Taking Back Your Downtime

April 27, 2017

Don’t you love those beautiful times when you just do nothing at all? Stopping, slowing down, unwinding apply to so many aspects of our lives because doing not much is important. You hear about it in conversations around fitness and training, about the need to rest and recuperate. It comes up as we discuss our pending holidays and imagine the glorious feeling of slowing down. Because there comes a time when we need to put all other stuff aside and just rejoice in being still, in taking rest, a break. But why are there so many negative connotations around doing nothing at all?

The normal routine of Western work weeks see us hanging out for the two-day break afforded by the weekend. It’s a time when we can slow down and spend our moments doing activities which enrich us and make us happy. But even then, our choice to keep moving to squeeze out every second of these work free days can see us running nearly at the same pace as our Monday to Friday. Family occasions, catching up with friends, doing the household chores or taking kids to sport all take a toll on getting downtime.

On the flip side, there are people now engaged in portfolio jobs where they work on projects where taking a rest in-between gigs brings a different type of challenge. These breaks can either be an opportunity to recalibrate or a stressful time spent wondering where the next assignment will come from. Whatever your working situation, when we can have an opportunity to slow it all down we usually have a list of things we are meant to be doing which foil our attempts to be still.

When we do stumble across these brackets of time we sometimes find ourselves at a loss, unsure of what we are meant to do. It is here where you need to take the opportunity to just take in the space and chill. Yes, it can be hard as you are racked with guilt about unfolded washing, a cluttered wardrobe or a garden bed full of weeds. There may be the negative self-talk telling you you’re lazy and you should get off the couch, among other terrible missives that are there to drain the life out of you.

When we take a break from the rolling routine of our lives we create space to understand ourselves better. It is here where the body finds rest and the mind calms itself. Some of us avoid this practice because space with ourselves makes us uncomfortable. But being in that moment, where there are no pulls on your time allows you instances of immense clarity. In the simplest terms, you create a space to just be.

I work with a couple of people who find themselves bookended by commitments which literally suffocate any chance for them to explore alternatives for a more fulfilling life. Finding downtime for them is difficult as responsibilities for work and family keep them on a human hamster wheel. To combat this, they have adopted a journaling exercise which requires them to address a daily question and answer it in their notebook. As a result, they purposely take some downtime to explore who they are, what they want and where they are going every day. It’s an important investment in ‘being’ within the fast-paced world but this approach is only one way to explore stillness.

If you need to sleep, or just take a nap, get comfortable. Meditation is an option as are simple things like doing a craft activity, drawing or sewing. Maybe it’s a walk, reading a book, baking a cake or playing cards. Yoga, shooting some hoops or a swim, it’s up to you. But no one is going to deliver these sweet moments to you except yourself. Be mindful of how important these times are to your wellbeing and happiness and make sure you get plenty of them. Only you can carve off some time for yourself where you, and you alone, can determine exactly what you will or won’t be doing.

These times of being with yourself allow you to commune with your soul and there you will find out what nourishes you, what brings you joy and where you wish to set your compass. It provides an opportunity for the body and mind to reset and become ready for the next thing, taking you out of the fight or flight reaction we usually adopt as part of our time-poor lives.

Next time you find yourself with a space for doing nothing, grab it with both hands, a clear head and a positive attitude. It may just be the reboot you need to catapult yourself into the days ahead and allow you to explore a new direction for your life.

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