This past week was full of magic and miracles. I had the privilege of speaking to and connecting with hundreds of young women at SEPC in Atlanta.
This is one of my favorite conferences for so many reasons – mostly because of the women. They are so eager, willing and ready to learn. In fact, they remind me of me when I was in my early 20’s—bright-eyed, achievers ready to take on the world.
They want to feel good enough, do good enough and make everyone happy. They want to let go of their obsession with perfection. They want to be kinder to themselves and stop their inner critic from taking over their brain. Yet, they feel like they don’t know how.
I so get it. In my past, I have been in that place more often than I like to admit. Just yearning for the answer. Fighting to find the thing that would make it all better.
I suspect if you are reading this, you too can relate.
During one of my sessions, a beautiful woman with long, blonde hair asked me, “How can you do that without feeling guilty?”
I had just shared that taking time out to “do” nothing is incredibly valuable for your health, well-being and soul.
The entire room pretty much had her reaction: “I can’t do that. If I stop, nothing will get done. Besides, I’ll just sit there and think about all the things I should be doing and then feel worse.”
So many women—it doesn’t matter their age—relate to the idea of doing nothing this same exact way. They think there isn’t enough time. If I don’t get it done, it will never get done. So they push and push and push to the point of depletion. Resulting in more stress, anxiety, overwhelm and dissatisfaction with life in general.
Because of this choice to push through and do more, the anxiety becomes their regular way of showing up in the world – which ultimately causes them to feel even more guilt.
They snap at their husband or best friend. They judge themselves as taking everything for granted. They feel tired, life-less and like they are just barely getting by.
So, my question becomes, why don’t we make down time a priority?
What if when you feel burnt out or super stressed, instead of pushing through, you gave yourself a break to recharge?
This can feel incredibly scary at first—almost counterintuitive—but, if you try it a few times, you’ll see how the downtime really does reset you. It fills your tank and gives you more energy to focus, so that you can be more efficient in a shorter amount of time. (Click to Tweet)
If you knew doing this regularly could cause you to be more effective, reach your goals faster and feel so much happier, would you be willing to try?
If you said yes, here’s what I recommend:
1 – Give yourself permission to go for it.
This isn’t a one and done kind of experiment. It takes time and commitment—like anything worthwhile in your life. So, start by giving yourself permission to experiment. To try this out in full and see how it works for you.
2 – Carve out a 2-hour block of time in your calendar for doing nothing. (You can add more days or more time, as you see fit.)
Now, let’s be clear, doing nothing isn’t really doing nothing. Doing nothing could be reading a book, watching your favorite television show, taking a nap, sitting outside watching the birds, taking a hot bath, etc.
I’m not suggesting you stare blankly up at the ceiling for hours on end. No no. I’m suggesting you do something for you—that has no purpose other than causing you to feel good or relaxed.
It cannot be work or school related. It must be life related.
3 – Honor that 2-hour block for do nothing time.
When it comes up on your calendar, you honor it immediately. Not when you finish the project you’re working on. Nope. You respect it the same way you would an appointment with your doctor. Why? Because it is that important.
4 – Dealing with feelings of guilt.
In the beginning, the habit of doing nothing may feel uncomfortable. In fact, it may feel challenging due to the feelings of guilt and the thoughts of all the things you could/should be doing.
Know: those feelings and thoughts are ok. You don’t have to make them different or make them wrong. You can simply observe them. You can see them and continue doing nothing.
The more you practice this, the easier it will become and the less you guilt you will feel.
It’s like learning to ride a bike. I guarantee when children first look at that bike they think I can’t ride that. It doesn’t seem possible. Won’t I just fall over?
But, after trying and falling and trying and falling again and again, the child finds their balance and soars down the road – feeling comfortable and confident in the biking abilities.
This is what’s possible for you!
You may start out thinking the same thing about incorporating regular down time into your schedule… I can’t do that. It doesn’t seem possible. Won’t I just fail?
But, after trying it and trying it again, you’ll find more ease and enjoyment in it. I’d venture to guess you’ll be feeling more comfortable and confident in your “do nothing” abilities in no time.
At least, that was my experience. I LOVE my downtime. I take some every single day and a whole lot on the weekends! And my life is far better because of it.
In the comments below tell me if you’re willing to try? And if you are, what some of your fears and concerns might be? Also, if you regularly practice down time, share how you like to fill it, or even what your process was like when you first started honoring it.
I look forward to connecting with you.
Sending you so much compassion as you allow yourself the joy you deserve.