Do you find it difficult to unwind?

Does having to sit quietly on a yoga mat make you feel on edge? Do you get irritable when you have nothing to do? Does sitting on the couch make you anxious?

I used to be exactly the same. I swore blind that relaxing wasn’t for me and I totally refused to do any slow kind of exercise because I just felt so frustrated that I wasn’t sweating! Now, on reflection after a lifetime of being a go, go, go person I have realised something I just had to share.

Us go-getters need downtime far more than we realise. If you can’t relax and unwind, it doesn’t mean it’s not for you and you don’t need it, it simply means that you haven’t found a way to chill that works for you and may have an internal drive to ‘do things’ and ‘achieve’ that may lead you in the long term to a breakdown or lead you far, far away from the life you dream of.

We need rest, our bodies and minds need time and space without stimulation. It is vital to help you look and feel good, plus it helps you to be productive and effective when you are working or ‘doing’ whatever it is that keeps you busy. If the concept of ‘rest’ feels uncomfortable to you, then it’s time to work out why this is so tricky for you. What are you chasing? What is driving you? What makes you keep on go, go, going? I would love to say that most of the people I meet are chasing their hopes and dreams, chasing a ‘happier’ life, but ironically – so many are nowhere near happy on the inside and are never as satisfied as they thought they would be even when they do reach their goals. I can relate to this.

So, my message to you is simple – if you feel anxious, irritable and panicky about down time and relaxing, first start to include small amounts of ‘active’ relaxation. That is, away from your work and your computer – it might be a walk at lunch time, it might be reading a trashy magazine to allow your mind to escape from the serious stuff or taking the kids to the park for half an hour. From there, allow yourself to find new ways to include time when you are not working, in front of the TV, on Facebook or on your iPhone – that way of living can be so destructive. Play a board game with your friends, try a new recipe for dinner and with the TV off – music playing – enjoy the process of creating a culinary masterpiece. Do what feels right.

I started doing this a while ago – time off Facebook, computer off in the evenings allowing me to read a magazine for 20 minutes –that was HUGE for me. Then I decided to head to yoga, that felt like what I needed to do, it felt right. The first 10 classes almost killed me, I hated it. Not the exercise (which is far more intense than you realise if you go to the right class just for you!), but I hated the process of moving slowly and focusing on my breath. Now, I couldn’t live without it – I have gone from hating, to tolerating, to accepting, to kind of liking – and now, really enjoying. Amazing. Interestingly, it has allowed me to have more time, be more productive and happier.

Down time is vital – if you can’t do it and hate it, why? There is something hiding that needs addressing. Find it.

Until next time… happy healthier living.

Love, Claire x

Claire Turnbull, BSc (Hons) Dietetics UK, NZ-registered nutritionist. Managing director of Mission Nutrition, and Healthy Food Guide nutritionist.

First published: Jul 2013

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