At the moment, I'm on vacation. It's summer. It's relaxing.
Wait a minute...if I'm on vacation, why am I writing this?
Ever since I ceased working full-time, earlier this year, in order to focus on starting a part-time business, I've noticed just how busy I've been keeping myself.
Don't get me wrong. I worked really hard when I was working full-time, including regularly putting in many extra hours. I rarely took lunch. When I stopped, I thought I would take a few months off and chill.
It began well; I went on a week-long meditation retreat just after I left. So far, so good. In the protected, structured space of the retreat center, I assumed I would wind down. I did, a bit. But in retrospect, I treated that retreat as if it were my "job" for a week--I worked at it. (I'll treat it very differently next time)
Next, I began creating a website, doing all of it myself--a steep learning curve for me as I'd never done this before. For a while, I worked on this project seven days a week. I revised, I tinkered. I thought about it incessantly. I viewed other folks' websites. I couldn't keep away from the task for long. Finally, I had it done.
Ahhh, I thought. Now, I can take some time off.
But I noticed something odd: It was so hard to just stop.
Most Americans have real trouble with downtime. We can't put down the electronic devices that tether us to work. (Enough media attention has been given to that so I won't discuss it here.) But even when we aren't "connected," we have to be doing something...anything, it seems at times. Otherwise, many of us (most?) become jittery and restless.
Really? Is it helpful and healthy to keep busy every moment?
I'm entirely open to the possibility that for some people, the answer may be yes. We are all wired differently, I know.
And yet, for most Americans, I do wonder about our inability to slow down and drift for a bit each day. I'm not talking the whole of a workday; I'm talking about taking an actual lunch hour, taking a walk at lunch, taking a break when we truly are doing something other than working or being online...daring to simply stare into space for five minutes.
“What is this life so full of care,
And what about evenings and weekends? Where have they gone? Why are we all working all the time? I know all the stock answers about constant pressures at work, the need for some of us to work two or even three jobs just to keep our heads above water, how after work it's all about the family. These are all very true, but still...Why can we not take a minute or two just to clear our minds periodically, just to be quiet, just to "do nothing?"
Here is a very useful article from Scientific American on the benefits of slowing down and doing nothing occasionally. It's a long article. It's worth reading. Why not allow yourself the time to actually read it, not just skim it? All the latest neurobiological research is validating that "doing nothing" for a while is great for health and can actually make us more productive--and Americans are certainly intent on being productive.
Consider this quote from the article I just referenced above: "...A wandering mind unsticks us in time so that we can learn from the past and plan for the future."
We all have trouble slowing down. I'm working on it. I'm reminded of older family members, in the past, sitting on the porch--remember porches?--and staring into space for a just a little bit. I remember how, when I would sit with them, I would be restless and itchy. And yet, I know that it would inevitably refresh me. And the more often I would participate, on family vacations, the less restless and less "itchy" I would be, just sitting.
So think about it: Sit on your porch, or take your dog for a walk, or have an actual lunch with someone you enjoy and don't talk about work. Do that yoga. Or go for a run. Work on your quilt. Read a trashy novel, or a good one you've long wanted to devour. Have that pool party. Put your phone/tablet down as you watch your kid's softball game. Just be. Just sit. Just be fully present for a few minutes a couple of times a day. You'll be surprised at how hard it is, and how rewarding.
It's what you need.
You know it.
Even if it's uncomfortable to allow yourself to do it at first, you'll get used to it.
Plug in to yourself, and recharge; you'll be much more productive.
"Fun, fun, How can you have fun? Just sittin' doing nothin' when there's nothin' to be done." Dr Seuss (in a cartoon)