A Brilliant But Hard Way to Relax and Relieve Stress

Need to relieve stress? Wish you could relax? Here’s a brilliant solution that’s both simple but difficult to do.

Have you noticed that simple, no-brainer solutions can often be extremely difficult?

For example, I know that healthy eating and daily exercise would help me look and feel great. This is simple. But is it easy to do? No, in fact, in the middle of a busy or stressful season of life, healthy eating and daily exercise are the first things to vanish from my list of priorities.

Another simple solution is to always return things to where they belong. When you follow this simple step, your home can remain clean. Yet do I always follow this easy practice? No. I get distracted by other things and laziness creeps in. Even if I have good intentions to keep everything in its place, I don’t always follow through.

So when I say that I have a simple solution that will help you relax and cut stress from your life, know that it’s simple in theory. But to actually follow through and make this a priority? That might be a little trickier for you.

The key to relaxing and relieving stress

So what’s the secret to relaxing and reducing stress?

It’s found in intentional rest.

When you choose to step away and take a break, you’ll begin to notice a HUGE difference. Not only will you be able to relax and enjoy life more, but intentionally taking time to rest to help relieve stress and help you develop a better focus.

Making rest a priority is nothing new. In fact, it’s as old as the earth. If you remember the account of Creation in Genesis, God created everything in six days, and rested on the seventh day:

“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”

Genesis 2:2-3

God was God. Everything that was required to create the universe and every detail of every living thing on this planet didn’t wear Him out. He wasn’t too tired and He didn’t need to take a nap. Yet He chose to rest as an example that we should rest, too.

If God could create everything in six days and set aside one day to rest from all of His labor, who are we to think we can plow through and get as much work done as possible seven days a week, 52 weeks a year?

Why is it so easy to ignore God’s example to rest?

God’s example and command to rest

Later, when God gave Moses the Ten Commandments to share with the Israelites, rest was imperative. It wasn’t optional:

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

Exodus 20: 8-11

If we know rest is God’s example and command, and if we are fully aware that we get so exhausted by overcommitting and striving and running and doing, why do we stay slaves to this crazy cycle where overwork equals exhaustion?

Taking a weekly break

When you’re feeling overly stressed and exhausted, have you ever stopped to consider the way God has given you the solution? He’s modeled how you can relax. It’s found in resting. It’s as easy as taking a break.

This kind of a break could be committing to a Sabbath rest, where you take one day off a week from working. Imagine setting aside one whole day every week and deciding NOT to work. How could you rest, instead? How would you slow down? What enjoyable things could you add to your day that would help you feel refreshed and relaxed?

The temptation to slide

As much as you may know you need to take a Sabbath rest, what would it actually look like in your life?

If you choose to keep a day of rest, most likely you’ll face obstacles:

  • As good as your intentions may be, work will slyly creep in.
  • You’ll remember something you absolutely need to get done before the next day.
  • Someone will ask you to help them out.
  • Without thinking, you might catch yourself automatically in the middle of completing busywork or chores.

While the tendency and temptation to slide is there, it’s important for you to make a choice. Will you give in to the temptation? Or will you choose to obey the Lord, even when it feels difficult?

Getting away to relax

Aside from a weekly Sabbath rest, the best way I know how to take a break is to physically leave. This also is a biblical principle; during his public ministry, Jesus went away to solitary places frequently.

Jesus’ restful solitude didn’t always last long. After John the Baptist was beheaded, Matthew records how Jesus dealt with the news:

“When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns.”

Matthew 14:13

Mark and Luke also described Jesus’ practice of getting away alone, even for just a few hours:

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”

Mark 1:35

“At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them.”

Luke 4:42

Like Jesus demonstrated, retreating from the crowds to a solitary place is a very good, necessary thing. And he didn’t only get away by himself. Mark records that Jesus and his disciples went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place (Mark 6:32).

Why you need to physically get away

If I stay at home or in my community, without a doubt I know I’ll find some kind of work to do. Staycation is a lousy word in my vocabulary, because I know if I’m staying at home, I’m not truly checking out from the world. I’ll be at home, trying to fit in some sort of relaxing activity, all the while thinking about what I could do at home.

Worse yet, a staycation almost always ensures I’ll cram in work in between fun plans.

The only fulfilling rest that absolutely works for me is when I create time and space to actually get away. This might look like a road trip, or it might look like scoring a cheap plane ticket. I might return to some of my favorite spots or be adventurous and explore somewhere new to me.

When I actually leave with my family or friends, I finally feel fully relaxed.

I forget about my stresses and concerns as the scenery changes and I set aside huge chunks of time to focus on relationships.

I admit I’m a stickler for frugality, both with time and money, so a getaway can seem frivolous. (With the right planning, they’re downright cheap!) Yet getaways can nourish and enrich our souls in such a way that makes them worth every second and every cent.

When to get away

For years, when my children were young and our family’s budget was particularly slim, we waited for a yearly summer vacation. The time away was a huge gift I anticipated all year long.

Now that our family dynamics have changed and my kids are much older, my husband and I began noticing the dire need for some time away.

When it feels like the stresses of this world get us in a stranglehold, we’ve discovered the best solution is to leave.

This may sound like an escapist mentality, but it’s not. We’ve simply learned how our bodies and minds and relationships begin to suffer under the weight of too much stress. When we make the choice to walk away, it’s like there’s a sudden clarity when everything shifts back into a proper focus. We start to enjoy living again, and feel more like human beings instead of human doings.

We’ve actually found a great rhythm in getting away anywhere from one to three days every season. Four times a year might sound like a lot at first, but even just one day away helps relieve stress.

The nitty gritty getaway details

Because the rest of our schedule is jam-packed with obligations, my family rarely goes out to dinner or for fun activities. Most “fun money” we have budgeted typically goes unspent, so we save it all up for a seasonal getaway. Depending on our schedule, we might go for a weekend, or even right in the middle of a week, where we find the best deals and lowest crowds.

In the past, I’ve found $15 plane tickets to Orlando, Florida, which made for a super fun, unexpected weekend away. (Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines are my favorite places to find bargains!)

Yet another weekend, my husband and I got away to Dayton, Ohio, with some of our favorite friends. Of course Dayton isn’t anything like Orlando, so the weekends were very different. Yet in Dayton we had a fantastic time trying amazing restaurants, enjoying a concert, and staying at an Airbnb.

Both weekends away had the same effect: so much relaxation, lots of laughter, an investment in important relationships, and a better outlook on life.

When we’re gone, we make sure to unplug from the world. As much as possible we skip checking our email or responding to texts. Doing that helps us feel like we’re living in the moment instead of going through the motions.

Why is it so hard to relax and rest?

Regardless of whether you prioritize taking a weekly Sabbath or start going on weekend getaways or leaving for a longer vacation, make sure you take some time to relax and rest.

Rest seems like it should come easy, right? After all, we all require sleep to survive. Yet setting aside time to stop working and producing and doing can be a huge challenge. When you’re used to accomplishing things six days a week, resting on the seventh can seem out of place. (Good! It should! This helps remind you Who commanded the rest in the first place. And it helps you rely on Him to get all of your work done in six days.)

Just like taking one day a week to rest is a challenge, so is finding time to get away. You’ll need to adjust your schedule and you may even need to put other plans or commitments on hold. But it’s worth every bit of the effort. Do it, even when you wonder if you really need a break or change of pace. (Trust me … you do!)

Even if and when it feels hard to make yourself rest, it’s a brilliant way to help yourself relax and remove stress from your life.

What are some of your favorite ways to relax? How do you create space to rest?

Images courtesy of Unsplash.
Hilary
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