I recently found myself with some unexpected time on my hands. I knew I had a ton to do but as I tried to consider what that was, my brain froze and I drew a blank. I couldn’t think of anything. I started to get anxious, knowing that time was wasting and I had to make the most of it. Why couldn’t I think of anything?! There is always SO MUCH TO DO. Why, in a rare moment when I could actually get something done, couldn’t I think of what to do?! As I sat there staring into space, I felt so frustrated. My broken brain failed to reboot. All I could do was sit there for a minute and just breathe.
This wasn’t an exercise in mindfulness. I wasn’t meditating or consciously aware of my breath. It wasn’t a blissed-out reprieve. No, this was a glossy-eyed, comatose blankness. But as I sat still, my heart rate slowed and my panic settled down.
It didn’t take long for me to come to my senses and get on task. As I reflected on that moment of nothingness, I considered how much my mind was begging for some time off. I’d been working it too hard, demanding too much until finally it hung up the “out to lunch” sign.
Which is not to say I don’t take time to veg out, I do. But typically, as I’m watching TV or scrolling through social media or doing some other banal, pointless thing, I’m keenly aware of what I’m not doing. Which doesn’t allow my mind to rest or to truly enjoy the benefit of being idle.
I know I’m not alone. I often hear people say how guilty they feel when they take time to relax, or how difficult it is to enjoy doing nothing because all they can think about are all of the things they should be doing. So many of us are conditioned to believe that our value ties directly into our productivity, and productivity must yield measurable, tangible results. It’s not productive to do nothing.
Or is it?
My brain thinks it is. In order to focus and organize my thoughts, it needed to shut down. When we ease into lazy moments, allowing ourselves to truly allow them to unfold without being self-critical or focusing on nagging pressure, energy is restored and we are revitalized. We can’t accomplish much when we feel stressed and overwhelmed, so why not slow down and simply be? When you consider the subsequent reward (being better able to handle the demands of life and effectively get things done) nothingness seems quite productive and well worth the investment of time.
The holiday season is upon us. While to some it may be “the most wonderful time of the year,” I think for most it’s the busiest. When we feel we have the LEAST amount of time to be idle, is when it becomes the MOST necessary. So as you make your lists, plan your menus, do your shopping, wrap your gifts, send your invitations, attend your parties, etc… please take some time out. Do nothing. Don’t think about all of the things you should be doing, don’t worry about what’s not getting done. Just settle down and allow yourself to be free of it all, if even for a moment.
Your tired brain will surely thank you.
Adina Arden Cooper
I'm a healer, a guide, a supportive companion. A storyteller, an artist, an ally and an advocate. I help individuals thrive and communities come together through counseling, coaching, and community building. I believe that shared humanity is a powerful strength and that our stories connect us in beautiful and sacred ways. As I stumble, skip, or soar my way through this life, I invite you to join me on the journey. Likewise, I'm honored to travel with you. In witnessing one another, we find meaning.