looked upon favorably when they struggle through the day, coming to work when ill. The health care industry is a particularly bad example of this practice.

Health care providers, like those in other industries, are often encouraged to go to work whenever possible, regardless of how they feel, because otherwise facilities will be short staffed. It is up to you to look out for your own well-being.

Take Care of Yourself

Burn-out is rampant among caregivers, partially as a result of a relaxation deficit. Many caregivers burn out because they feel guilty taking care of themselves when they “should” be caring for others.

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Job satisfaction, relationships, and the ability to care for others suffer when caregivers are not provided with regular relaxation times. Caregivers must learn how to balance responsibilities with self-care.

I know this may seem impossible, but it can be done. Self-care requires dedication and commitment.

Support groups can be very beneficial as other members understand what you are going through. You may pick up helpful tips, feel less isolated, and no longer feel guilty for looking out for yourself.

Replenish the Sourdough

We are each responsible for taking time out every day so we can relax. A wise friend once told me we each must learn to “replenish the sourdough.”

Sourdough bread is made with a yeast starter. Every time a loaf of bread is made, a little bit of the starter is reserved. The reserved starter is then replenished with flour so there will be enough starter to make the next batch of bread.

If all of the starter is used up and not replenished, there will be no bread in the future. In human terms, this means we must each take responsibility for keeping a bit of ourselves back when we care for others. We need to nourish ourselves so we will be able to help others.

If we do not replenish ourselves, we will be exhausted and have nothing left to give. Self-care and relaxation are not selfish; they are responsible and essential actions that benefit you and those who you encounter.

Learn to Relax

A lack of relaxation leads to multiple emotional and stress-related illnesses. Panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and depression are rampant. Stress depletes the body of endorphins and can lead to insomnia, and fatigue contributes to mood and relationship disorders.

Anxiety and mood disorders don’t just make you feel bad, they are harmful for your health. For example, people who suffer from panic disorder are twice as likely as the general public to suffer from potentially fatal coronary artery disease.

Seemingly unrelated illnesses may arise or worsen when you cannot relax. Migraine headaches, heart attacks, stroke, COPD, and irritable bowel syndrome are all negatively impacted by stress.

Lack of Relaxation Impacts Relationships

Living with high levels of stress can be difficult for you and those you come in contact with. Your ability to work and support yourself financially may be impacted; you may feel irritable and helpless; and family members may experience similar issues. If you have children, it is essential you model behaviors that teach them how to relax in healthy ways.

Relax and Live Well

As you can see, if you do not take time out for relaxing, your health may be impaired. Fortunately the decision to make sure you stay well and get relaxation time is entirely yours.

Relaxing may not only save your life, it can make it more enjoyable and help you create the life you want to live.

Establish a routine for relaxing. When you first begin to relax, it may be as simple as taking a few deep breaths several times per day. You might enjoy a sitting for 10 minutes after work while you put your feet up and sip on herbal tea.

While watching a favorite television program or reading a book can be enjoyable, take time to relax by doing “nothing.” Doing nothing for a few minutes each day allows you time to notice how you feel physically , mentally and spiritually. You will begin to recognize aspects of your life that bring you pleasure and areas that need changing.