Are you guilty of constantly being busy? Now’s the time to stop writing to-do lists and instead let your mind and body unwind – you might find it benefits you in…
The last few weeks have certainly given us lots to reflect upon, including what it means to be busy. Before lockdown, many of us would have been living in a blur of chores and diaried events – juggling work with dinner parties or ferrying children around from one afterschool- club to another – but things have had to change recently. And, a large number of people – particularly those who have been furloughed or those without kids at home – have suddenly found themselves with a lot of time on their hands. With long evenings spent inside, weekends in the garden and coffee breaks shared over video, our habits have taken some altering. And yet, many have still felt an incessant need to do something. Whether it’s to start the novel we always said we’d write, clean out our usually-ignored junk cupboard or host family quizzes on Zoom, it seems the very thought of doing nothing can be quite disorientating.
But being busy shouldn’t necessarily be something we feel we have to be. In fact, there’s a big question mark over the benefits of being constantly on the go. So, could giving ourselves proper time to relax be the answer?
Health and mindfulness coach Louise Murray (livewellwithlou.com) certainly thinks so. As she explains, letting go of the idea that downtime is shameful could not only support our physical wellbeing, but also help spark creativity and allow us to make better decisions in life.
“Being busy isn’t a badge of success,” she says. “Being too busy is a sure-fire way to feel frazzled, worn out and like you aren’t doing enough for you. Many of us feel guilty for doing nothing, but we could all do with learning how to slow down a little and giving ourselves permission to rest. Self-care is selfpreservation and will nourish your body and mind physically, mentally and emotionally so you can get more out of your life.”
Females seem to struggle with the concept of rest more so than men – and countless research studies have suggested that many women are seeking validation from how successfully they squeeze the most out of every hour in the day.
“For women, in particular, there is the expectation to take on multiple roles, such as wife, mother and working woman, and to flit between them,” explains Dr Elena Touroni, a consultant psychologist and the co-founder of virtual psychology clinic My Online Therapy (myonlinetherapy.com). “This expectation can easily lead to simply taking on too much. On a personal psychological level, busyness tends to be (wrongly) associated with achievement. In this sense, it can lead people to overcompensate for low self-worth and feelings of defectiveness by becoming excessively busy.”
The problem occurs when our desire to be busy overtakes our need to look after our minds and bodies. “Busyness can easily come at the expense of our wellbeing,” Dr Elena says. “The key is to find a balance between doing things we have to do, with things that nourish us and provide us with a sense of enjoyment and fun.”
Of course, self-care isn’t always about taking time to have a bath or pamper yourself with a face mask (although those things are great too). It could be sitting on your sofa watching trashy TV, baking some sweet treats, writing a poem or sketching in a notepad. The key point is that you’re doing it because you enjoy it and find it relaxing – not because you feel you have to do it.
The sense of pressure-free relaxation this encourages can be incredibly fulfilling. “Relaxation is vital because it is our body’s way of rejuvenating,” Louise says. “During the relaxation response, the body moves toward a state of physiological relaxation, where blood pressure, heart rate, digestive functioning, and hormonal levels return to normal levels.”
Dr Elena agrees. “Relaxation allows us to take a step back and recharge. It gives us space to fully evaluate life decisions,” she says. “It provides space for reflection so that we can ensure we’re living a life based on our values and the things that really truly matter to us.”
And we can’t forget the mood-boosting, creativity-sparking power it has too. “Slowing down means that you experience more,” Louise adds. “If you do a little less, you create more space in your life to appreciate the magic of the little joys.” Amen to that.
Embrace your free time and let your mind and body run free Stop doing things for other people, or feeling as though you need to be achieving something all the time. Indulge your creative side and give yourself time to really relax with these ideas…
Join the trend and bake banana bread, or get experimenting with the under-used ingredients that have been sitting in your cupboards for months. Or why not take it slowly? Sometimes the best meals need time. Simmer some bone broth over a low heat for hours, or make some sourdough bread from scratch, letting your starter take days to develop.
Engage your sense of creativity by picking up a pen and paper and writing the first few lines of a short story. But, do this without any pressure – it doesn’t need to be something you ever pick up again and it definitely doesn’t need to be the winner of the next Man Booker prize. If you want to tap into your spiritual side, create visualisation boards, mantra cards or little messages of hope and affection for your loved ones.
Feeling arty? Get out your painting kit and brush some colour over a piece of paper. Be inspired by Blue Peter and use your imagination to make your own planters out of things you have lying around at home. Or try using your (probably longforgotten) sewing skills to make a cushion or some bunting.
And don’t forget to give yourself some time just to focus on resting. Set aside a few minutes a day for meditation, enjoy a long soak in the tub or sit in front of the TV with your PJs on all evening.
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