How to relax when there’s no magic switch.

While checking my twitter account I encountered some “stress related” tweets by a fellow programmer, and a previous guest at coder voice podcast: @sarahSeoudan

And I wanted to reply, then I thought that I won’t be able to express my thoughts clearly in a tweet of 140 characters, so I am writing this post here with the hope to be beneficial for everyone.

First of all, I agree that there’s no on/off switch for relaxing, and there’s no secret method that will instantly help, because relaxing is simply a result, a side-effect, a by-product of many changes we actively introduce to our own personal behavior and lifestyle. when our friends, family, and even doctors! ask us to “be happy” or to “just calm down” it feels as if they are implying that the “magical switch” actually exist..

well..it doesn’t. and that’s OK.

relax

I am talking here about “releasing stress” and “relaxing”, but this actually applies to happiness, success, fulfillment, and even to finding love! and all other similar goals, and aspirations that many of us mistakenly assume, that they have a secret/magical solution that for some reason we are unable to reach, or if we are on the opposite side of the spectrum, we wrongfully assume the impossibility of reaching such a state because of who we are, so we don’t even try!

The solution is to understand that: “it is not a sprint, it is a marathon”.

And yes, releasing stress, happiness, having a fulfilled life are without any doubt a marathon and not a sprint. A sprint is shorter and requires a much higher running pace, running a marathon however, requires a more strategic approach, and a relatively slower pace to successfully reach the finish line.

Finishing my 1st Marathon ever (2015) - Photo courtesy: Beirut Marathon Association Facebook page
Finishing my 1st Marathon ever (2015) – Photo courtesy:  Beirut Marathon Association Facebook page

These are some tips, that helped me personally (in actually running a marathon! But also in releasing stress, and with life in general):

1- There’s rarely one single step: The understanding that there’s no single step to reach a certain goal, provides us with both a relief, and the strength to keep moving forward, even if the result isn’t instantaneous, for example, let’s say we are so stressed, burned out, and overloaded with work most of the time, in this case we can apply multiple actions/steps (preferably in a gradual and sequential manner), and after a while we will wake up one day and realize how more relaxed and fulfilled we’ve become (example of actions to take include: cleaning our desk, decluttering, organize our work, deciding what tasks to work on and also what offers we should reject, scheduling, sport, etc..)

2- Start slowly but be persistent: There’s no need to apply and try all the methods on day one, because you will usually end up exhausted, frustrated and most probably you will quit.. instead, and back to our “releasing stress” example, in the first week, maybe all you have to do is just keeping your workplace very clean, and organized.. even if you still didn’t see any noticeable effect yet, just be persistent and introduce more steps each few days (based on your comfortable pace)

3- It is worth it: do not postpone any activity that can improve your life and your state of mind, and if you find yourself busy all the time, then that’s actually an additional reason to find time for that.

I know I haven’t discussed in details how to actually release stress, you can find many practical steps online, but by considering what I mentioned above you will have the right mental set to actually apply them!

And it is worth noting that this may seem basic, and intuitive, but sometimes the secret of handling life is hidden in simplicity mixed with our persistence.