By: Staci Stallings
This is going to be one of the most counter-intuitive pieces you’ve ever read. So get ready…
First, I want you to do a little experiment with me. Ready?
Take a breath.
No seriously. Take a breath.
Now, take a longer one. Deeper. Slow down.
Feel your body unwind. Let your body unwind.
Breathe again. Slower, longer, deeper. Close your eyes as you breathe.
Let your shoulders relax. Let your neck relax.
Good. Very good.
Did you know that the best way to perform at your peak is to relax?
Yeah. I didn’t either.
As you know, my son is going to vision therapy classes, and wow, has that opened up a whole new set of insights. One of those insights is how valuable it is to learn how to relax.
Now you may laugh at that. “Learn to relax.” How crazy is that? But it’s true. In our hyper-active world, we have more stimuli coming at us and going through us than ever in civilization. We wake up to an alarm clock, pour ourselves coffee, turn on the TV. By the time we get in our cars, we have the radio going and a cell phone plastered to our ear. We don’t even wait to start work until we get to work anymore! We are pushing, demanding, and over-stepping our limits on a daily if not hourly basis.
We skip lunch and maybe even breakfast. We race to meetings, work at a rabid pace, go home to six different activities, and even when we fall in bed at night, we don’t know how to relax! We lie in bed, our heads running through lists and schedules. How are we ever going to get everything done tomorrow?
If any of this sounds familiar, keep reading because you need this lesson.
Ironically, I found the key to this at my son’s Vision Therapy office. It started with him trying to see something across the room. The lady told my son, “Don’t squint. Relax your eyes. If you squint it makes it that much harder to see.” I don’t know about you, but I’ve been squinting my whole life… and not just with my eyes.
If I was going to try to hit a baseball, my whole body would tense up. Shooting a basketball, same thing. I had to work at controlling and thinking about every muscles, every movement to try to get them all right.
For a second, I want you to think about TRYING to do something you are either afraid to do or do not think you can do.
Do you feel that in your chest or maybe in your shoulders? That tightening? Your body is “squinting.”
But here’s the thing, just like our eyes, the rest of us works best when it is in a relaxed state.
At the VT office, I happened to pick up a magazine with an article about Doc Patton, a two-time U.S. Olympian. Here’s what his first advice says, “Sprinting is all about trying to keep your muscles relaxed while pushing them to the max.”
I would argue that it is a parallel to everything in life. If you can find a way to relax as you are doing whatever it is, you will do it better, easier, and faster. It will feel effortless.
A great example is in the Catholic faith, we ask St. Anthony for help in finding things. Seems silly maybe, but it really works. One reason it works is by transferring the burden of finding whatever it is, we allow ourselves to relax, and very often find the object quickly.
So today, consider relaxing as you go about your day. Breathe. Close your eyes. Relax. Take a 15-second relax break before you start your next task. You will be amazed what that simple moment can do!