A former life full of abuse does not make one laid back. Truly, deeply relaxing is foreign when you've spent years being on constant alert, watching your abuser and assessing your level of danger. Like a rabbit or dear, your ears are attuned to the constant threat of the predator.
Years after I stopped engaging in abusive relationships,I realized that I was rarely relaxed. There was always a tightness inside and always a suspicion that at any moment abuse might walk back into my life. Working on abuse survivor issues with a qualified counselor has helped considerably, but relaxation itself has taken concentrated effort for me. I am improving step by step.
I recently a doctor mentioned to me that "sometimes you just need to relax and watch a good movie." I love a good movie, but too often I keep my hands and eyes busy doing something productive during my "watching." Splitting my focus like that doesn't allow for optimal relaxation. I knew it as soon as she made her comment. I need to allow myself to just focus on one thing at a time so that my mind and body can relax more.
I'm far from an expert on the topic of relaxation, but I am writing about it anyway because it is important. Not just nice, but necessary. God didn't design our bodies to be on constant alert, pumping adrenaline frequently. It damages the body over time when we never relax. I have learned this the hard way. My body has gone on strike and left me with fibromyalgia.
So how can we relax when we've been terrorized by one or more abusers, who insisted through words and/or actions that our needs had no significance?
Here is what I am discovering:
1. Getting to know God on a deeper level and asking Him to help me trust Him more has been revolutionary. I now know, absolutely know, that God is for me, not against me. I know that my Creator loves me. I know that my soul is safe with Him forever. Knowing these things with my heart and soul has made it safe to relax.
2. Relaxation exercises are helpful. The simplest one is to breath deeply and slowly, allowing your chest and stomach to rise and fall slowly and restfully. It brings down your stress level and sends lots of needed oxygen to your limbs.
3. Taking a warm bath (not hot) relaxes the muscles and the mind. Adding lavender or bath salts adds to the relaxation, as do light candles near by.
4. Sitting outside and staring at the clouds, the birds or the breeze moving the tree branches is soothing.
5. Exercise on a regular basis lowers stress levels. So set up a schedule and get moving. If you have been sedentary, start small(i.e. a 5-10 minute walk) and build up.
6. Spend social time with people who are upbeat. Life is too short to invest your precious downtime with negative people.
7. Learn to say no to overburdening your schedule. Every second should not be committed.
8. Repeat to yourself that it is healthy and healing to spend time doing things that you love. (It is not wrong or selfish!)
Let's say yes to times of relaxation, smiles, and laughter. This life is full of trials but it need not be all work and no play. You're too precious for that. You'd be worried if your child or sister refused to ever recreate or relax--you're just as important and your needs are just as real. So learn how to let go of responsibilities for a few minutes each day. Breath deeply and do something enjoyable and renewing.
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