30 Day Challenge Recap: Relaxation

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I’m proud to announce that my 30 Day Challenge to relax was a complete success. I am now an ordained zen master and my life is flawless! ;)

Because this month’s 30 day challenge was not physically measurable as the learning German challenge was, I don’t have anything physical to show for my work and I have no way of quantifying the success. And if the success of this challenge was dependent on my ability to never be shocked or surprised or anxious for one second, then I failed.

But if I can label it a success because I remembered to consider each moment through the perspective lens of relaxation, or because I talked about it with my friends and almost everyone I encountered for the last 30 days and learned what relaxation meant to them, then I might be okay with labeling it a success. But I feel pretty relaxed in this moment, and I think a relaxed person wouldn’t really worry about whether their experiment counted as a failure or a success.. they’d just realize they learned a lot and move on.

A RUNNING START

In the beginning of the challenge, my strategy was: whenever I had a worrying thought, I’d tell myself that worrying wasn’t allowed and that was interesting and it worked for a while. But at some point, it began to feel I was depriving myself of something: it’s like when you tell yourself that chocolate is not allowed. At some point, the hungry baby in you takes over and says “Fuck you, I’m doing this anyways”. So, after about a week or so, the angry baby in me said to my sensible self, “Fuck you, I wanna worry!” The thing was, it felt like I was saving my worries for later, and that I was just procrastinating. I was avoiding rather than addressing my worries.

NEW PERSPECTIVE

In the middle of my few-days-bout of slight worrying, my good friend came from Great Britain to visit me and see Berlin for the first time.

Emma (let’s just call her that in case she doesn’t want to be named) is one of my favorite people in the world because she has a seemingly unwavering abundance of positivity. She’s always calm, has great insight, and things just seem to flow easily around her.

In attempt to understand how she could possibly so composed & chilled (and really to prove she was a different species of human than me) I asked at least 1 million variations of “But, don’t you get worried when ____ happens?” The answer was always no. I told her that my natural state, when I wasn’t concsciously making a decision to be relaxed or positive, was frazzled or.. dare I say it.. negative. She said that hers was either neutral or happy. I was shocked.. I had never considered that was possible, as silly as it sounds.

I was under the impression that everyone has good days and everyone has bad days. That’s just the way we humans work–hormones and the like. And I know that this is true to some extent that there are natural fluctuations in energy and hormones, but I think what Emma showed me was that its not necessary to let your emotions/fears/worries run wild on up and down swings.

I don’t NEED to worry!?!? I was always under the impression that if I wasn’t worrying, I wouldn’t get the job done properly–I (subconsciously?) thought that thinking about my “problems” all the time meant that I was working towards their resolution, and otherwise I was being lazy. Sounds a bit stupid to me now, but realizing that worrying is a choice and its useless, that its not engrained in human nature, and that a neutral/happy default state was possible… it was truly a revelation. It’s as exciting as the time it finally clicked that I never HAD to get a standard 9-5 job to qualify as an adult, or when I realized I didn’t NEED a room full of new clothes & the latest gadgets to be content.

Emma’s visit also provided insight for my challenge indirectly, even when we weren’t discussing the topic directly. She only had 3 days in Berlin, and that’s not even remotely enough time to see and do everything here. But instead of worrying and trying to fit everything in all at once, we just picked one thing at a time. We didn’t second-guess ourselves and think “maybe it would have been better if we did this instead” or “perhaps we should ditch this plan and go here instead”.

I wanted to be a good host and often that can be a stressful situation, with pressure to entertain. But Emma had no expectations and there was no pressure for either of us this way. It wasn’t so much about what we did, but just that we enjoyed whatever it was. We made a decision and stuck with it.

WHAT’S IT ALL MEAN?

I can’t say that I’m perfect at relaxation now, but I definitely feel I’ve gained a lot of insight about it. I also feel like something has clicked into place, and I think the main idea is the revelation that my default/natural state doesn’t have to be negative–I don’t HAVE to be thinking of things to worry about. (I also don’t have to be positive, and I don’t have to be mad at myself when I’m not in a bubbly mood…)

If I have no expectations for myself or for my plans or for a problem or decision to be resolved in a specific way, then I can never be disappointed. I can just BE. I realized that most of the time when I’m in a negative state and no unpleasant event has actually triggered it, I’m just searching for problems to worry about.

Worrying truly never helps the situation, and I guess much of my worrying comes from decision making: will I make the RIGHT decision? And time and time again, it’s become clear to me that its not about any specific decision, its just choosing one without overanalyzing. Because the outcome never matters either–in my 23 years of life, every single outcome of every single problem I’ve ever encountered has always somehow turned out.. ok. No worst-case-scenario that ever became a reality shook me so hard that I was unable to bounce back.

So if all of my seemingly unsurmountable difficulties from the past worked out okay whether or not I worried about them, then I guess every single “insurmountable problem” that I will have in the future will also work themselves out with no harm to my consciousnes.. wehther or not I worry about them. And since worrying is not necessary.. I have a choice–to worry or not. I don’t want to set any expectations of myself, so I can’t make any promises about never worrying again. But for right now at least, I’m not worried. And that’s a damn good feeling.