Not just an on/off switch

Relaxation. Our bodies crave it, our religions mandate it, and our society seems to promote yet rob us of it. Women everywhere, particularly mothers, are sold the idea of self care as a prevention and cure for anxiety, relationship stress, and the crippling pressure of modern parenting. [1]

Switch off every now and then

Schedule “me” time

Self care self care self care

Like a mantra. But we’re not taught how.

This year I have been attending a weekly pilates class. My post partum body has been working, my muscles are sore, and my confidence is benefiting. For the first few weeks I expected myself to automatically relax; turn off the brain, stop worrying about what I looked like, whether I was better or worse than others in the dimly lit room, or thinking through the weekly tasks or events coming up. For all my life I’ve not allowed my brain to be in chill mode. I wasn’t raised to chill, I need to learn it.

When I had time to sit, knitting was relaxing; repetitive, meditative self care. As we move through stages in life, our self care habits change.

In our fast paced world, we know that meditation and relaxation is good for our mental health, physical health and psychological composition. Well rested humans make better parents, spouses, friends, colleagues, and neighbours. We aren’t our best selves exhausted.

This week I experimented with a goal. In pilates I would actively meditate; something I hadn’t done since I was 14 and experimenting with religious practices. I would allow the thoughts to come in, but with the inhale and exhale routine of pilates, I would allow the thoughts to leave; not dwell on them.

We need milk from the shops…

Don’t let it linger.

Exhale

Inhale

I didn’t call Pop back today…

Don’t let it linger.

Exhale

Inhale

Exhale

Inhale

Exhale

You can do this. Just four more

Inhale

Exhale

Inhale…

Actively relaxing sounds paradoxical. But like with practising any new habit or learned behaviour, before we can operate at a subconscious level, we must first consciously reprogram. Through learning to listen to and respect my body I know that my body craves relaxation; it is tense, my actions become hurried and clumsy, my voice becomes short and impatient, and my mind becomes cluttered. Unchecked anxious energy builds up in my body, stealing away space for vulnerability and relationship. Relaxation acts as a release valve. Moments of relaxation by themselves are inadequate, but sustained habits of relaxation help to rebuild a person fit for parenthood, relationship and community. So, reprogram I must.

My sport is hockey, and I haven’t played lroperly since becoming a mum. It’s high on my self care agenda to return strong this year! I can switch off on field.

I will continue to find moments to choose relaxation; daily, weekly, and monthly habits to foster and focus relaxation. Perhaps one day I will wake up and realise that switching off and living slowly in the moment is no longer a chore but a normal state of being. That is the hope, that is the dream. For now I practise scheduled meditation;

Inhale

Don’t let it linger

Exhale

Inhale

Don’t let it linger

Exhale

https://www.pinterest.com.au/pin/412149803404317851/

[1] https://www.anxietycanada.com/articles/tool-1-the-importance-of-self-care-new-moms/

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