Summer is the perfect time to relax… unless you’re so stressed out that you can’t find the time! Unfortunately, in our world of over busy-ness, social media overload, and unending work hours, it can be challenging to find time to truly relax. And so often we feel guilty about taking time for ourselves.

But even though it’s difficult to find time for yourself, it’s too priceless not to do so. Studies show that it’s imperative that we make time to relax. The New York Times reports, “strategic renewal — including daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office and longer, more frequent vacations — boosts productivity, job performance and, of course, health.” Knowing that taking time for ourselves leads to a better self is the perhaps just the right motivation some of us need to let go of the guilt.

Armed with the knowledge that relaxing actually makes us more productive, more healthy and more content, finding time to relax should be considered as important as eating, drinking, and sleeping. Dani of Positively Present, a beautiful and insightful mindfulness blog, echoes this point: “Allowing yourself to indulge in relaxing activities — even if it’s as simple as a half-hour bubble bath — will help you feel refreshed and will make you even more productive as you tackle your to-do list.”

So here are a few tips to help you build time into your day for relaxation without feeling guilty. As you begin to make small changes to include time out, you’ll start seeing benefits almost immediately. Who knows, you may even find more time to relax! As Fast Company so awesomely states, “Once you start learning to relax and enjoy yourself, it’s awfully addictive. When you start reveling in your downtime, the spillover benefits for the rest of your life will be so large that eventually the guilt will be a dim memory.”

1. Create small morning and nighttime rituals: Taking a few short moments to just be with yourself at the beginning and end of the day can make you feel more calm. Avoid the temptation to check your email or open your computer immediately upon waking; remind yourself that taking a few moments to wake up fully will make you feel better throughout the day. Let go of the guilt and know that you’re doing something that is productive– just productive in a different way.

What do morning rituals look like? My little morning ritual is to wake up and make a cup of tea; the ritual of starting the water to boil, choosing a tea, and spending the few minutes poking around the kitchen feels like true ‘me time.’ Others might want to create space for a few minutes of journaling, yoga, meditation, or cuddling with your partner. Likewise, nighttime rituals can be very helpful to process the day and slip into sleep easier. Giving yourself a few moments of down time, and getting your brain settled for bed can help you fall asleep faster, sleep better, and wake up less stressed, so that you can wake up to your best, rested self.

2. Build to-do lists to organize your day: Research shows that having a prioritized list of things to do for your day can help you feel more accomplished. And if you feel accomplished, you’re less likely to feel guilty about taking a few moments to yourself. Many productivity  gurus and self-help folks promote the power of the list.

Prioritize your day to focus on the biggest tasks that need the most brain power. Ask yourself which 1-3 tasks or priorities will propel your day forward and move you closer to your goals. Tackling the big priorities, rather than smaller to-do items, can make you feel more productive and more accomplished at the end of the day, and help alleviate the guilt of taking down time.

3. Find time for exercise and good food: When building your to-do list, be sure to create space for exercise, lunch, and that ever-important downtime. As we saw from the research above, relaxation is too important not to be on your to-do list, and it’s the same for exercise. You probably know by now that exercise helps you relieve stress and tension by getting all the good hormones flowing. But did you know that exercising can also make you feel better about yourself?

Research shows that exercise can help you buffer the effects of stress and make you more confident. And if you’re feeling confident, you can get your work done, which means you will feel less stress when you do take time off! The same goes for food: making time for food should be a daily priority. A well-fed brain is a happy brain, and ensuring that you nourish your body throughout the day will make you more calm, and more productive. It’s not always easy to find time for a full meal in the middle of the day, but there are lots of quick lunch ideas for on-the-go foodies that can get you through the day.

4. Find your flow: Studies show that the flow state is a very good place for our brains to be. Even if  you’ve never heard of flow, you’ve probably experienced it. Flow state is when you become so engrossed in an activity that time and space seem to disappear. When you’re in flow, you become your truest self without even thinking about it. We can reach this flow state when we’re doing an activity we love, like gardening, dancing, cooking, teaching. But we can also find it when we’re learning something new. If you can find the time to do something you really love, or something that’s totally new and engrossing, you can experience the deep benefits of flow.  As a bonus, if you can find  yourself deeply engrossed in an activity like gardening, this actually gives your brain a brain a break and can lead to more creativity!

5. Have gratitude: Creating a practice of gratitude is a great happiness booster and stress-reliever. It’s hard to be stressed about the small annoyances in life (laundry that needs to be folded, a closet that needs to be organized), when you are able to live within a state of grace and gratitude. For some, practicing gratitude means saying a prayer before meals, for others it’s writing a daily journal of gratitude, or for some, it’s a daily ritual. Taking a moment to acknowledge how grateful you are– for your meal, your family, your work, your body– gives you pause, brings you into the moment, and lets you refocus your attention on what is truly important in life.

6. Get Outside: Nothing is more immediately relaxing than nature time. It’s no secret that most of us suffer from ‘nature deficient disorder-’ a very real deprivation that has some serious consequences. Getting outside for a breath of fresh air has notable benefits: reduced depression, better immunity, vitamin creation and boosted happiness. As John Muir famously said, “in every walk with nature, one receives far more than one seeks.” Spending just a few minutes outside could be park of your morning ritual, a part of your exercise, or even a part of your work day; however you do it, it’s imperative to build the time in to your day for the immediate, tangible benefits of nature time.

source:     Andrea Bertoli,