The Good Doctor on the virtues of relaxation and having fun
Imagine spending a terrific Saturday with one of your best pals. Maybe you’re checking out a few galleries or downtown shops. Strolling, enjoying the weather, talking to complete strangers. You stop for lunch at a favorite restaurant and, later in the afternoon, enjoy a glass of wine or a big iced coffee at a new hole-in-the-wall restaurant, relaxing on the deck, people-watching, maybe overlooking the park or the river. You’re relaxed, happy, feeling light and stress-free.
Or think about this: You and your favorite sib have been trying to get together for a while, but your busy schedules make that difficult. Finally, you create the time to meet up after work and hit the river walk, where the next couple of hours fly by as you catch up, laugh, and enjoy the scenery, logging a few miles of heart-healthy cardio, releasing the stressors of the day. Maybe later you’ll take in some live music or a movie, keeping this mini-vacation going.
Or how about: A close college buddy you haven’t seen for years is coming through town and has arranged to stop over for a weekend visit. You’ve had lots of good times in the past—some great memories that only the two of you share—and it’s wonderful to re-connect. He plays with your kids, you fire up the grill, eat, drink, and reminisce while others roll their eyes and wonder what the two of you are finding so funny. It’s an easy, care-free weekend of good heart-to-hearts, elaborate story-telling and conversations that, for a while, let you release your personal burdens.
These scenarios may sound a bit Hallmark-ish, but remember this: It’s easy to let the busy-ness of life take over your world, creating an unbalanced existence that is too full of stress, obligation and worry. It can happen without us even realizing it. What’s challenging is carving out some light-hearted time that gives you a break from all that, and lets you come up for air.
Whether it involves friends, family, the outdoors, travel, or some much-needed solitary time, it’s up to each of us to prioritize and engage in whatever gives our full lives some balance. For in that balance we can nurture our physical well-being as well as our mental health. We can become better partners, parents, friends, lovers, sons and daughters. We can become vigilant watchdogs of our own happiness, and discover fulfillment from areas besides work or on-going obligations. Simply put, we can get out of the rut.
This is a tool that I call “healthy distraction,” and the benefits can literally extend your life while making it richer, more meaningful, and more rewarding.
Healthy distraction can give you a break from the constant exhaustion that comes from physical ailments. It can help you feel sane when emotional and psychological stress becomes overwhelming. It can give you the much-needed breather when the challenge of caring for others weighs heavy. It can lower blood pressure and increase endorphins. It can help you sleep better, laugh more, be someone others want to be around.
Let’s be clear. This is not about living in denial, or shunning responsibility. It’s not about insensitive hedonism or being careless with others. It’s about coming up for air now and then. Keeping your life balanced. Giving yourself a break. Re-charging your batteries so that you can better handle whatever stress comes your way. It’s about giving yourself permission, and committing to the kind of self-care that allows you to be the best you you can be.
Until next time: “We are each like a flower. If we take care well, we will grow beautifully. If we take care poorly, we will wither and die. How much water and sunshine do we each need?” —Thich Nhat Hanh
Dr. Rick Pimental-Habib, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist, author, minister, and educator in private practice in Chattanooga. Contact him at DrRPH.com, visit his wellness center at WellNestChattanooga.com