BY REBECCA COOPER
Addressing a subject I have a daily battle with myself is hard. I am a Type A, perfectionist, overachiever, often stressed, occasionally exhausted woman. Literally, I got tired just typing that statement. So if you, too, share those productive, yet tiring traits, how can you shift focus on doing absolutely nothing and not get extra stressed thinking you are wasting your time? I’m so glad you asked.
An Exhaustive Existence
Growing up as an only child in a more than dysfunctional family, I was always trying to please two impossible to please parents, with straight A’s, piano lessons, projects done early, and a focus to never, ever rock the boat. To say it was an exhaustive existence would be an understatement. For me, I learned to live that way because I thought it served me well. My parents were at each others’ throats over the smallest to the biggest of things and I felt if I did everything perfect, they wouldn’t have a reason to be upset at me. I have to admit it worked, but it has taken a toll to this day because I still fall easily into the same habits. It is my ‘go to’ behavior at 52 years old, but I can share what I strive to do and focus on every day to break this unhealthy habit.
What Makes You Happy?
Many of us Type A, perfectionists, overachievers get caught up in the exteriors and what others think of us. We make straight A’s not necessarily because it makes us happy, but because it elicits some sort of response from others. I never got paid or rewarded from my parents (there was no ‘for every A you make on your report card, you get a dollar’ in my house) – I made good grades to keep anything involving me from becoming a source of anger for my parents. Now those good grades did get me into great schools, so there was a payoff, but was it worth the stress and physical illness it brought on throughout life? No. I finally reached the place where I can say, ‘What is the point of putting myself under all this stress if I’m not happy?’ Sure, we all have responsibilities like bills to pay, but life is meant to be enjoyed, not endured.
Can I Change and Appreciate the Joy of Doing Nothing?
Change in any behavior begins with recognition of the need to change and acceptance to do it. I had to come to the conclusion that I no longer have to wear exhaustion as a badge of honor. Do I accomplish this worthy thought daily? Not even close. I battle staying busy from the moment my feet hit the ground to the moment I fall, miserably exhausted, into bed. But there is a lot to slowing down and not working or doing something every minute of every day. You may even live longer and enjoy the time you have a bit more. Understand that doing nothing doesn’t equal being lazy. You are permitted, when someone asks, ‘What did you do this weekend?’ to say, ‘Absolutely nothing and it was wonderful.’ Your body, mind, and spirit need time to slow down, look within, see and feel how you are doing. Most days you will find that by doing nothing, you are doing something for your body and spirit. When you do less, you feel more joy, peace, and clarity; so when it is time to work, you are more creative, productive and energized to do your best after a little ‘PJs all day on the couch’ time.
Remember those times in the first grade when you were told to go to your cubby hole (I know I’m really dating myself now) and pull out your mat for nap time? There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t wish someone would walk up to me and say, ‘Hey, you look tired. How ‘bout taking out your mat for a nap?’ I didn’t appreciate that nap in the first grade at seven years old. I recall watching the clock over my teacher’s desk wanting the time to be over so I could get back to the important things like coloring or making something. Since there’s no one following you around to ask if you need a nap, do this instead….
Treat yourself like you would that seven-year-old child you once were. Children are loved and adored, needing affection and nurturing. Pretend you are that child once again, and take time to nurture yourself, love yourself with your whole heart and see if the joy you once had at that tender age is rekindled.