7 tips for those who find it hard to relax and “do nothing”

7 tips for those who find it hard to relax and “do nothing”

All my life I’ve been taught to believe that worth comes from accomplishment.

This isn’t entirely bad or wrong, and in fact, in some ways it’s driven me to be productive and to achieve what I have. But at the same time, it has a dark side that’s troubled me for many years. And I don’t believe I’m alone.

There’s no doubt I enjoy setting and working towards meaningful goals. And there’s no doubt I’ve achieved my fair share of meaningful goals, which has brought me much happiness and satisfaction.

At the same time, however, my happiness has been seriously threatened any time I’ve tried to stop, or to take a break from “doing”.

Many of us feel like this; that we’re only as good as our last success.

Which again, isn’t to say that success is bad, but our happiness should NOT be entirely based on achieving more and more. Because if it is, it can become a never ending treadmill of dissatisfaction.

Happiness, and the self-worth component of happiness, needs to have more contributors. Accomplishment can be one, but what about, also, just being, being a good partner or parent, a good friend or citizen. What about allowing ourselves time to rest and recover, to daydream and play?

Are not these just as important?

I’ll answer my own question with … yes! They are important. Because we can’t go non stop for ever. In order to be “on” we need to allow ourselves to be “off”.

But so many myths and misconceptions surround the notion of rest or taking time out, that so many of us avoid it and ultimately, burn out!

So, with this in mind, I thought I’d put together some tips for those who find “doing nothing” difficult with the hope you might find it a bit easier.

First up, don’t call it “doing nothing”. Rest and relaxation are something, very important somethings. So recognise this and give this “activity” the value it deserves.

Secondly, try not to think about all the other things you think you “should” be doing. Sure, there will be other things, but reassure yourself you’ll do them later; and in fact, you’ll do them better if you’re rested and re-energised.

Third, if you find this hard, start small, and build from there. If taking a whole day “off” sounds too much then just start with half a day, or an hour, or even just 10 minutes.

Fourth, challenge the unhelpful voices in your head telling you you need to do more. Just because you think something doesn’t mean it’s true. Just because you’ve done something in the past, doesn’t mean you need to keep doing it in the future (especially if it’s not been helpful or healthy).

Fifth, use metaphors to reinforce utility. I’m sure you plug your phone or laptop in to recharge it each day (or thereabouts). Well, you also need to recharge but rather than plugging in, for us humans, it might be resting or reading, ambling or wandering.

Sixth, involve the other people in your life. If you’re a partner or parent or carer, there may be other people who depend on you constantly or regularly “doing stuff”. That’s OK. And I’m not suggesting you ignore your responsibilities or commitments. But again, you can’t keep giving without at least some self-care. So, if necessary, of it if would help, tell those around you what you’re doing, and why it’s important, and note that you’ll get back to them when you can and when you’re recharged.

Seventh and final tip, persevere. Allowing ourselves time out isn’t always easy. For many of us, we’re working against lifelong habits and beliefs, and even against societal expectations. But there’s no doubt this type of self-care is ultimately good for our happiness and wellbeing so stick with it, keep reminding yourself of why it’s important, and keep working with those around you to (ideally) get and keep them onside.