Attitude versus Activity: The Importance of Relaxation and Downtime

Attitude versus Activity: The Importance of Relaxation and Downtime

Editor's Note: While this article is written for women,
its suggestions can apply to all.

In your hectic life, you might feel as if you're always rushing -- from a client meeting to a seminar, then to an aerobics class, then to drinks with friends. Even though you might enjoy, and perhaps even thrive on, this busy timetable, it's still crucial that you schedule blocks of "Me Time".

This is time when all you need to worry about is you, when you can be alone, with nothing but your thoughts for company. It's the only way you'll be able to clear your mind of the pressures of work and life and find out what your body wants and what your emotional and spiritual needs are.

Block off some time for yourself, and make sure you don't cheat by filling it in with going to the movies or reading the latest best-selling novel. This means you're still occupying your mind and keeping yourself entertained. You're not giving yourself a chance to experience the ultimate goddess treatment -- time when you really get to nurture your soul and listen to your inner desires.

Attitude versus Activity: Relaxation & Downtime

You may understand the importance of relaxation and downtime on an intellectual level, but it's also vital to put it into practice. Don't get confused -- relaxation doesn't mean a long session on the treadmill in the gym or a skiing holiday. Relaxation is about having the right attitude, not doing the right activity.

Let's take the example of the working up a sweat on the treadmill. You may think that you find a heavy-duty workout like this relaxing, but if you are the kind of person who thrives on adrenaline and pressure at work, you will only think it's relaxing because you're throwing your body into yet another situation that involves pressure and produces adrenaline. Remember, enjoyment is not the same as relaxation.

There's nothing wrong with going to the gym or playing sports, but they are goal-oriented activities -- perhaps you want to lift heavier weights or win at tennis -- rather than relaxation activities.


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Whatever you choose as a form of relaxation will only work if it helps you spend quality time with yourself.

Time for Reflection: Relaxation & Downtime

Nurture your inner goddess by doing something that's enjoyable and fun, but also gives you time for reflection. Here are some ideas:

  1. Book yourself in for a massage, facial, or some kind of pampering. You'll be giving your body a therapeutic, revitalizing treatment and your mind a chance to bliss out and relax. Even though it's fun to have pampering days like this with your girlfriends, avoid the mid-manicure gossip session and treat yourself to an afternoon of solitude.
  2. Do some gentle exercise where you can enjoy fresh air, get your circulation going, and simply appreciate the great outdoors. Don't be tempted to go for a strenuous run or do a cardio class -- you'll be pounding your body and concentrating on achieving some kind of physical goal. Instead, pick an easy exercise activity that will clear the cobwebs from your mind but still give you a chance for reflection.
  3. Find your favorite spot -- perhaps by the beach, a scenic picnic area, or your local park -- and simply sit there and watch life go by. Don't bring a book or a Discman. Think of this as a quiet time where you can de-clutter your mind of life's distractions and let your real feelings come to the forefront. If you have a hectic schedule you might think this time could be better spent catching up on chores or taking your car to the mechanic. In fact, blocking in your diary "Me Time" is just as important as those other activities.
  4. Keep a diary. It's useful to be able to put your thoughts down on paper and meditate on what you've written. Put your pen to paper and simply let your feelings flow -- the only person who is going to read it is you. Or perhaps keep a "thanks" diary, listing the things you're thankful for, whether it's a job promotion or something as simple as a beautiful sunny day. It's a great way to stay positive and appreciate the little things in life.
  5. Before you go to bed, clear your mind and give yourself the best possible chance for a restful sleep. Again, even though it's tempting to read before bed, this means you're keeping your mind active right up until you turn out the light. Instead, put on some soothing music, concentrate on your breathing and let your thoughts simply drift for about 20 minutes.

SENSE AND SENSUALITY: More Relaxation & Downtime

Stimulating and awakening your senses -- whether it's by listening to your favorite music, indulging in hokey-pokey ice cream or sleeping on crisp, cotton sheets -- is an essential part of appreciating life. Indulging your sense of smell, sight, taste, sound, and touch means you can turn simple experiences into little luxuries.

Celebrating your sensuality is also important -- modern-day goddesses are all sensual beings, and it's healthy to be aware of what gives you pleasure. We're not necessarily talking about sex here -- it's not about buying sexy lingerie and organizing a romantic rendezvous with your lover. Exploring your sensuality is something that can be done with or without a partner.

It can be as simple as filling your bathtub, adding essential oils and sprinkling in some rose petals. Let the flowers brush your skin, inhale the beautiful scent and feel the warmth and coziness of the water. Or how about wearing beautiful silk underwear underneath your work clothes -- even if the only person who is going to see it is you! Some people may think this is a waste of time, but it'll feel great against your skin, and knowing that you look great, both on the surface and under your layers, will give you a boost throughout the day. Don't feel guilty about nurturing your sensuality; think of it as an essential part of revitalizing your senses and making you feel alive.

CREATING A HEAVENLY HOME

Attitude versus Activity: The Importance of Relaxation and DowntimeLiving in a home that's fit for a goddess is a simple pleasure that all women can experience. This doesn't mean you need expensive furnishings; you just need to find somewhere that suits your needs and personality. Your home is a place where you should feel safe and welcome, a place where you can chill out and feel free to be completely yourself.

Many magazines are full of unrealistic pictures of stylish homes that can make us feel that ours are very ordinary. But, as the saying goes, your home is your castle -- not anyone else's. So it's important to develop surroundings where you can be comfy, content, and calm.

Perhaps you don't have your own home yet. Maybe you're living with family or sharing with friends and you're not in a position to transform the whole house or apartment. You can still apply the same principles to your bedroom, though, or to whichever area is your domain. As a modern-day goddess, you need a special place that is yours alone.

INSPIRATION: Create a Home That Soothes Your Soul

As goddess of hearth and home, Hestia knew the vital role that a home played in people's lives. In ancient times, the hearth was a central part of domestic life -- used for cooking and for generating warmth. It was always looked after and kept alight. You can draw inspiration from Hestia and create a home that soothes your soul and rekindles your energy. Here are a few guidelines for creating your own goddess sanctuary:

  1. Make it personal -- hang up your favorite pictures, display precious mementos, stick photos on the fridge and surround yourself with things that make your home special to you.
  2. Let go of the past -- is there anything in your home that evokes unpleasant memories, or a bit of furniture that you simply don't like? Get rid of it. Sell it, give it away, or throw it in the trash.
  3. Color your senses -- paint the walls in colors that suit the room. For example, soothing colors like pastels and light blues or greens are suitable for rooms where you want to chill out and relax.
  4. Turn simple into special -- you don't need fancy decor items in your home. Little things like candles, aromatherapy burners, beautiful soaps, and a simple bunch of fresh flowers can add luxury without costing a fortune.

SWEEP AWAY LIFE'S CLUTTER: Make Room for Joy

There's nothing more liberating than de-cluttering your home. This is a chance to throw out boxes of junk, clear your cupboard space, and free your wardrobe of last decade's fashion mistakes. Apart from being a very practical exercise, it can also be an emotionally cleansing experience.

We attach many memories and emotions to things, objects, and mementos. While you need to keep hold of precious souvenirs and keepsakes, it's also important to clear away things which may be cluttering your life or keeping you from moving on. Perform a regular de-cluttering ritual -- think of it as spring cleaning your home and your life at the same time.

THE ULTIMATE DE-CLUTTER CHECKLIST

  1. Wardrobe wars. Promise yourself you'll be ruthless, then fling open your closet doors and purge your shelves and hangers of anything you haven't worn in 18 months. It may be hard getting rid of your old prom dress or the Madonna-inspired pointy-bra outfit that hasn't seen the light of day for years, but it has be done. Try to consider it not as a painful separation from your favorite old clothes, but as a liberating experience -- an opportunity to clear out your old "selves" to make room for new ones. But don't just throw the clothes in the trash -- have a garage sale, donate your clothes to charity or give them away to friends.
  2. Fix it. Like most people, you probably have many things that need small repairs. The trouble with minor repairs -- like buttons that have fallen off or lightbulbs that need replacing -- is that we never get around to fixing them. We'll fix a hole in the roof or a noisy muffler well before we pay attention to a wobbly table leg that merely needs a dab of superglue. Write a list of things that need fixing, set aside an afternoon to tackle them, and check them off as you go. You'll be amazed at your sense of achievement when you get it all done.
  3. Clutter-free living. Go through your whole home -- or your room, if you haven't got your own pad yet -- and do a "clutter audit." Are there any areas which need a mini spring cleaning? Approach these areas with the same ruthlessness with which you attacked your clothes. If you have a drawer full of nail polishes, but only ever use the same three colors, get rid of the rest. Or maybe you have piles of magazines you've been meaning to read, or cupboards full of knickknacks you don't particularly like, but have kept over the years simply because it hasn't occurred to you to throw them out. Grab a box and de-clutter. Be brutal.
  4. Bedroom bliss. Pay special attention to your bedroom. If there's one area that needs to be free from clutter, it's the place where you sleep. If your bedroom is full of mess and confusion, that's the last image you'll see before going to bed, and even if you block out the untidiness, you'll still subconsciously know that you're lying in the midst of chaos. If your bedroom is a peaceful, uncluttered environment, you're more likely to have a tranquil sleep.

This article was excerpted with permission from the book:

How to be a Goddess by Valerie Khoo. How to be a Goddess
by Valerie Khoo.


Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Red Wheel/Weiser Inc. ©2003. http://www.redwheelweiser.com

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About the Author

Valerie Khoo

Valerie Khoo is a writer and editor whose work has been featured in CLEO, Girlfriend, and Elie International, among others. She writes celebrity interviews and feature stories, concentrating on women's issues and women and money. She is also the author of Queen Bee: Discover Your Feminine Power and Prince Charming: Identify the Guys With True Prince Charming Potential.

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