By a show of hands, how many of you have really taken time to rest and relax lately? Now, I don't mean sleeping all day, or binge-watching Netflix until you can recite "Stranger Things" in three languages. I'm talking about letting your mind and body "turn off the noise," and truly be at ease, whether you're out with friends or alone with a good book.
There's a good chance most of us have forgotten how to block out those distractions, even on the most uneventful weekends. Whether it's parenting, work, financial concerns, or other stressors, the hectic nature of modern life keeps our brains working long after we've clocked out for the day.
It's time to give yourself permission to rest, relax and recharge. Below, we've highlighted a few ways (and a few products) to help you on the path to helping yourself achieve genuine relaxation, so you're ready for it even when life doesn't make it easy.
Set a leisurely pace, even when you're busy
It seems funny to begin a piece on relaxation with tips for the workplace, but people operate in cycles throughout the day, awake or asleep. These rhythms see us reaching peaks and valleys of energy and alertness, and also indicate when we need to take mental time-outs, to recharge our systems.
The problem is, most workplaces don't allow for much downtime, much less on an individual schedule. But, the more we can pay attention to these cycles, the more productive we'll be when alertness is a must.
According to productivity expert Tony Schwartz, when our bodies need to rest, they send out distinct signals, such as hunger, bouts of drowsiness, lack of focus and other distractions that can interfere with the average workday.
To counter these lapses, we can't rely on coffee to soldier through the downtimes. Instead, if possible, Schwartz recommends taking short breaks to reset focus, and regain clarity for the work that remains.
Relax your entire body
It's an unfortunate reality, but even when we think we're resting, we're not always addressing our entire body.
For some, trying alternative forms of treatment, such as yoga or acupuncture, could go a long way toward relieving some stressors you previously didn't know how to address.
Please keep in mind that both yoga and acupuncture are services that may be FSA-eligible with a Letter of Medical Necessity (LMN) as provided by a medical professional (acupuncture may not require an LMN with some benefits administrators).
If these services are not covered by your FSA funds, then consider other ways to relax your body, such as acupressure mats and cushions, which are often covered without need for medical authorization. (Always check with your benefits administrator before purchasing, just to be sure.)
Don't just sleep a lot – sleep well
Let's face it, once Friday afternoon rolls around, your mind is probably focused on cramming in as much enjoyment as possible before Sunday evening. Which is fine, if that enjoyment allows your body to truly rest and revitalize itself.
But that doesn't happen too often. Happy hours, parties, concerts, sporting events, and the like are certainly fun, but these activities can be mentally and physically exhausting. And late nights out only interrupt restful sleep cycles.
We're not here to tell you not to go out from time to time. But, establishing a healthy sleep pattern is an ongoing process. One idea is to use your phone to set an alarm or reminder that indicates it's time to start your wind-down routine, or simply go straight to bed.
At first, you might feel strange being in bed so "early." But once you're curled up and comfortable, and wake up feeling altogether more rested, you'll probably wonder why you haven't tried this sooner.
In the long-term, we recommend establishing a reasonable bedtime, an appropriate waking hour, and allocating time in the morning to ease into a day with no rushing, urgency or distraction.
If you have trouble falling into a healthier sleep cycle, we recommend an FSA-eligible sleep mask. These devices can help block ambient light and other visual distractions from interfering with your rest time, as well as providing soothing aromatherapy to help you get to sleep faster.
And, if your doctor determines your sleep needs require medical attention, items such as melatonin or sleep-aid pills are FSA-eligible with a prescription.
We know it can be difficult to find balance between work, play and relaxation, but it's important to ensure work and play don't eliminate good rest from the equation. The best way to stay productive, alert and happy is to give your body the rest it needs, during your downtime and throughout the work week.