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When you think of spare or free time i.e. time not dedicated to work and career what ideas or activities spring to mind?

“What do you do socially?” or other similarly worded questions that we are often asked, generally refers to what you do outside of work.  The pressure of having to have a comprehensive itinerary of activities and pursuits to live what is deemed a full and interesting life can be quite daunting. 

I know from my own experience and with talking to friends that all too familiar feeling of dread of having to make ourselves appear busy socially for the sake of what other people think.  It’s as if we feel somehow inferior or not interesting enough.

In last weeks Jewel of Life post, I talked about the importance of fun and down time on our general happiness, health and wellbeing.   Surprisingly, many of us do not prioritise time for leisure and relaxation as we feel guilty for taking time away from more ‘constructive ‘ pursuits. We fear that by taking time out we are either doing little or nothing towards our goals.

But here’s the thing, it’s ok to sometimes do nothing!

Firstly, what does ‘doing nothing’ actually mean?  We are very rarely if ever at all doing nothing.  Even when we are sleeping we are still participating in a vital activity. 

The phrase ‘doing nothing’ tends to be used when we are referring to activities others would deem unimportant or useless.  It often has a negative connotation to it.  Even when we are choosing to use it ourselves there is often some kind of approval seeking or justification following it i.e. “I plan on doing nothing tomorrow, I have had such a crazy week”.

What we usually mean is "I am choosing to rest and relax".  There can be a lot of guilt attached to the notion of relaxing or ‘doing nothing’ but we really do need this time to recuperate and rebalance.  Here's a few tips to get over this guilt ridden hurdle:

  • Know that it is a vital element to your health and wellbeing.  Remember you are not seeking anyone’s approval except your own and you know that your health and happiness are a priority.
  • Make a commitment to yourself and schedule your relaxation dates into your diary.  By writing it down in your organiser you are much more likely to do it.
  • Make it a habit and do it often. Not just when you are at breaking point.  Notice how you feel once you’ve allowed yourself this precious time off.  Chances are you’ll be energised and productive and more importantly happier!

If you are feeling stuck for ideas, here’s a little list of relaxing activities to try i.e. things you may usually feel guilty for.  Note: do not attempt to multitask whilst doing these, and by multitask I mean doing something you would normally consider ‘constructive’.

  1. Catch up on some of your favourite TV shows, podcasts or whatever it is you keep telling yourself can wait.  If you’re anything like me you probably have a stack of episodes piling up waiting for you.
  2. Have a lie in or take a nap.  Yes, laying in bed for long periods of time on a regular basis is a waste of time.  But sometimes a little bit of extra duvet time is needed.
  3. Take a long hot bubble bath.  I’m sure you always intend to stay in longer then 5-10 minutes but it just doesn’t happen does it.  Treat yourself to some beautiful new bath oils, light some candles and make it your business to relax.
  4. Get lost in a book or stash of magazines for a few hours or maybe even a whole day if you're feeling like a rebel.
  5. Pick up the phone and have a good old chinwag.  When was the last time you had a long catch up with a friend?  Extra points if you call on the landline.

As Frankie says: Relax!