Y’all are making me tired. Seriously. Now, I’ve hardly been accused of being terribly ambitious in life, but some of you over-achievers are really exhausting me these days. The fellow mother at the daycare bringing jam-packed, decorated Halloween goodie bags for all the kids in our class? Really? You’re making the rest of us look bad. And judging from dealing with some of you in public, it’s not making you all that happy, anyway.
There wasn’t a lot I loved about growing up in the rural South, but let me tell you this: folks there bring sitting and just being to an art form. Things are sloooow in the South. We even stretch out words and give them extra syllables. With swings and rocking chairs on the porch, you could keep track of the whole town…or just take in a cool rain storm. The whole point was not doing. Hopefully with a nice glass of the table wine of the South: sweet tea.
So! I’m here to bring some of that old fashioned Southern goodness and give you an excuse to sit down already. Jeez Louise. Being productive is way overrated. Plus, it’s turning you into a road-raging, scowling grump. Luckily, you have me to help you manage your stress and prioritize some downtime. Because a lot of you don’t seem to ever be still and quiet. And you don’t seem to be familiar with the concept of what the experts call eustress, which is actually stress caused by positive happenings in your life. Weddings, babies: wonderful experiences, but they cause stress.
What is downtime, anyway? Europeans seem to get it. You don’t see them working 60 hours a week. And they’ve got better health (despite all that cheese and cream and wine the French eat), less depression, and better productivity. So let’s talk about how we get some of that good stuff for us, shall we? I like to call downtime the 3 R’s for adults. No, not reading, riting, and rithmatic (did I mention I was raised in the rural South?). I’m talking rest, recreation, and relationships. Time to make time.
How much downtime is enough? Experts say we need an hour a day, a day a week, and a week every three to four months. Did you just do a spit take? I know, I know. Hubs comes from a family that very much values busy-ness, and I will admit I can get looked at sideways when I insist on chilling for my mental health. You might need to let go of perfectionism. Yes, this means sometimes my kitchen floor is crunchy. But downtime is reasonable and even, I dare say, necessary for balance and health. And in my case, to prevent homicide or matricide. Better to stick to my kitchen table, I assure you, than to value a clean house over my sanity. So let’s take a look at each R, shall we?
Relationships. Do you see your family at all, or are you just texting each other your whereabouts? Speaking of texts, when you’re together, are you actually looking up from your electronic device long enough to gaze into someone’s eyes? When’s the last time you completed a project with a loved one? Or just enjoyed learning about the other’s inner world? If you think about it, it’s been awhile. Try a no-screen rule for an hour. Revive the art of conversation. Talk about how every sports team in Dallas sucks. Sorry. Tony Romo alone has sent me into therapy. I heard he threw three interceptions during the bye week. I bet he’ll be a great father for at least the first two trimesters of his wife’s pregnancy. But I digress.
Recreation. Hey, remember fun? Yeah, me neither. This won’t work. Recreation is any activity you do for sheer pleasure. For me, I have to admit to a pretty active TV and Twitter addiction. Some people like a game of pick-up basketball, others like to bake a loaf of bread…hell, some people even tell me they like to clean, but then I look at them like they’ve grown a third eyeball. But whatever floats your proverbial boat, is fun to do, and is preferably creative. You don’t have to be good at it. Somebody once said: if the voice in your head says you can’t paint, the only way to silence it is to paint.
Rest. And here’s the one we as Americans just can’t seem to wrap our head around. Rest means doing nothing. Just keeping the couch from floating off the floor. Meditating. Porch sitting. Because it is SO important to spend time inside your own head, hearing your own voice, placing your attention there. And we virtually never do it. Rest means being a human being, not a human doing. Rest is getting back in touch with that “I” you really are. Ever heard that phrase, “I am so sick of myself”? Well, that means there’s an “myself” for that “I” to get sick of. That “I” is the seat of consciousness, your soul, and trust me. It needs tending. Deepak Chopra and Eckhart Tolle have my back on this one.
So go forth and do nothing, my babies! As we roll into the holiday season, Thanksgiving and Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or the milieu of your choice, stress can be as common a side dish as stuffing and pumpkin pie. Both good stress and bad. Combat it. Because your family won’t remember what gift you got them. But they will totally remember if you’re a screamy crazy person for the season. You’ve got my permission (and yes, sometimes even my urging) to sit down. And occasionally? Shut up. It’s good for you and for me.