In western culture, we prize being busy. Being busy means being productive and being productive has value. The opposite means laziness and laziness has no value.
We really take this to heart and often find ourselves overworking to prove that we’re doing enough to be busy (or be seen as busy). Sometimes that means working unpaid overtime. Sometimes it means filling our time with things to keep us busy. If we happen to have some time that hasn’t been filled already, we fill it. Need to keep busy. Can’t waste time.
Naturally, constantly filling our time with things to keep us busy: day job, night job, chores, after-hours activities, any eventualities that come up; leaves us with no time rest. No downtime. Inevitably, it leads to feeling overwhelmed, it leads to anxiety, it leads to depression.
If we need our lives to be scheduled with things all the time, schedule downtime. I’m not talking about the natural point in the day when you finally run out of scheduled things and you wind down before going to bed. I mean deliberately blocking off time to relax and purposely do nothing or very little. The less, the better.
Leave your phone in another room, then:
Listen to a record/CD/etc. you haven’t heard in a while. When is the last time you just put on an album you love and just sat there, listening to it?
Read a light book.
Listen to a relaxing podcast.
Do some simple yoga stretches.
Colour in a colouring book.
Paint or do something creative, as long as it is effortless and without self-judgement.
Whatever it is, make it as little effort as possible – nothing too strenuous mentally or physically. Do it for an hour. Schedule at least one of these per week. Try for two. Make it two hours. Just make sure you schedule it in. Then treat it like a nearly immoveable meeting. Be flexible enough to account for life, otherwise guard that time fiercly and intentionally don’t book anything else over it. Force yourself to slow down, just for that little block of time.
If you can make this a regular part of your week, you will start to feel less anxious, more relaxed, happier.
How do you spend your downtime?