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When you can’t relax

Cubicle Buddha
TypeScript nut + head writer at CubicleBuddha.com (other loves are cats, my wife, comic books, and VGs)
Originally published at cubiclebuddha.com on ・2 min read

So the weekend is over, and you don’t feel relaxed. What happened? Maybe you even “stayed home and did nothing,” and yet you didn’t really replenish your energy. Well, today I’ll share a little guidance that will hopefully give you a booster shot to help you truly rest the next time you get a chance.

It turns out that Thich Nhat Hanh describes this exact scenario of resting but not really resting:

Calming allows us to rest, and resting is a precondition for healing. When animals in the forest get wounded, they find a place to lie down, and they rest completely for many days. They don’t think about food or anything else. They just rest, and they get the healing they need. When we humans get sick, we just worry! We look for doctors and medicine, but we don’t stop. Even when we go to the beach or the mountains for a vacation, we don’t rest, and we come back more tired than before. We have to learn to rest.

Did you notice that part about all animals needing to rest? You need to rest too. You need to replenish your mental energy from many hard days of work.

So how do we learn how to rest?

There are many ways to learn to disconnect, but most mindfulness practitioners point to breathing techniques. I had to employ it myself last night when I couldn’t get to sleep. [Click here for our article on breathing techniques and their values.](https://dev.to/cubiclebuddha/mindfully-breathing-to-prepare-for-a-big-meeting-

Hey, is this article over already?

Yes, it is. Sorry, but I needed a rest this weekend too. So I gave myself a break. I used the time that I would normally be researching psychology studies and combing through Buddhist text to instead doing nothing but stare out my window.

What can you “slack on” to make time for rest?

So that’s my challenge for you. Is there one thing in your life that you can give up or put down for five minutes? Try installing a screen time app on your phone to see where you’re spending your time. Then you can audit the results and say, “hmm, maybe I don’t need to spend 4 hours on facebook.” All you need to do is carve out 5 minutes to doing nothing.

And if you’re finding it difficult to really enjoy the calm and quiet, you need a positive voice in your head. When your brain is telling you that “you shouldn’t be resting” please try to insert my voice saying “you deserve it.” Because you really do.

Discussion (15)

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cecilelebleu profile image
Cécile Lebleu • Edited

I took 3 naps yesterday because I simply couldn’t focus. I normally would have had a cup of coffee instead of a nap, but I’m limiting my coffee intake (to zero) to lower body stress. I guess my body was asking for some time off, not for caffeine.
I try to get one day off a week, but as I work for myself I usually can’t distinguish a Sunday from a Wednesday. There’s just so much I want to get done!

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deciduously profile image
Ben Lovy

It took me years to get through my head that caffeine isn't a viable replacement for adequate sleep. You can't keep postponing rest indefinitely, it will always catch up.

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cecilelebleu profile image
Cécile Lebleu

It is not, at all. The body needs rest. There’s a video that explains how the brain is literally cleaning itself while we sleep; since I watched that I’m taking my sleep much more seriously. If not for health and body, for my brain capacity. Here it is if you want to watch:
youtu.be/O8UoAASCUsQ

I’m not drinking coffee because my husband challenged me to quit it, and it has been amazing. At first I had a LOT of energy, now I’m starting to feel the effects of not taking breaks for long periods of time. I absolutely love coffee and love drinking it while I work, but I’ve swapped it for tea or fruit juice (admittedly tea has some caffeine, but hey, I’m trying!)

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deciduously profile image
Ben Lovy

Thanks for the link! I remember that feeling well - when I was 21 (yikes, six years ago), I decided to quit nicotine and caffeine in the same week. After the initial pain I felt like a superhero every day, my body was so relieved...but somehow still have managed to get myself back on the caffeine train in that time. I'm probably well overdue for another purge!

Do you find the tea makes it difficult to keep the habit in check? I found even green tea, as light as it is, would throw me off in the months after I kicked the addiction. That's great that you haven't had to forgo that entirely as well.

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cecilelebleu profile image
Cécile Lebleu

Nobody is perfect, I’ve had a cup of coffee since I quit it, and I’ve come to crave black tea as much as I did coffee. One rule that has kept me in check with this and most other habits is never twice in a row. If I had a coffee yesterday, I won’t have one today. If I forgot to stretch my legs one morning, I can’t skip it the next morning. If you do a thing you wanted to stop doing, don’t do it again tomorrow. Never skip two days and it soon becomes a habit.

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deciduously profile image
Ben Lovy

I like that a lot - it's all too easy to falter once and then never make it back to a comfortable pattern. Allowing yourself one, but not two, is a much more reasonable and compassionate self-expectation, and I'm sure makes it all that much easier to stick to your goals! Will definitely keep it in mind.

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cubiclebuddha profile image
Cubicle Buddha Author

compassionate self-expectation

Absolutely. In fact, I wrote a whole article about that topic! :)

P.s. I’m a 1.5 cup of coffee guy too. :) I’m nervous I’m getting dangerously close to 2.5! 🤪

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cubiclebuddha profile image
Cubicle Buddha Author

Wow yea that sounds challenging. I find that “work life separation” is so much more important than “work life balance.” So how do you set boundaries between work and life?

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cecilelebleu profile image
Cécile Lebleu

I... don’t? I just work when I want to work, and when I don’t, I do something else. By “work” I mean actual client projects, but also (and mostly) personal projects and study. Time spent on my desk.

I set reasonable deadlines for myself and my clients, though I’m usually very excited about projects and finish them first. I don’t usually have to work if I want to take a day off, but I usually do want to work. (Unless I’ve been studying something new for the past 20 or something days without really taking a break and then one day I just can’t continue 😅 and take a well deserved full-day or 1.5 day break.)

When I’m not working or studying, I’m usually cooking, reading, or watching my favorite ~8 food/history youtubers. I also like to walk outside, though the location I’m at right now doesn’t really allow for that, so I just watch 18th century highlander reenactors on YouTube while I stretch 😁

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Sandra Schuhmacher

Nice Article!
Yesterday I was reasoning to my self wether it is a major life skill to know how to relax yourself, so your article very much resonated with me. If life gets tough, I know several activities I can do to calm myself down, life having a bath, meeting special friends, going to my local makerspace. My boyfriend is currently doing his masters thesis and often on the brink to burnout because he cannot disconnet from his work and it haunts him. So we try to figure out some relaxing activities.

This is one of those topics that seem trivial, but actually are key to your mental wellbeing.

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cubiclebuddha profile image
Cubicle Buddha Author

Thank you for the compliment and for the thoughtful response. Yes, I couldn’t agree more that resting is a life skill. As many people say, “happiness takes work.” And I’m glad that you’re putting in the work. :) Btw, these are great suggestions for our readers:

several activities I can do to calm myself down, life having a bath, meeting special friends, going to my local makerspace

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Rick Huynh • Edited

I believe that implementing this method comes down to the mindset of there will always be tomorrow.
Today is not the last day that we are going to work or live. This allows us to stop trying to squeeze productivity and results out of every minute of the day, and gives us ease of mind.

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cubiclebuddha profile image
Cubicle Buddha Author

Yes indeed! Although sometimes it takes practice to be able to disconnect. It sounds like you're already well-practiced in recognizing that "there will always be tomorrow," but even seasoned devs need a booster-shot of that sometimes. Although I was struggling to take my own advice last weekend, this article seemed to have helped people in the past:

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Sebastian Vargr

Sometimes getting into that restful' state takes some time to request' unassisted.

Mindfulness and breathing exercises are definitely underrated tools in my experience.

They can get you to that restful state much quicker if used correctly. :)

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cubiclebuddha profile image
Cubicle Buddha Author

Thanks! Yea it really helps. I was actually freaking out this morning about concern for fast cars in my neighborhood hurting my family and I found myself unable t breath or focus... then I remembered the words (paraphrasing) of Thich Nhat Hanh:

“you are home. You are safe right now.”

And it helped me to stop worrying about future dangers that I really can fix anyway (without building a speed bump and having the township fine me! Haha).