Leaders, change your relationship with relaxation!

Leaders learn to relax to increase productivity!


We play many roles in life and we do it with diligence.
Many of us live with guilt because we expect so much from ourselves.
We want to be different things to different people.
We aspire for perfection.


We never seem to have enough of it
We say the word relax but don’t experience it.

I notice that when I am not relaxed I

  • Do not listen to my kids(true I keep yelling at them)
  • My body feels tensed
  • I am argumentative
  • I raise my voice
  • I am impatient
  • I experience muddled up thinking
  • I can be aggressive
  • My work output goes down
  • I am judgemental
  • I project my insecurities
  • I cannot smile with ease
  • I do not care about the other
Activity 1: Take a moment and list down how you feel when not relaxed. How do you behave?
Do you notice how others feel around you when you are not relaxed?

Rest vs Relaxation

Relaxation is the state of mind, body, and spirit.
It is not rest.
I had not made that distinction for a long time. Restfulness is what I experience when I sleep and wake up. When I have had a power nap.
When I do nothing.  I may stare in awe at the sunrise or sunset. It is a place of no activity. A  full pause.
Relaxation instead is a place I can be in or go to.
Relaxed as we work.
Relaxed as we speak.
Relaxed as we create and build.
Relaxed as  I coach. 
 Here is how I show up when am relaxed

  • My thoughts flow with ease
  • I notice the expression in my kids’ eyes
  • I listen with care
  • I choose with awareness 
  • I speak with care
  • I can manage tough tasks
  • I become more present to small details
  • I say yes to new things
  • I can be more generous
  • I feel good enough
  • I feel creative
Activity 2: Take a moment and note down how you are when relaxed. Think both personally and professionally. How are others around you when you are relaxed? 

The above list we all want so much. We know that showing up in a relaxed state gets us access to an effective and potent way of being. Yet how many of us go to ‘relaxation’ as a way to resource ourselves?
I am learning myself to go to this place often so I can feel potent and engaged. 

My personal history of relaxation

I grew up in a home immersed in anxious energy. My mother wished to be in 5 places at the same time!  She moved fast and the home environment was all about tasks getting done. Life may have been overwhelming for her and she coped by working hard and long hours. I always felt rushed as a child. Unknown to me my body was always held in tension. To this day I eat fast as it is an old habit. 

My personal history is loaded with ‘lack of relaxation’ beliefs.  My grandpa said ‘ Don’t sit still, at least shake your legs, be productive in some way’. Beliefs such as ‘ I am only ok if I get a lot done’ and ‘ I am only ok if I am super efficient, moving fast in every aspect of life’’. 

I grew up in Mumbai. Where life is accounted for in minutes.
I caught the 6.37 a.m train each morning and the 8.42 p.m to return at night.
My body walked each day amongst a sea of people to and fro to work each day.
My already tensed body stayed tense with the jostling and rush of life.
I knew only short breaths, a tensed stomach, and tight shoulders. 

A degree of relaxation began only when I  began training in psychotherapy. My awareness of mind, body, and spirit deepened and I started to notice the tenseness in my mind and body. The tightness in my facial muscles and limbs.  I noticed the impact it had on my parenting as I was rushing my children all the time. It has been a hard journey to ease. Ironical but true. So when my coachees or sometimes my psychotherapy trainees use words such as ‘ buddha like’ and ‘ you are like a monk’ I smile satisfied. A journey of 20 years working hard to be relaxed. To this day my practice continues as  I can easily slip back to past patterns. 

Activity 3: What is your relationship with relaxation and how has your personal history shaped it?
Have you grown up with specific instructions around productivity and excellence?

I have found these 4 pathways to relaxation and offer you the same:

Relax with body, mind, soul and emotions.

Relaxing with the mind – Watching my limiting thoughts has been useful.  Choosing to think in ways that are affirming of my strengths and needs. I can relax so that  I can write better, I am choosing to relax as  I listen better, I can trust others, and I can be kind. I have needed to delete my grandpa’s voice from my personal narrative. I have replaced this instead  ‘ I can be a woman of leisure’. I still need to say this to myself when I slip back to tenseness. 

Relaxing with the body: Centering is useful and you can download my free centering audio guide here.  Grounding with the earth by walking on mud or grass and slowing down my breath helps me. Some people like having a warm bath, while others like to provide a fragrant smell to themselves. I particularly like Lavender, lemon grass, and Patchouli natural oils. Stretching in between meetings, listening to music, and taking a 2-minute walk in a corridor are all gateways to bring relaxation. 

Relaxing with emotions: Connect with powerful emotions like joy, cheer, playfulness, pride, and love. Bring back a memory and you will see it impact your breath and your ease. We can choose our moods. At times just remembering the smiling eyes of my daughters does this for me and I feel relaxed. 

Relaxing with the spirit: A spiritual thought that helps me is Rumi’s words  ‘As you walk the path will appear’. A client of mine relaxed through the ‘Serenity Prayer’ prayer. It may be a positive belief handed down from an elder.  It can be an element of nature you rest your eyes on for a while, or even meditation practice. A minute of it and we drop into a relaxed state. I also sometimes find myself singing Kabir’s poetry or listening to a devotional Abhang. 

Activity 4: From the gateways above which most appeals to you? Of the ideas above which 5 will you take into your workday?  Make a post-it of these 5  and stick it at your work desk where you can see it. 

These gateways are all accessible to us as long as we stay mindful and aware of our inner experiences. We can access these gateways for a few minutes and we will find ease in our mind and body system which can help us to relax.

Relaxation is a state we can take ourselves to.
It is not devoid of action or work.
It is the state we choose while being our productive selves.

Which of these gateways do you already use? Do read this post of mine on the importance of self-care and watch my video on relaxation here.

2 thoughts on “Leaders, change your relationship with relaxation!”

  1. OMG! I can relate to every bit of the hustle, rush and the madness. Having brought up in a similar culture as yours, relaxation was a crime. Though I took a sabbatical because I was exhausted and burnt out, I find it difficult to relax my thoughts, my body is tense almost all the time.
    I try to calm down, and like you said your grandfather’s, I try to remove my mother’s words from my head that it is NOT a crime to slow down. I will try practice the others too!

    Thank you for writing this post Sailaja.

  2. Loved this blog Sai! This resonated deep. So many leaders display an “anxious leadership style”, that being anxious sometimes is seen as being engaged with work and that’s so counter productive!
    Thanks for this one Sai.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *