Let’s face it. It is solidly mid-summer. How many of us thought that we would still be so far away from the finish line at this point in the year?
We have seen so much, heard so much, felt so much and learnt so much. If like me your brain is fried, it may be time to think about stepping off the Covid Information Highway for a while, in order to breathe, recharge and armour up for the next part of the journey. This month’s newsletter is dedicated to “Downtime” because we believe that overcoming the challenges we face will be more difficult unless we give ourselves permission to engage in ‘inactivity’.
What is Down Time?
Downtime is sometimes mistaken for “leisure time”, which may refer to hobbies and sports. However, ‘downtime’ is a different type of “activity”: that of inactivity, where people engage in doing absolutely nothing. One way to think of downtime is being un-goal-focused, where people are just in the moment, with no plans for the immediate future. The problem with downtime is that it is often thought of as a waste of time, people are seen to be idling, lazing, daydreaming. These terms suggest that downtime is neither understood nor highly regarded. The battle, therefore, is to validate its need in our daily lives.
The Benefits of Down Time
‘Downtime’ is a vital ingredient in our well-being. If we do not allow ourselves to disconnect and engage in ‘downtime’ stress builds. Stress-related illnesses impact individuals and can result in a variety of ailments including heart disease, obesity, depression and anxiety.
Four Levels of Stress
FATIGUE: here people become negative and critical about their daily lives.
PAIN: (Physical and Emotional) resulting in irritability, leading to conflict between people.
BURN OUT: here both mental and physical exhaustion manifests, often leading to:
BREAK DOWN: where a person withdraws from daily life, unless they can draw on coping strategies to counteract stress.
So ….. How Much Down Time?
Life can be hectic, and it is sometimes difficult to find time and space for ‘downtime’. Everyone has a different set of demands on their time. When planning for downtime, each individual has different needs, we cannot give you a formula here. True downtime should be highly prized and follow a person’s own agenda. It helps if people are proactive, building it into a regular routine, rather than reactive, as a response to problems that have already arisen. We seem to have built a world full of ‘doers’, so ‘not doing’ seems to have become a problem. We may feel under pressure to keep producing, but we cannot keep up that pace forever. Over-working, or not taking time off may lead to a less productive lifestyle. Somehow, we must find a way to see downtime as a positive resource and engage in it guilt free.
Downtime can be employed on a planned or an ad hoc basis. When we consciously choose to engage in downtime, some of the easiest strategies to implement are smaller breaks throughout the day promote relaxation. For example: a scheduled walk, a refreshment break in a different setting, a quiet meditation session, or connecting with family and friends. Downtime may also occur naturally between activities: while waiting for an appointment or when commuting from work. Perhaps during this time some good old-fashioned daydreaming, letting your mind wander off, can have excellent benefits. Allowing yourself a lazy Sunday morning with no plans, can provide effective downtime – as can unscheduled moments in our day, as Melissa discusses below.
Message from Melissa:
There is beauty in stillness, and value in inactivity. I will never forget the time that my husband and I were caught in a rainstorm at a park, sitting on a bench until the rainstorm subsided and then being able to watch the incredible display of birds coming back out after the rain. They swooped, played and danced, and this spectacular show is something we would have missed, had we been absorbed by technology or thoughts of work. I think that part of downtime is allowing oneself to simply enjoy “being” and appreciating the moment. After a very stressful few months where we have all had to adjust to a new sense of reality and feelings of an unseen threat all around us, taking some time for down time would be a very welcome thing. Be well.
In addition to the benefits downtime provides for our personal well-being, downtime increases a person’s overall performance. It enhances our ability to focus and problem solve. People are most productive when they alternate between periods of intense focus and periods of downtime. With this in mind, we conclude our newsletter with a reminder of some of the courses Theia Training offers in addition to new courses that are on our horizon.
Our summer intake is almost over, so if you are interested in taking the Certificate in International School Counselling or Working Therapeutically with Expatriate Clients, please get in touch or sign up soon. We are also excited to announce that we have two new courses launching this autumn – one for teachers and one for young people who will be entering university. We will share more information about these courses in our next newsletter – watch this space! In the meantime, in order to sign up for our courses please visit our courses page!