Have you tried to relax lately? I must tell you, relaxing is damn stressful these days. This is not just me by the way, it’s actually a condition – blurring the line between relaxation and boredom.
By one estimate, somewhere between 17% and 53% of adults have experienced relaxation-induced anxiety at some point. It’s not that they can’t relax at all, it’s that doing so quickly brings on feelings of anxiety.
For some people with RIA (shortened), the very physical sensations you might associate with being calm — letting your shoulders drop, deep breathing — are triggers.
We were born experiencing boredom and stillness, yet we are ‘re-learning’ how to, well, do nothing: “There is one thing I have learnt over the past 3 years, and this is to not be afraid of doing nothing!” Bridgette Macilwaine from the Hyper Health Nut confesses.
“I have learnt and understood (through many difficult situations) that those moments of doing nothing actually improve my focus, mental stability and work output in the end. For every person ‘doing nothing’ will mean something different, I still class doing nothing as an activity to which I plan into my day, to make sure I make the most of these moments to relax and recharge”
In a very funny, uncomfortably relatable Vice story about wigging out while visiting a spa at Iceland’s Blue Lagoon, writer Davis Harper shares:
“Present-moment awareness without the intention to relax has actually been shown to increase relaxation,” she said “It’s this paradoxical thing where when you try to not relax, you might find yourself more relaxed than when you’re intentionally trying to relax.”
Many of us are so accustomed to a packed schedule that when we finally find a bit of free time… well, we don’t always know what to do with it. We fear boredom.
With our “always-on” state of being and devotion to hustle culture, we tend to feel bad when we have a little time to dedicate to ourselves, and this guilt spans generations.
A story of going against the odds
Despite this, the question that popped into my mind was, “right, what’s next?”
Claudine Thornhill, a Naturopathic Nutritional Therapist shares her story of being able to switch off, even if that meant going against what her mind was telling her: “It was the day after a very successful wellness half-day retreat. I’d organised, promoted (the hell out of) and brought to fruition an idea that I’d had for a half-day women’s holistic wellness retreat in the heart of London. We’d had amazing speakers, tasty vegan food, sponsored female branded goodie bags, glowing feedback forms and great pictures.
I was thrilled with the result. It was a job well done. Despite this, the question that popped into my mind was, “right, what’s next?” I needed to leverage off of this win! People were watching and waiting. I need to launch something, promote something, strike while the post-event iron is hot!”
Her hustler mentality was telling her not to stop, but she listened to her compassionate self instead, taking the time to celebrate this win was the best way of leveraging her energy: “Rather than moving on to the next thing, I instead sent emails thanking the women who had attended, the sponsors and contributors.
I had a debrief with my collaborator and plotted out ideas for where I wanted to go next. Then I watched a lot of Netflix, started a new Dorothy Koomson thriller, booked a massage and breathed past the anxiety of doing nothing, in the knowledge that I was doing something.”
What this is truly showing, is a very different aspect of our working environment. Remember all the people who advised you to find better work-life balance? Well, they were dead wrong because — wait for it, work-life balance does not exist.
What you are implying is that work is not part of our life, which is definitely not the case, since most of us work up to 45 hours per week. Yet, we can still find balance in our life.
Imagine your life as a big pie chart, and work being a big chunk of that chart. What can you fill the rest of the pie with?
Rest. Play. Adventure. Movement. Stillness.
“I’d had an intense period dedicated to work with a few dots of fun, the next period would be devoted to self care, fun and critical work tasks, like existing nutritional therapy clients.” Recalls Thornhill “Because of this, whatever I decide my next move would be, it would be coming from a place of conscious thought, excitement and curiosity, rather than scrabbling desperation, which is never a great place to be.”
The real goal of achieving “balance” and being at peace with doing nothing (and not boredom) is being mindful when it comes to our own experience. Rethink what relaxation means and tailor it to you, in order to truly achieve happiness every day.