by Gwen Randall-Young – Another long weekend has come and gone, with an opportunity to spend some time with family, and extended family. It is always a blessing to have family come together on a holiday, as we take a little “time out” from the regular routine. Often it is not necessarily relaxing though, especially if you are the one who is hosting the gathering. And once the holiday weekend is over we immediately start thinking about what needs to be done next, perhaps something that was set aside due to holiday preparations.
All too often though, we forget to take a break, to regenerate our bodies and spirits. This is especially true if you work in the home, where there is always something else to do. Many women tell me that they just cannot sit down and relax when they know that the laundry is not done, or the floor needs vacuuming. Men do not appear to suffer from this affliction, and seem to be able to be able to watch entire hockey games without the slightest pangs of guilt. And they reinforce each other for taking this time to relax, as they replay the game the next morning over coffee.
Both groups, however, are missing out on an essential ingredient of mental health. It is solitude: quiet time to be alone with your thoughts. Quiet time to reflect on your day or on your life. And if we go for long periods of time without experiencing this oasis amidst the hustle and bustle of life, we soon lose any sense of being centered. We begin to become stressed and irritable, and often think it is because of the behavior of others, rather than the crankiness of our own soul in response to being ignored.
Our minds can begin to function like a computer turning out more and more things for us to do, and we can frantically try to keep up. We forget that we can unplug it and take a rest. We wouldn’t think of running our cars without the occasional tune up, or without replenishing the gas or oil. But we, too, run better when we are well maintained.
While solitude in the form of a week in the mountains would be nice, few of us can do that often. So we must create our own solitude, and fortunately this is easily done. Select a time when the house is quiet, and you can start with as little as 10 or 15 minutes. Sit or lie in a comfortable position, and allow your body to relax. Imagine a beautiful scene and escape into it. You may want to play soothing music, or simply enjoy the silence. If you have difficulty relaxing, or find that your mind wants to keep busy, focus on your breathing, or repeat a positive affirmation such as “I am calm and relaxed, and I deserve this rest.” or “I am regenerating myself, and will feel happy and relaxed for the rest of the day.”
If you do this regularly, you will begin to notice many positive changes, and you will find yourself looking forward to your solitude. Eventually you will carry that sense of calm throughout your day, regardless of what is happening around you.
Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning Psychotherapist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books or cds, visit www.gwen.ca