Effective Downtime: Why True Rest is a Necessity

You can cue this one up like a bad infomercial: to-do list whirling in the background, a mom being nagged by kids, a businessman stressed during his commute.  A closeup of someone’s face as they plead into the camera, “I just can’t take it anymore!”

You need downtime.  You need a break.

For most people that means plopping on the couch with the remote or diving online and hanging out for hours.  The problem is those choices are more draining than restorative.  You need to find a better way.  Let’s face it; if those worked, there wouldn’t be a 66% overweight statistic for Americans.

Truly Relaxing …

True relaxation involves stepping away from the screen, sometimes for days at a time … So here are some real ways to unwind.

Read a novel. A truly enjoyable activity that allows you to escape into someone else’s world.  You can live vicariously, be inspired or swept away.  I’m not suggesting business or self-help books here.  Those just make you feel like you should be doing something else.  I mean a good ol’ fashion tale that grabs you and holds your attention.  You won’t be thinking about your to-do list.

Plan for the unusual.  Get yourself out of your comfort zone.  Look for local activities that have nothing to do with your every day life.  Find a corn maze at a local farm, go to a Medieval Faire and only talk in Olde English, host a party with a cheesy theme like “80s Prom.”  Get so outside your box that you forget you even have one.  It’ll be fun, there will be many giggles, you’ll feel great afterwards.

Create a goal. According to Harvard Professor and happiness expert Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D. (Amazon affiliate link), one of the best ways to live a happy life is to create experiences.  Some of the suggestions above would certainly work but so does setting goals that you have to stretch a bit to reach.  If you’re a 5K runner training for a 10K or even a marathon, you’ll create a lifelong memory to be proud of.  Looking back and saying “I did that” is very satisfying.  All the time you spend reaching that goal can be stressful, but if you plan effectively and don’t push too hard, it will be another way to unplug from the stresses of your life as you recharge your batteries.

Play. It’s amazing what dragging your family outside and throwing a couple of balls onto the grass can do.  There doesn’t have to be a set structure, just play.  Our kids do this naturally if we let them; the four boys in our neighborhood have created an elaborate game that involves running through yards, jumping obstacles, and generally having an excellent time.  It just spontaneously started one day and has been raging all summer.

Cultivate human connection.  Connection with your family is paramount; if you’re all in separate rooms plugged into headsets and laptops, you’re certainly not connected.  But I mean friendships, too.  Take the time to meet with people and have a real conversation.  Ask someone you care about how they’re doing and listen.  You’ll get as much as you give.

Trips. Everything above can be wrapped up into travel.  Human connection, new experiences, having a goal (a new destination or activity when you get there) are all part of the deal.  Trips can be expensive but they don’t have to be; a car trip to the mountains to visit friends when you live at sea level is certainly a different experience.  Find ways to work within your budget (or you’ll just stress yourself out …) and give yourself enough time away to decompress from the day-to-day stresses.

These ideas range from just an hour or two to a several month journey if you’re setting a goal.  Quite a few are free and a vacation can cost you thousands if you can afford it.  What appeals to you most?  Pick a simple easy thing and a longer-to-plan thing and get going.  We all seem to live in a frazzled world.  What we need is to unplug, relax, and recharge.

Cheers,

Lisa

About Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson here. I've been a personal trainer since 1997, a Pilates instructor since 1998 and the owner of Modern Pilates since 1999. I'm hoping to give you some good ideas to get or stay in shape with a healthy dose of humor and reality. Thanks for joining me.

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2 Responses to Effective Downtime: Why True Rest is a Necessity

  1. Sonia Simone October 2, 2011 at 12:18 am #

    Two things I try to focus on. One is to rest when I am resting and work when I am working — when the two get mixed up, nothing works.

    The other is not to shortchange on sleep. Easier said than done some nights, I am not one of nature’s early birds, but because of school & all the other demands of “normal” life I’m up at 6:45.

  2. Lisa Johnson October 2, 2011 at 9:44 am #

    Sonia I had to shift from a night owl to a morning person and I still begrudge it when I had my son. But yes, sleep is so crucial, really it’s almost more important than food since if you don’t sleep well you make poor food choices … Great point on the rest when you’re rest and work when you’re working too, I was struggling with that yesterday, felt burnt out and needed rest but kept thinking about work. I compromised and roasted a chicken … somehow that worked. LOL

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