Think back to grade school.
Do you remember that delicious moment when the final bell would ring, marking the end of the school day? How you could not wait to race home to relax, or meet with friends at extracurriculum clubs or other activities?
As Children, we tend to have an almost tangible excitement about our free time – time dedicated to relaxation, hobbies or other activities we enjoy. But when school desk are replaced with work desk, our „free-time“ tends to become less about what we want to do and more about what we have to do.
Our society strongly values productivity… which can create a stigma around „free-time“. Of course, yes, as an adult, you have more responsibilities. But just because we grow up doesn’t mean we have grow out of Enjoyment.
But why do you might feel having a lack of free-time? Is it really the „to-less-free-time“-thing? Is it because we want to enjoy too much activities in one day? Is it because we are feeling guilty when we are not working?
Actually most of my clients do have „enough“ free-time. But they are experiencing the missing feeling of „being on leisure“.
The reason is almost the same… and it happens to me either.
As it turned out to be as simple as complex like it does in most cases: we got trapped in the treadmill of our own thinking!
As I mentioned it before: our society values productivity. But as this brought our modern society as far as it did… the same productivity brings a lot of pressure with it.
While I was raising my daughter on my own, I was feeling guilty at work, not being with my daughter… and was thinking about “work stuff” at home! But it didn’t stop there: as a modern working mom I “knew” about the importance of self care. And let me be honest about this: it stressed me even more.
Let me give you another example:
I once had a client who was spending most of his time “thinking about his biggest work challenges ”! What was even more shocking, however, was that when I spotted this out to him he shook his head sadly. “I know,” he said, a bit guiltily. “I should be putting in another 2 – 3 hours a day thinking about it if I ever really want to solve it, but I just don’t have the time.”
Spending hours trying to think your way out of your problems is like walking east looking for a sunset – no matter how smart you are and no matter how hard you’re willing to work, it’s never going to happen that way. You’ll just get caught up inside that problem so deeply, that you not only missing out your “NOW” (which is probably time with your kids and family), but also at one point you WILL loose your perspectives and end up “not seeing the forest for the trees” !!!
In fact: Overthinking is the most unproductive way to solve any kind of problem!
Today, when I got trapped in my thinking, I just do ONE thing: I totally give up engaging myself on that problem. In fact what I actually DO in the moment I realize that I am overthinking on a problem, I take a deep breath, I clear my mind and I start getting “present”.
And after some time, when I have almost forgotten about that problem, the best idea on it comes from within me.
Did you ever have an experience like that? Maybe while having a shower… cleaning the dishes… or while scrolling through your Instagram feed at the toilet…(?)
Let me ask you a question: How do you clear muddy water in a bowl?
YES! YOU ARE ABSOLUTLY RIGHT: You let it rest.
After some time the mud will sink down.
Clear water remains on top so you can drink it!
This is the same Phenomenon that happens when you stop holding onto a problem and giving yourself a break.
In fact, studies show that „free-time“ is actually good for us – not only leisure time been related to a healthier immune system, reduces stress, and even increased longvity, it also helps you cultivate a richer sense of self and self-efficacy… which is your belief in yourself.
If you still need reasons why sometimes the most productive thing to do… is to take a BREAK… here comes 4:
#1…IT EMPOWERS YOU
Free time, however, doesn’t have to take the shape of lying on the sofa on Netflix (no judgement if it does!). In fact, research shows that your free time is most beneficial when it is mentally engaging.
Leisure doesn’t mean lazy – it means engaging in an activity that you enjoy! Try spending your free time on activities like cooking, playing an instrument, doing a craft such as knitting… whatever speaks to you. It should be something you like that allows you to grow while you research. Need an extra bonus? The skill you develop out of interest can improve those skills you need for your job! (here is an example: more than 80% of employers say that creativity is important to them in the workplace!)
For those of us who are always „on the go“, the concept of „free time“ can really become a stressful feeling. If you have an Iceberg-Belief (a deeply held belief developed in young age… usually about how you should have or how the world should be) that you always have to be productive (because slowing down would be a sign of your weakness), it is hard to kick back and relax without feeling like you are wasting your time
#2 IT WILL ENERGIZE YOU
Have you ever heard about „EUSTRESS“? Positive-Psychology-Studies found out that leisure activities are accompanied by their own kind of „positive stress“ ( which is called „eustress“). It is a typ of stress that is stimulationg, engaging AND gets you into a state of flow (where you are so engrossed in what you are doing that you don’t even notice time passes).
As a result of eustress you are starting feeling motivated and energized.
So the next time you are feeling a lack of inspiration in your work, try getting the creative juices flowing by taking some time to play: Go for a walk or jog out in the sun. Sit in nature. Journal. Draw. Or dance to your favorite song. Refocusing your energy will allow you to what you were thinking about refreshed and with some new perspectives.
#3 IT REDUCES EMOTIONAL STRESS
Not only has leisure activity been proven to lower almost immediatly physical symptoms of stress as high blood pressure and heart rate – studies shown that it reduces emotional stress, too. When you are facing am obstacle, stepping out of routine has been found out to interrupt the cycle of unhealthy thoughts (those that can lead to overthinking and anxiety). The break in your usual thought patterns leads to more optimistic thinking, allowing you to reframe your thinking and clear your mind … before tackling the source of your stress.
So make leisure a priority at least once a week. Put down your To-Do-List and do something fun, spontanious, just for yourself. You will see your stress level subside in the long term!
#4 IT LEVEL-UP YOUR (REAL) SOCIAL NETWORK
Try swapping a solo activity for something more social, such as a cooking class, dance group, or book club. It will help you form a natural network around your interests, boosting your personal resilience in the process.
When you make the time to reach out and engage in activities that interest you, you meet others who have similar interests. And at the root of those shared interests? Shared values. Surrounding yourself with people you genuinely connect with leaves you feeling more supported and even more resilient. Having a solid social network buffers against stress and makes you feel more optimistic in the face of uncertainty.
When you invest in your leisure, you are investing in yourself.
Exploring your different interests outside of work is also a great way to remind yourself that it’s never too late to continue learning and try something new, which fosters a Growth-Mindset, rather than a fixed one—making you feel more resilient and capable of approaching situations with an open mind. You may even surprise yourself with what you are capable of, which is a sentiment to carry with you when you face new challenges on the horizon.
Enjoy your free time!
with all my love, Birgit