Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - August 14, 2020

A day to do nothing

Good news! Tomorrow's our day.

Unless you are too busy.

So what is tomorrow? It is - are you ready for this? - National Relaxation Day. Yes, it was proclaimed as such in 1985 by none other than William D. Chase. OK, I had never heard of him either, but I liked the substance of the proclamation.

To be honest, it appears that the idea is really the brainchild of, well, a child - fourth-grader Sean Moeller, who not-so-coincidentally is Chase's grandson.

Sean's grandfather published Chase's Calendar of Events, which became a respected reference guide to events, activities, milestones, presidential proclamations and more. Perhaps feeling August 15 didn't have enough exciting events of its own or maybe as an act of grandfatherly nepotism, Chase let Sean select an official day. I suppose it was also possible Chase was relaxing on that day and it just fell into place.

However, he wasn't just some eccentric who did little more than make calendars and issue proclamations from his grandson's musings. Chase, a native of Lakeview, Michigan, had bachelor's and master's degrees in geography from the University of Michigan. During World War II, he worked in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) - forerunner of the CIA. He spent 30 years working as a journalist for the Flint (Michigan) Journal. But over the years, he held a wide range of jobs - so many he may have needed a day designated to relax.

The "dog days of summer" may naturally promote chilling. While checking out National Relaxation Day, I learned that August 10 was National Lazy Day - although no one seems to know whose idea it was or who officially picked that day.

Sean suggested that on National Relaxation Day, people "should not do anything of real value." This includes such things as cleaning.

Since I retired three months ago, there has not been much I MUST do on any particular day. So it may seem as if every day is a relaxation day. But habits die hard, and it might take me awhile to get used to these unscheduled days of no classes to teach, no meetings to attend and no events to plan.

I think people who work for themselves may be better programmed to relax. Brother Dave, who has his own accounting business, said he enjoys going to auctions "with the intent of buying nothing," going to church and chatting with family and friends.

Husband Art, a self-employed engineer, says he doesn't need a National Relaxation Day because he'll engage in one whenever the spirit moves him. For him, the internet has made his life even easier in this regard. He can locate data, shop for components and place orders without regard to the time of day or day of the week. And if he isn't in the mood to work, so be it.

But some of us can do with some advice on how to relax. The website, mentalfloss.com, cited "how science can help you have the most laid-back day of the year."

One suggestion is to get a house or office plant.

Spending time in nature improves your overall well-being, but it turns out even just a little greenery is great for your health. Studies have shown patients in hospital rooms with plants report lower stress. Even just stepping into a lush space can reduce your heart rate. Plus, plants are effective at increasing oxygen and clearing out toxins, which should help you breathe easier - literally.

I certainly have plenty of house plants - and they do make me smile when I see them. Art's and my recent stay at our North Woods Wisconsin cottage was relaxing, too. Walking through the needle- and leaf-covered grass to the lake's edge, listening to the water lapping the shore and watching the clouds and sunsets were soothing to my soul.

Another suggestion from the Mental Floss website is to mow the lawn. Research shows that the fresh-cut grass smell makes people feel happy and relaxed. I admit I like that smell, but I've found an even better way to relax ... I let our neighbor kids do it. I still get the benefits without doing the actual work. Win-win!

Yet another suggestion is to eat bananas, which have potassium, a key mineral that helps regulate blood pressure. Chocolate is another food that can help a person de-stress. Studies show that just 40 grams of dark chocolate a day can do the trick.

Listening to classical music has been shown to slow heart rate, lower blood pressure and decrease levels of stress hormones.

Another idea is to "make a relaxation schedule."

It might seem counterintuitive, but for many busy people, the only way to ensure that you've got time to relax is to commit to a schedule. Schedule your chill time just like any other appointment. Before you know it, relaxation will become a part of your daily routine.

OK, somehow, that just seems like adding one more thing to a to-do list.

Or maybe not. Art's brother has practiced Transcendental Meditation for years and, at 88, is going strong on five hours of sleep a night. Art said he tried it years ago when his brother got into it and found that selecting any point in the day to stop what you are doing and go through a relaxation routine caused him to emerge from the pause with renewed vigor.

So perhaps planning a time to relax makes sense and having National Relaxation Day as a reminder isn't so silly at all.

Chase died earlier this year at age 97 in his home in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I think we should all honor him tomorrow by doing absolutely nothing!

With the end of the day approaching, the calm waters and cool air of our northern-Wisconsin lake make for a relaxing scene. The inset photo is of William Chase from his obituary on the mlive.com website.

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Other columns from 2020 may be found at: 2020 Index.
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