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How to relax when you haven't the time to relax

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We get it. There’s a pandemic going on, for goodness’ sake. Maybe things are really uncertain and stressful at the workplace. Taking a break might be one of the last things on your mind right now. You may be thinking, yeah, I’ve heard about that stress management stuff, but I simply don’t have time for that at this point. But it is exactly because work is stressful that resting adequately becomes especially necessary!

In the current economic crisis, workers are losing sleep over keeping their jobs, leaders are fumbling to keep their businesses afloat, and many are taking on additional responsibilities not just in the workplace, but at home too to support their families. Workers now have to grapple with keeping themselves and their families healthy, as well as contend with a vastly different, unfamiliar and daunting workplace environment. 

So. We get you. There’s a lot going on. But not only is rest needed to keep us healthy, it makes us more effective at work at the same time. When we prioritise taking well-timed breaks, we’re taking the opportunity to refresh our minds and bodies, making us even more productive than if we’d just continued forward at full speed without stopping. Want to go further in the long run? Then you have to take the time to rest. 

Here are five ideas to get you started on incorporating relaxation into your schedule.

  1. The method doesn’t matter, choose whatever helps you feel better 

If you can, look at your schedule and plan for relaxation time in advance. Have fun brainstorming ideas about different ways of relaxation and go for what you like. It could be listening to music, or giving your hands a quick massage to relieve tension. The only requirement is that it motivates and encourages you! We’d recommend fitting your desired activities in the little pockets of time in your schedule, because it’s easy to push break time off until “later” when things get overwhelming. 

However, if a structured approach isn’t for you, you could go for impromptu breaks and take a few minutes off as and when you need a breather! However, you’d need to be in tune with your mind, body and overall levels of well-being, so that you’d be able to tell when you really need a break. 

Which brings us to…

  1. Be aware of your day-to-day, make use of existing routines  

As mentioned, a flexible approach to incorporating relaxation works too as long as you can stay aware of your feelings and know when you could use some rest. Check in with yourself: Do your arms and legs feel stiff? Sounds like a short walk would be good! Are your eyes tired and dry? Take a five minute break from the computer. Have you had your meals yet? No? Time for some replenishment!

Also make use of the time in between tasks and meetings- these ‘transition moments’ are highly convenient and conducive for rest and relaxation. 

  1. Prep yourself for what’s to come 

If you know that there are specific times ahead when you’ll have to buckle down and work really hard, whether due to extra responsibilities or challenging tasks, prepare for them. We’d recommend asking yourself which relaxation activities would be the easiest to do, and when you’d be able to do them. If you’re consistently available on a certain evening, for example, use it to implement a regular self-care routine. If you’re going to have a draining day of back-to-back meetings or difficult clients, remember to take extra care of yourself after. 

Prioritise your rest time and don’t ignore what you’ve planned when the time comes- remember, rest is important and shouldn’t be skipped! 

  1. Reconfigure your habits 

If the first thing you check upon waking up is your email inbox, it might be time to reconsider your morning routine! Rather than immediately exposing yourself to potential stressors, which will make you feel anxious, slowly rev up by doing a little yoga, doing a short mindfulness exercise, or simply having a hot drink. This will help to set the tone for the rest of the day.  

Also set up a good time management system so that you’ll feel more at ease and in control of your tasks and projects. With a system in place, you’ll know what to prioritise and when, and you won’t have to worry before going to bed about having missed out on any to-dos. 

To further calm your mind, take some time to declutter your physical and online spaces, that is, both your desk and desktop. An organised workspace can create a greater sense of comfort.

  1. The health stuff 

A short mindfulness exercise can be really simple and yet work wonders in terms of stress reduction. While in a relaxed position, whether sitting or lying down, do deep breathing while focusing on your breath, paying attention to your inhalations and exhalations.You can take a few minutes to do this at your desk or anywhere comfortable. 

Exercise is absolutely necessary for stress management. This could include yoga, sports or a quick Zumba workout. Stretch and sweat to burn off that stress! Start with any form of exercise that you can fit into your schedule- even a simple jog or walk will help. Grab a friend and some company if that motivates you. Download fitness apps, follow fitness channels online- anything that keeps your body moving! 

Remember- since taking breaks actually helps you maximise your productivity, there’s no need to feel guilty about taking time off to rest at all. Navigating a pandemic and the difficulties it brings requires extra stamina, patience, dedication and strength. You need to recharge in order to perform at your best! You can only do so much before you risk burnout and negatively impacting your work and health. With adequate rest, you’ll be able to focus and think clearly, with all the energy you’ll need to tackle whatever lies ahead. 

Enjoyed this article? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below:

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half the sky (HTS) is a career platform for women in Asia. We connect women to career opportunities at companies that care. We also want to equip you with information, tips and strategies to navigate the workplace today and the future.

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