Do you battle through each week praying for the weekend to arrive, only to go back to work on Monday feeling more exhausted than ever?
If so, you’re not alone.
Despite our best intentions to have a relaxing evening or weekend, many of us simply never manage it.
Now a new survey has revealed that nearly three-quarters of us often have days when we simply don’t get any ‘down’ or relaxation time at all.
A hectic job, being a worrier, struggling with anxiety and spending most of the day rushing around juggling work, childcare and home life, means many people never get any time to themselves.
And of those polled who do find the time, more than a quarter stated they no longer know how to relax.
Nearly half – 46 percent – even struggle to relax at the weekend, when they go on holiday or when they have a few days off, such as the Easter break.
Even when we’re on holiday, most of us find it hard to truly ‘switch off’ and relax
Dr Megan Arroll, a chartered psychologist on behalf of the supplement brand Healthspan, which commissioned the research, said: ‘These findings are worrying.
‘Relaxing, winding down and unplugging from our busy lives is important as it gives our bodies and minds a chance to recalibrate.
‘Just as sleep restores us, so does rest, relaxation and down-time.
‘Also, more than half of the people in the survey stated that not being able to relax had impacted on their sleep, caused further anxiety and even lead to feelings of depression.’
FINDING FIVE MINUTES OF TIME FOR YOU
‘Finding even a few minutes to relax can be difficult, so have a look at your diary and see where it may be more easily fitted in,’ says clinical and chartered psychologist Dr Jen Nash.
‘For example, is waiting in the car to pick up the kids a moment you can close your eyes and deep breathe?
‘Is your commute to and from work better spent with relaxing music in your earphones, taking some time out before/after the demands of the day?’
WHY RELAXATION IS SO VITAL TO OUR HEALTH
While relaxation can seem like a waste of time in our hectic lives, the advantages of quality R&R are definitely worth a little of our precious time, adds Dr Arroll. ‘Relaxation not only helps to calm the mind, it has important benefits for our bodies, too.
‘Many health conditions such as heart disease, pain and gastrointestinal (gut) issues can benefit from regular relaxation practice.’
Specifically, the benefits of taking time out to relax include increased energy levels, lowered blood pressure and heart rate, reduced stress hormones such as cortisol, less muscle tension and pain and better concentration, mood, sleep quality.
‘Relaxation techniques can also help us all cope with the demands of everyday life and the stress we experience. The great thing about relaxation is that it’s free, can be done anywhere and has no unwanted side-effects.’
Those surveyed who do make time to relax said the best way to properly relax was to watch a good box set, read a book, watch a movie, have a bath or go for a walk.
But if time really is of the essence, there are many quick ingenious tips and tricks that you can try.
Here, chartered psychologists Dr Megan Arroll and Dr Jen Nash explain the simple tricks that could reboot your relaxation skills in just seconds…
BREATHE LIKE A BABY
‘One of the easiest, quickest and most powerful ways to relax is by breathing deeply through the diaphragm, like babies do,’ says Dr Arroll.
‘The problem is that as we age, we develop shallow chest breathing, which can maintain feelings of stress and anxiety.
‘But by drawing breath deep into our diaphragm, we kick start the parasympathetic nervous system which alleviates the stress response.’
First, place your hand on your stomach and make sure it rises when you inhale and dips on the exhale. To make sure you’re not breathing isn’t shallow, place your other hand on your chest, which shouldn’t lift if the diaphragm is engaged. Inhale steadily through your nose for a count of three, then out for another count of three.
While doing this, repeat the word ‘calm’ in your mind. Feel the tension drain from your shoulders and chest on each breath. Repeat the exercise five to ten times at regular intervals throughout the day: on waking, before lunch and at bedtime.
GET YOUR FINGERS MOVING
‘This may seem counterintuitive to relaxation, but by concentrating on a simple task, we can actively rest the mind of worries,’ says Dr Arroll.
‘The activity needs to be complex enough to hold our attention and have an end point to help engender a sense of achievement.
‘Origami is a great pastime to practice as you can start with very easy design and build-up to more intricate creations.
‘Other hobbies such as knitting offer a rhythmic movement which can function as a hypnotic action, leading to an almost meditative state.’
SCAN YOUR BODY FROM HEAD TO TOE
Sit down comfortably and notice the physical sensation of the weight of your body touching the chair. Now start the technique by breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. With every breath out, focus on the exhalation and relax your body into the chair.
Next, let your mind and your attention wander through your body.
This does not have to be in any set sequence and should not be rushed.
You may want to start with your fingertips – notice any sensations there: perhaps they feel a little heavy.
Now move through the body. If you started at the fingers, move up the arm and into the chest.
Again, notice any sensations – your heartbeat, temperature, perhaps you have experienced some twitching sensations, gurgling or bubbling in the stomach or gut.
When you feel a sensation, even any tension or stillness, acknowledge the sensation for a moment before continuing your journey through your body.
You may start to notice that the amount of sensations you are feeling seem to be vanishing after a few minutes, and this is normal.
Take the tour until you reach your toes, then allow yourself a few more breaths before gradually returning to your day.
IMAGINE YOURSELF IN A RELAXED STATE
Visualization is often used for relaxation as our minds have the power to transport us to a bubble of calm.
Start by thinking of a place where you feel most relaxed – it could be anywhere, a country field in the spring, a holiday beach, even a place from your childhood. The key here is that this place is relaxing to you, not anyone else.
Now close your eyes. Start by thinking of exactly what you saw, heard, felt, smelled and tasted so that you engage all of your senses. The more detail you can bring to mind, the more powerful this technique will be.
Now make sure you’re breathing steadily and spend a few moments exploring your environment. You will start to feel the sense of calm wash over you. To end the exercise, gently pull yourself back to the here and now by taking a deep breath in through the nose on a count of three, and exhale.
HOW A DO-TO LIST REALLY CAN HELP YOU RELAX
If you notice it’s difficult to focus on relaxation because you’ve got a lot on your mind, write down your worries in a notepad before you begin your relaxation, advises Dr Jen Nash.
This helps for two reasons. Firstly, no matter how long the list may be, you can see your worries DO have a beginning an end – which stops the endless cycle inside your mind.
Secondly, you’ve sent a message to your mind that your worries are important, and you do plan on attending to them (helpful because worries are your brain’s way of keeping you safe against possible danger). This will leave your mind clear to focus on your relaxation.
If you’re still finding it difficult to feel calm, imagine that each of the worries is written on a balloon, and visualise the balloons floating off with your worries.
HOW CANNABIS OIL COULD HELP YOU RELAX
The new survey also revealed that three per cent of people have used cannabidiol supplements, known as CBD oil, in a bid to help them relax.
‘Cannabidiol, or CBD, oil is one of the fastest growing wellbeing supplements in both the US and the UK – and is perfectly legal to take,’ explains Dr Sarah Brewer, a medical nutritionist.
‘Derived from industrial hemp plants, it has a lifting and relaxing effect on mood with none of the adverse psychoactive effects associated with marijuana.
‘CBD oil acts via the body’s own endocannabinoid system to promote feelings of wellbeing. It’s a great choice if you are finding it difficult to relax, as it is not habit forming.’
Some CBD products are synthetic. Select a CBD oil that is 100 percent natural and extracted from whole hemp plants.
STRESSED NATION: WHAT THE SURVEY FOUND
The poll of more of 2,000 adults found almost two hours a day is spent feeling stressed or worried, with more than 40 percent of people saying they find it hard to switch off and relax.
Top 10 reasons you don’t relax:
1. I’m a worrier
2. I struggle to switch off
3. I’m too busy
4. My job
5. I am too anxious to switch off
6. My children
7. Too many people rely on me
8. I suffer from anxiety
9. My partner
10. I just don’t really know how to relax
Top 10 things we do to relax:
1. Watch a good box set
2. Watch a movie
3. Read a book
4. Listen to music
5. Go for a walk
6. Have a bath
7. Go online
8. Eat a treat
9. Glass of wine