How Can I Learn to Relax?
You’ve heard the old joke, right? Mr. Jones goes to his doctor with a very strange complaint.
“Doc, sometimes I think I’m a teepee, and sometimes I think I’m a wigwam.”
I’ll spare you the long version, but the doctor delivers the punchline: “Mr. Smith, you’re two tents.”
(Too tense … get it? Groan!)
You’re Probably “Two Tents”
The truth is, most of us are “two tents.” We spend way too much time dealing with stress – at work, with our partners or kids, with traffic, watching the news, or fighting about politics on social media. With the constant din of things that need attention, it’s tough to stay relaxed.
While it’s true that we need to be energized to deal with everything coming our way, the best stuff happens when we’re relaxed. Our health is better, our outlook is better, our bodies and brains work better, and we get a lot more joy when we’re chill than when we’re stressed.
But getting and staying relaxed isn’t easy. A high percentage of the people I work with in martial arts, in business, and in personal growth wonder “how can I learn to relax?”
I Don’t Even Play a Doctor on TV
Please keep in mind that if you suffer from a serious mental illness or a debilitating condition, you should seek medical advice. Legitimate health problems are nothing to be ashamed of, and the tools to diagnose and treat them are better than at any time in history. Check with a qualified doctor before beginning any strenuous new activity.
Relaxation is an Acquired Skill
After over three decades of study and practice, I’ve learned a few things about relaxation:
1. Relaxation is an acquired skill
2. The higher your expectations, the more skill you need
3. It’s very difficult to learn relaxation while you’re “in the fight”
4. To become highly competent, you need to work on three areas of relaxation:
5. Technology can help!
I’ve worked with a lot of people who get in their own way because of tension. The tension makes their muscles tight, narrows their vision, and interferes with their decision making. Some don’t even realize they’re tense. Others tell me, “I really need to relax.”
But if they don’t practice relaxation outside their activity, they rarely get better at it.
Relaxation can come over the long term with competence in your activity, but it comes a lot faster when you practice it for itself. It’s not enough to tell yourself that you’ll try to relax next time something difficult happens.
A Major Breakthrough
One breakthrough that truly changed my life was learning to breath properly. I was in a tough spot financially and had a lot of sleepless nights.
I had purchased a house to renovate. When I bought it, I thought I’d spend $20,000 on the renovations, which was a comfortable amount to spend. However, we found mold in part of the house and had to remove part of the front wall and all the flooring in three rooms. Before it was over, I ended up spending over $100,000.
This happened at the same time one of my businesses lost a major source of referrals, so I went from money in the bank and great cash flow to no money in the bank and very low cash flow. After struggling with it for five months, I was exhausted and needed to find ways to rest.
I’ve meditated on and off for 30 years, but to try to get centered and find a way to sleep, I re-dedicated myself to it. For three months, I studied the experts. I practiced every single day. I learned to breathe properly, which helped relax my body and calm my mind. I found peace within the struggle.
To this day, I breathe better. I hardly ever get a stuffy nose, and I haven’t had a single debilitating illness since. I can use my muscles more efficiently than before, and I can almost always calm myself when I need clarity and logic. The benefits of that learning process help me every day – in the dojo, at work, in my relationships, and in my ability to interact with the world at a high level.
If you come to Permission, we’ll practice some of the techniques I use, but here’s a quick summary:
Breathing – most of us store tension in our faces and chests. Consciously noticing where those points of tension interfere with your breathing, and learning to open up, can transform your ease of breathing.
Relaxation – we need to take the time to consciously relax our muscle groups, one at a time. If you do that over the long term, you get better at it. It used to take me around thirty minutes to run through all the muscle groups in my body – I can now get it done in about three minutes.
Chakra Breathing – I don’t know if you believe in chakras (I’m not sure I do), but it’s a useful practice for moving through your body mindfully. I find it very energizing.
Challenges – once you get good at relaxing in a calm environment, challenge yourself to achieve the same calm in a challenging environment. When you can calm yourself at will, you’ve got an incredible skill for dealing with adversity and complexity.
The Muse Brain Sensing Headband
I don’t get anything for saying this. I share it because I truly believe in the benefits. I use the Muse Brain Sensing Headband almost every day. It measures several metrics like an EEG, and gives you audio feedback to help you get better at meditation.
Even if you’re already consider yourself pretty good at meditation, I’d recommend Muse. It brings a level of detail and objectivity to your practice. You can’t fool yourself into thinking “I’ve got it” when the Muse is signaling that your brain is jumping all over the place. It really helps you focus on your breathing and get to a meditative state sooner.
Whenever technology like this is available, I try to use it myself so I can speak from experience. Muse was well worth what I paid for it, and I’ll be using it for years to come.
Need Help Getting More Relaxed?
People never even seem to think of getting skilled help when they want to become more relaxed. There’s no reason not to employ coaches, mentors and even therapists when you need them. Asking for help can be the key to getting started on your road to effective relaxation.
As I’ve said many times, I’m a huge fan of “unconditional positive regard.” Having people around you who support you completely and unconditionally can be life changing.
You can read more about it in my article “How to Stop Feeling Guilty.” But it can be tough to find people with such a positive mindset. That’s why I created Permission – The Event. It’s a chance to spend a day with people who are committed to total positive support. You get support and give support while planning your ideal life with handshakes, hugs, and high-fives!
It’s like a day-long rock concert with you as the guest of honor.
Whatever happens in your life, I wish you every success!