Habits for relaxation in today’s hustle culture.
When I quit my job to be a full-time writer in 2021, I had some major realizations.
Being self-employed was a new experience, and I had the freedom to work on projects that interested me. But when you come from a middle-class family, leaving a stable full-time job isn’t an easy decision.
It came with the baggage of working harder than before. Taking a break felt like cheating on myself. I prioritized work over my social life, health, and family.
Everything went well for a while. I managed to —
- Develop a writing routine,
- Establish my personal brand,
- Get freelancing projects and brand deals.
Amidst ticking off goals on my to-do list, I started feeling constantly exhausted. No matter how much I achieved, the hollowness in my chest kept expanding.
This listlessness was confusing. I was finally doing something I was passionate about. Then what went so wrong?
I finally took it to my therapist and had an intensive session. I was diagnosed with early signs of burnout.
I’d pushed my limits to an extent where I forgot to draw boundaries and lost my work-life balance. I couldn’t focus, and nothing seemed exciting anymore.
Taking a break was no longer a luxury. It was a necessity. Over the next few weeks, I —
- Detached myself from work
- Didn’t open my laptop for a while
- Spent time in nature by going on long walks
- Journaled regularly to seek clarity.
When the weight of burnout began to lift steadily, I devised a plan to prevent it from affecting me in the future.
My gameplan includes five tiny habits that add some healthy “me-time” to my everyday routine without compromising on my work hours.
This post is all about the holistic habits that helped me manage mental and emotional exhaustion. Feel free to follow them or seek inspiration to develop a plan based on your interests to rejuvenate.
1. Solving a puzzle with friends
This might sound like a light-hearted activity that could hardly benefit you as a grown-up. But hear me out.
Psychologist Michelle McCoy Barrett compares puzzles to mindful meditation that brings relaxation and reduces stress. She says,
“Puzzles are more than just a way to pass the time.”
Knowing this, I’ve created a group called “Word Games” with 3 other friends. In this group, we solve the daily Wordle, Quordle, and Quordle Sequence.
Solving word games with friends has multiple benefits:
- Improves analytical and tactical skills
- Improves concentration and focus
- Enhances problem-solving skills
- Reduces stress levels
- Allows us to bond over who will solve the puzzle first
Since we can play these word games only once every 24 hours, I usually start my day by solving them. This gives a healthy dopamine rush and a sense of achievement which helps me tackle the day’s challenges with ease.
2. Being part of a non-work community
Taking up a non-work-related hobby was the mental health hack I didn’t know I needed.
Once you become self-employed, work can get lonely at times. Too much screen time and never leaving the house can take a toll on mental health.
I picked up pole dancing, a challenging hobby that keeps me physically and mentally active. The best part about this wasn’t the health benefits but the community of wonderful women I met through this dance form.
A Harvard Business Review article explains that people who maintain social connections outside work manage to succeed professionally while improving their overall wellbeing.
Being a part of this community, I experienced:
- A sense of belonging
- Appreciation for my unique qualities
- Support and accountability to reach new milestones
- Deep connections with like-minded people
- Reasons to celebrate my wins
- Exposure to diverse perspectives.
How you can do it
- Pick a hobby you liked as a child or always wanted to try
- Search for hobby clubs in your city or online
- Join them and see how it goes.
3. Taking long walks without a device
I’ve always been a fan of walks in nature.
The only difference is that in my early 20s, I couldn’t imagine leaving the house without a phone. I’d listen to music, a podcast, or some audiobook and be happy with how productive I was.
Multi-tasking only makes your brain tired, and breaks don’t feel like breaks at all. I opt for a peaceful, distraction-free walks in a serene environment to relax my mind.
This gives me time to enjoy nature and seek its benefits using all five senses. Walks in nature can —
- Calm you down and help you unwind
- Relaxe your mind and reduce blood pressure
- Release happy hormones and uplift mood.
How you can do it
When you spend time outdoors, keep all devices at home. Look up and around. Observe the world passing by. It’s an intensely calming and grounding feeling, to know you’re but a cog in the infinitely huge wheel that is this universe we’re a part of.
4. Cooking a new recipe
To me, cooking is a spiritual practice.
It’s not wrong to compare cooking with meditation, as it demands your full attention. It’s a skill that benefits you on a personal and social level.
When I’m aware of what I put inside my body, I feel more grateful with every bite. The practice of cooking and eating makes me feel connected with myself on a deeper level.
When you do it for others, cooking becomes a love language to express your affection and care. It won’t be an overstatement to say that it strengthens your relationships.
Dr Utter et al. concluded in their 2015 study that cooking skills positively influence mental health and strengthen family bonds.
5. Maintaining a journaling practice
My list of relaxing habits is incomplete without the journaling practice I follow religiously every morning and evening.
In my morning hours, I begin by:
- Jotting down things I’m grateful for
- Setting my intention on how I want to spend the day
- Write affirmations to begin my morning on a positive note.
Later at night, my journaling routine includes:
- Reviewing my day
- Reflecting on things that went well and mistakes I can learn from
- Preparing a to-do list for the next day to manage my time better.
Journaling brings clarity of thoughts, effectively reducing stress and promoting overall wellbeing, confirmed Saima Latif, Ph.D. in a recent PositivePsychology article.
Relaxation doesn’t have to be elusive with these daily habits
“The only time you fail is when you fall and stay down.”― Stephen Richards.
Mental and physical breakdowns are a part of life. Finding the courage to come back stronger is what you must strive for.
I found that courage by building these some wholesome habits that helped me rejuvenate and bounce back stronger to realize my goals.
- Indulge in activities that are fun yet slightly challenging to get into the sense of accomplishment mode- For example, solving puzzles
- Join a non-work community where you can learn, grow, and foster social connections
- Indulge in distraction-free long walks to let nature nourish your body, mind, and soul
- Experience the spiritual benefits of cooking for improving your mental health and relationships
- Journal to live a more intentional and self-aware life.
If you’re feeling stuck and overwhelmed by work, make time for things that make you feel good. Take this article as your sign to prioritise yourself and make the most of your work, life, and everything in between.
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