Fact: There is nothing less relaxing than when someone tells you to “Relax!” They may have the best of intentions, but their less-than-helpful advice sounds more like a stress-inducing command. When we’re anxious, overwhelmed, or stressed, the last thing we need is more pressure to change our state. Here are 5 counter-intuitive strategies to help you cope:
1. Stop trying to relax.
Just notice the tension without trying to change it. How does it feel in your body? Where do you feel it? Take a deep breath and allow yourself to just be. Validate yourself by saying “It’s perfectly fine to feel the way I feel.”
2. Be mindfully less mindful.
Try this exercise: Instead of concentrating on one thing, allow yourself to stare off in the distance. Gradually expand your vision to include nearby objects until you take in the whole scene. This exercise helps to open our mind and body, putting things in perspective and easing tension.
3. Accept that you have no control.
This may be the hardest, but most powerful truth: In this moment, things are beyond our control. So for the next 10 minutes, stop trying to change things and practice getting comfortable with uncertainty. As Mark Nepo says “We are the only creatures that seek out guarantees, and in doing so, we snuff the spark that is discovery.”
4. Stop being a perfectionist.
Perfectionism and high standards often come from a fear of not being worthy or good enough. Try relaxing your expectations by trusting that no matter what action you take (or don’t take), you are still worthy exactly as you are. As I write this blog post, I’m accepting that it isn’t up to my usual standards. And while that annoys the stickler who lives inside my head, I know that success comes from executing even when we’re unready and uncertain.
5. Take a step in the right direction.
What’s one thing you can do right now to feel more ease? Is it taking a tiny action toward your goal? Is it going outside for a walk? Each good decision creates momentum that propels us forward and helps us to regain our confidence and self-trust.
And when all else fails, there are videos of baby animals on YouTube. Thank you, Internet!