7. You want to relax, but your mind is chaotic and frazzled. Why does this happen? – Transcription

In this episode, I share my journey and thoughts on resting/relaxing over the years, where it comes from & the mistakes you might be making when you try to relax.

Welcome back to the podcast. I can’t believe we’re on episode seven. So it has already been about 14 weeks since this all started.

In today’s episode, we are talking all about mindfulness and relaxation and rest. And by the end of this podcast, I want you to feel seen and heard in your feelings and experiences. I’ll share my journey with relaxing and how I struggled with it really badly. And with this, I want to talk about where it comes from. Why are some second generation women so chill, while the majority of us, me included, fill up our schedules, then feel bad about taking some time off? I also want to talk about the mistakes when it comes to what you’re doing to try to relax, because that’s why it might not be working for you.

So let’s get into it, starting with my journey with relaxing. Now, when I was a kid, I relaxed a lot and I didn’t know life otherwise. I spent a lot of time watching TV while my mum cooked or my dad do things around the house. I mean, I didn’t really have much else to do besides the chores around the house, but other than that, we just played. So my siblings and I, we did what we needed and then we played, and watching TV took up a lot of that time. Now, with me and my siblings, we have quite a big age gap, about six or seven years. So I didn’t play with them as much as I got older.

Of course, we had family friends to hang out with while our parents talked, like we might go over to someone’s house and the kids would play while the parents talked. And as you may know, my memory isn’t the greatest, but I loved playing, cooking and teachers. Funny, because I’m a real teacher now and I specifically remember after a few hours of playing, I’d always feel super tired. Now, maybe that could be the introverted side of me, and maybe I just needed some time to zone out and rest. But I really do remember those times when playing was so much fun and then I had to really rest afterwards.

As I went into high school and my responsibilities as a student started increasing, I started to feel more and more guilty for watching TV before my homework was finished. Because, as you know, I was that good student who did all her homework and I actually enjoyed it. And if I didn’t finish my homework early but one of my favourite TV shows was on and which was when I was younger, it was Neighbours, which we watched together as a family and a lot of crime shows. One of my favourites is NCIS. I still love our show, but if they came on TV before I finished my homework, I’d still watch it but then continue my homework during the commercials. I wanted to do both. I wanted to I wanted to do homework and I wanted to watch TV. So I wasn’t really resting, I was just enjoying the show.

This only got worse during uni because I was a full time student with a part time job and it was quite hard to juggle those responsibilities because they were all urgent. I sometimes worked on the train to and from uni, which was about a 45 minutes train ride one way into the city, which surprisingly, I never missed my stop. But yeah, working on the train sometimes I also stayed back at uni sometimes to do work, which was also how I bumped into Raymond on the train story for another day and didn’t have much free time to relax or sit around because I always felt like I was meant to be studying. I was studying to be a teacher and getting my foot in the door by working as a tutor as well. So I had this thought in my mind that I was well on my way to being a teacher and with the piece of paper and experience to support that. And this was when I started feeling really guilty and unproductive. When I had some spare time, it was weird to have a quiet moment, like, what was I forgetting? What’s not on my list that could be due tomorrow? I worried about what would go wrong in the future when I had a moment to spare.

So that was during uni and don’t even talk about work. This is when I didn’t even really have time to spare at all. So during the school term I felt like I didn’t even have time to catch my breath. Then when the school holidays came, I wanted to be prepared for the next term. So I would take a bit of a break during the first week, like I’d go on a trip or spend time with family and friends. And then during the second week of the school holidays, I’d disappear and continue working again.

The only true break I had was during the summer holidays. This was my time to catch up on all the things I wanted to do but never got around to doing. Like those five weeks was when I crammed everything that I wasn’t able to do before. And it wasn’t until just a few years ago that I allowed myself to rest and take breaks, to truly relax without feeling guilty about it. So that is my journey with relaxing. It was really hard when I had more responsibilities and then it led to burnout and eventually I started to take better care of myself because I know I need the rest, but I never allowed myself to do it.

And you might be feeling the same way in terms of work or in terms of studies or doing chores around the house, but where does it come from? And that’s what I want to talk about next. So I’ve got three main parts relating to where it may have come from for you.

The first one is your parents fears. And as I’ve mentioned before, a lot of your parents fears and perceptions of the world are passed on to you. And so one of these fears could be losing your job if you aren’t productive enough, because you need to be that good employee, you need to make sure you have a stable income, that you don’t lose your job. So a lot of our parents might have worked labor intensive jobs and it might have been based on efficiency or their productivity.

And I have a story for you guys. When I first started working full time as a teacher and took off time for like sicknesses trips or holidays, my parents would encourage me to do it during the school holidays instead so that I don’t skip work. Even Raymond’s parents said the same thing to him when he applied for annual leave for holidays. They were worried that he would lose his job if he kept taking time off. And we had to explain to them that it isn’t like factory work or working in Vietnam that we’re entitled to about four weeks worth of annual leave to use however and whenever we want, just that we have to get approval from our supervisors first and since then they’ve mostly been fine with it, but they still have that thought in the back of their minds. But the fact that they had that fear about us losing our jobs, that kind of got passed on to us. And we keep working and proving to our supervisors that we’re a good employee so that we can’t be fired, that we can’t be made redundant, even though quite ironic during cover that happened a lot and that’s why we go above and beyond and don’t take much time off, so we don’t really have much time to relax. So that’s the first reason why you may struggle with relaxing.

The second reason is because of people pleasing. You want to make sure that others are happy with you. You don’t want to let anyone down, not your parents, not your friends, definitely not your boss. You want to make sure that you’re a good child to your parents, that you’re a good friend and employee, that you’re doing everything you can so that others don’t see you in a negative light. So you go above and beyond to ensure the housework is done, that you cook and clean up after yourself, that you chat to your friends regularly, or you work, work and work. And when you have a single moment to relax, you might wonder to yourself if you’re letting anyone down or if you’re being self indulgent if you relax. So people pleasing is a huge part of cultural pressure that you may experience because we want to make sure everyone’s happy, that everyone’s getting along, that you are not upsetting anyone. And that leads into the next point.

Another reason why you may struggle to rest and relax is because you always put others first. You don’t want to inconvenience other people. And I’m sure we’ve all been taught from a young age to think about how others are feeling, especially our parents, our family, the people around us. You want others not to judge you, but to see you as a good anything, good child, good worker, good student. And in a similar way, you don’t want them to be upset with you. You put others first worrying about their judgments of you. And you might worry that you’re bothering them in any way, that you’re making them go out of their way for something. And you might hate that feeling. You want to make sure that everyone around you has a good life and so you try your best to do everything perfectly so that they’ve got it easy. You want everyone to be comfortable and happy, so you spend all your free time thinking about others and then you don’t have the mental capacity or energy to use it on yourself. So that’s the last struggle that I have for you.

I want you to have a think about those three reasons and think about which one you resonate most with. Is that your parents fears? Is that people pleasing? Is it the fact that you put others first all the time? Have a think about that and let me know.

Now this last part of this episode, I want to talk about the mistakes you might be making when you are trying to rest or relax. And this may be why you find it really hard to sit still and do nothing or feel guilty when you do. So I’ve got four reasons. Let’s get into them.

The first mistake you might be making is really quite obvious. It is going on technology. How many times have you reached for your phone while resting, putting air quotes up, resting on the couch or in bed? Now this is our goto, but we all know that technology is more stimulating than relaxing, but yet we still do. It just the fact that you’re lying down, seemingly resting, but you’re not actually resting when your phone is in your hand. Now, I’ve done this so many times too, it’s just instinct to have your phone. My mind goes numb and overwhelmed by everything happening on social media or emails or a game. So technology is a distraction and it doesn’t help you rest, but does the opposite. It stimulates your mind. Instead it might get you thinking about what everyone else is doing on social media, what you’re missing out on. And then 2 hours later you wake up from the daze of scrolling on your phone feeling worse than when you started. Has it happened to you? So stop going on technology when you’re trying to rest. That’s the first mistake.

The second mistake you might be making is not taking breaks throughout the day. Now, the experts say that you should be taking breaks about every 45 minutes. That could be as simple as having a little stretch or taking a few breaths or walking to the other side of the room. But do you find yourself only relaxing once you get home from work? Just like with exercise, you shouldn’t be exercising for 1 hour in the morning and then just sit in one spot for the rest of the day. So in the same way, you shouldn’t be relaxing only at the end of a long day that you should really be present and relax throughout the day. So that’s the second mistake, not taking breaks throughout the day. The third one is thinking I can’t rest until I’ve cleaned the house or I can’t rest until all my work is done. So this adds onto the previous mistake and this just makes resting all the more harder to achieve because you’re constantly adding to your todo list, always finding things that need to be done. And yes, that’s life. An endless list of things to do and get done. But not everything is urgent, right? This might be your perfectionistic tendencies coming out, making sure that everything is perfect. But the truth is nothing is ever perfect or it’s never perfect for long. So then you never end up truly relaxing because you’re moving on to the next task and you’re doing the next thing that you have to worry about. That’s the third mistake. So stop waiting for the perfect moment and just rest right now.

The last mistake you might be making is over planning. You keep thinking and worrying about the future, what could happen if you do or don’t do something. Now, I used to do this a lot. I’d literally write up multiple todo lists, one for work, one for home, one for the school holidays and plan everything in advance. And I love being in control of my life or feel like I’m in control of my life. So I loved planning out everything that I could. But with this I worried too much about the future and that pulled me away from the present. So I wasn’t able to focus on what was happening right now, but instead worry about things that may or may not happen in the future. So that could be the last mistake that you might be making over planning. So plan out the big things and then just let life run its course.

I hope this episode helps to bring some new perspectives on rest and relaxation for you. And that’s why, at the end of my episodes, I say, remember that you’re a human being, not a human doing, because I want you to remember that you can’t just keep doing things. You’re not a robot, that one day you would crash, and that rest needs to be built into your schedule. Now, in this episode, I shared my journey, where this need to keep doing comes from and the mistakes you may be making when it comes to resting and being present.

Remember, you’re a human BEING, not a human DOING.

Chat to you in the next episode!
Van Anh

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