Just Breathe

After a particularly stressful week, I thought I'd share some tried-and-true ways to relax. The reality is, we live in a busy world, especially as freelancers, and it can be a bit overwhelming at times. No matter how superhuman we think we are, we must learn to take breaks.

Relaxation Technique #1: Meditation

When your mind is racing and you need a break, try to find a quiet environment to spend a few minutes. If this is not possible, throw in some earbuds and listen to calming music to drown out the noise (I love the "Deep Focus" playlist on Spotify). Start by finding a comfortable seated position. Sit up nice and tall, rest your hands on your thighs, and close your eyes. Take a minute or two to notice what's going on in your mind, what's going on with your breath. Don't attach any judgment, just notice. Take a few deep breaths and focus only on that—breathing. After a few minutes of mindful breathing, think about one thing that makes you happy or one thing you want to accomplish and focus on that for a few minutes. As outside thoughts come in, acknowledge them, then let them pass and come back to your intention. When you're ready to move on with your day, gently bring your awareness back to the room and open your eyes. I use the Calm app for meditation, and I absolutely love it!

Relaxation Technique #2: Massage

In an effort to bring a little balance into my life, I schedule a one-hour massage once a month. Working in front of a computer is really hard on your body, so it's important to take care of yourself, and one way to do that is with regular massage. To help with the cost, I signed up for a massage membership.

Relaxation Technique #3: Lavender and Sea Salt Bath

I love to do this right before bed, and I find I sleep better on nights when I make time to soak. All you need to do is draw a warm bath and add a cup of sea salt and about ten drops of lavender essential oil. You can also look for a bath salt that already has lavender in it (I use this one). Light a candle (or six) and grab a book!

Relaxation Technique #4: Yoga

Yoga has changed my life when it comes to handling stress and learning to let go. I normally prefer to practice in the evening for relaxation, but morning yoga classes are a great way to get focused. Just do what works best for you. Yoga is a great form of exercise for the mind and body. If you don't belong to a gym that provides yoga classes or have a yoga studio nearby, there are many good yoga DVDs out there (let me know in the comment section if you'd like recommendations!). Eagle pose, or Garudasana, is particularly good to release tension in the upper back and shoulders.

Relaxation Technique #5: Reach Out

Sometimes, we just need someone to listen to our frustrations and tell us that it’s going to be OK. When I’m stressed, confused, or upset about something, I call or message a friend. Talking it out usually ends in one of two situations: (a) you find that you might have been overreacting or (b) you were rightfully pissed off and can then discuss your next course of action with someone you trust.

Bonus! Check out this TED talk on looking at stress in a different way, and feel free to share your relaxation techniques in the comments section below!