The importance of scheduling time to do nothing
How are you feeling right now? Are you running on a full tank of fuel or are you about to break down by the side of the road? Your ability to react positively to the stressors you encounter in your daily life depends not only on your mental resilience, but also on your body’s energy reserves. These days we tend to think of our stressors are mostly mental rather than physical, because there just aren’t as many tigers chasing us as there used to be. However, there are things that put stress on your body’s energy reserves that we don’t often think about. This physical depletion can affect your resilience and your mental state. So rather than think of ‘doing nothing’ as wasted time, perhaps it’s time to think of it as time spent filling up your tank.
How did I get burnout?
The graphics below illustrate the relationship between stress and your energy reserves – leading to either endurance or exhaustion. In the first example – low stress and a full tank – you’ll be feeling pretty awesome!
In the second example however – high stress and an empty tank – you’re on your way to burnout if the stressors continue for a prolonged period.
Why am I writing about this? Because I burnt out last year. I practice self-care in the form of eating a really healthy diet, getting 7 hours sleep a night, doing regular yoga and dancing classes, having regular personal therapy and making time to see friends. However, what I wasn’t taking into account was the fact that I was doing all of that on top of a full-time job and running my own part-time business. I had the (pleasurable) mental stress of work and business but I was using up all my long-term energy reserves because I was eating on the fly between clients and dance classes; going to bed after 10.30pm; and being ‘busy’ most of the weekend. I wasn’t making enough time for “nothing”, for my body to rest.
Here are some of the surprising (ok probably not so surprising) things that can deplete your batteries over time:
- Not getting enough sleep for YOUR body (7 hours may be great for some but not enough for you);
- Going to bed after 10.30pm every night. (If you go to bed too late your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) will kick in to keep you going, putting more adrenaline and cortisol into your system. Not ideal because there are no tigers to run from at that time of night. Your body really wants to rest at this time, but you’re asking it to keep going);
- Doing too much exercise;
- Eating on the fly and not taking time to rest and digest;
- Eating poor nutritional choices to keep yourself going rather than just admitting you are zonked and resting;
- Not enough rest full stop; and
- And here’s one you may not have thought of….. Holding onto undigested feelings in your body (anger, fear, sadness, jealousy). You need to let them go. Imagine how much more energy you’d free up if you could just let that stuff go… (find out more about somatic (body-mind) psychotherapy)
The good news is that our batteries are rechargeable – it just takes time. I learned to listen to my body rather than the list I had in my head of the things that I ought to do. I’ve been there and back again. And now it’s my turn to help others.
As a somatic psychotherapist I will listen to what you’re saying and also look for the clues your body is showing me. So if you’re feeling stressed or exhausted, come and see me and we’ll make a plan for your recovery.
If you want to ask me what Counselling or somatic psychotherapy is all about, I offer a FREE 15 minute discovery session by phone for new clients.
I leave you with this quote from Winnie the Pooh. I’m off to do some very important ‘nothing’ for a few hours….
“What I like doing best is Nothing.”
“How do you do Nothing,” asked Pooh after he had wondered for a long time.
“Well, it’s when people call out at you just as you’re going off to do it, ‘What are you going to do, Christopher Robin?’ and you say, ‘Oh, Nothing,’ and then you go and do it.
It means just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”