Man Up and Relax!
Something happened to men over the last few hundred years–they forgot how to relax. I know this, because my son’s baseball coach told me so himself. He had a bad cold at practice last week, and when I suggested that he should take some time off to relax, he smiled and said, “I’ve never really been the type who could sit in a chair and do nothing.”
It hasn’t always been this way. I know this, too, because I am fed a steady diet of famous quotes on this subject by well-meaning friends on my Facebook page. “Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air,” was a perky piece of advice that arrived on my news feed one dreary Monday morning. “Spend some time alone every day.” Fat chance, I thought. “Rest; the sweet sauce of labor.” Enough! Now where’s that “un-friend” button?
You may be surprised that this new age-y advice doesn’t come from somewhere in the pages of O Magazine. These valuable insights about living life in balance are actually age-old gifts from some of the most esteemed male thinkers of all time–Ralph Waldo Emerson, the Dali Lama, and Plutarch the famous Greek philosopher, who also gave us, “The whole life of one man is but a point: let us enjoy it.” These guys understood the virtues of kicking back.
Of course life has changed from the good old days when men had time to saunter around the countryside pondering the meaning of life. There are a variety of reasons why relaxation no longer comes naturally to men. Most obvious are job related pressures and hard economic times. Many men feel anxious when they’re away from the office. They fear that if they head to the mountains with the family, the guy in the next office will be camped out at his desk sending project updates to the boss. And with laptops in briefcases, and PDA’s in back pockets where wallets used to be, it seems like the office has a way of detecting their whereabouts like a high tech heat seeking missile honing in on it’s target.
For many men, this life of “high anxiety” is the new normal. Studies even suggest that it can be addictive. But this approach is not healthy and it’s not sustainable. Eventually, like my son’s baseball coach, the body gives out.
Perhaps the first step to reclaiming the right to relax, is to recognize that there are more options than “sitting in a chair and doing nothing.” For many men, just the opposite is true. So this month, I’m going to take a stab at offering the guys a few suggestions for getting down to the business of relaxing:
• Find a hobby. Even our presidents found time for hobbies. George Washington liked to garden. Thomas Jefferson favored cooking. Bill Clinton loved to play his saxophone. Men often relax when they are physically and mentally engaged, and a hobby gives you something to be passionate about outside the demands of work or family. If you need some help, I stumbled upon a list of “45 Manly Hobbies,” to get you thinking.
• Get outside. Spending time outdoors each day can be a stepping stone to mind body activities like yoga or meditation. Venturing outside, even into a busy urban environment, helps you connect with the bigger world around you. And if you can leave your BlackBerry behind, you may even connect with yourself for a moment.
• Work your body. Workout, ride a bike, surf, walk, run, play on a team, have a catch with your kids. Doing more can have the same effect as doing less. Enough said.
• Bodywork. Sports massages, facials–even manicures and pedicures aren’t just for women anymore. Men are getting more comfortable with the idea of allowing themselves to be taken care of. Get your feet wet with “spa packages” that give you an opportunity to test drive a couple of treatment options.
There’s a reason why my Facebook page is beginning to read like a best selling collection of quotable quotes. We’re all unhappy with the way the scales have tipped toward a more stressful and confusing life. We dream of having more. Thoreau felt the same way when he headed to Walden Pond. He went into the woods because he “wished to live more deliberately.”
Well, maybe it’s time for a little modern-day civil disobedience, guys (women too). Stop dreaming and get on with the business of doing——nothing!