A client recently spoke about how relaxed she was on vacation and wondered how she could carry some of that peace and calm into her every day life.

Another client recently said she’s been so busy with work and school that she has forgotten how to relax and has lost contact with many of her friends. So now she feels lost with down time.

Any of those sound familiar? What makes it so hard to stop and rest? It’s hard to create time for true relaxation, small escapes and moments of peace when we are programmed to be going and doing, and the to-do list is long. While we cannot always be on vacation, we can do small things to create more ‘mini relaxation escapes’ that recharge us and bring us calm. And we can do bigger things to deal with what is possibly the deeper, real issue.

Moments of peace or joy- Have you ever heard a favorite song but not really heard it because you were so preoccupied with what’s next? What would happen if you turn up that song, sing it loudly and enjoy every second of it? Escape for a moment into the music and feel the joy.

Mindful– Part of a great vacation usually involved indulging in new or really delicious food and taking the time to enjoy it. So what’s stopping you from adding some of these mindful eating moments in which you allow yourself to slow down and really savor the food you are eating. Make it an event, set the table, light a candle and truly slow down to enjoy each bite.

Choices- Driving my kids to after school activities exhausts me, and I find myself complaining and getting irritated with other drivers. I used to live in Switzerland and learned to speak Italian, the local language, by listening to lessons downloaded to my phone. In Switzerland, I had to walk most places, up and down the steep hills several times a day. I found these walks to be a great time to listen to my Italian lessons. Ahh, what I would give to go back to that time for a bit. Well, I realized after a busy week of driving my kids around that I have a choice. What a perfect time to listen to my Italian lessons. It will bring back all the goodness of that time living abroad, and lessen my focus on the irritating aspects of driving all over town.

Give yourself permission- Sometimes I find myself feeling like there are things to do or there should be things to do. I realized the other day as I was feeling tired from a long day but not letting myself rest that um, maybe there is nothing essential to do right now and I could take a break. I literally told myself I had permission to sit down on the porch and watch the sunset. Five minutes of sitting and doing nothing sure was more restful than idling around the kitchen with my mind running through lists of possible action items.

The bottom line- I suspect some of this inability to relax, let ourselves rest has to do with our core beliefs about ourselves. If our identity is strongly reliant on being productive, or in control of life or if we’re always trying to prove that we are capable, then it’s hard to let ourselves stop. Because then… Who are we? What if things fall apart or don’t get done? Or what if others see that I really am not capable? These beliefs can be adjusted through cognitive behavioral therapy so that they are less oppressive, leaving you less stressed and more able to relax.