In today’s world, our days are scheduled down to the minute with work, school, side hustles, socializing, etc. Because our lives are so busy and fast-paced, mental health experts and advocates have begun to stress the importance of taking care of ourselves.
But despite experts' reminders that we need time to rest and recharge, it's still hard not to feel like you must spend every minute of your day doing something "productive."
Clear your schedule
Many of us feel like our lives are directed by a drive for productivity. We’re all for doing yoga in the evenings after our work is done or going for a long jog on a Saturday morning, but sometimes, our bodies call for rest at a different time than we’d originally planned. The idea of clearing our schedule on a day that was supposed to be productive can be a hard pill to swallow, but it can also be the right call.
Personally, I’ve taken years to learn this lesson. My first week back to school after the Christmas break coincided with a particularly rough bout of PMS, and left me wiped out. My weekend plans originally consisted of doing intense cardio workouts and getting ahead on my schoolwork. There was a time when I would have stuck to my schedule no matter what.
However, I knew from experience that I was too exhausted to work out or study. So, instead, I curled up on the couch with a heating pad, a cup of coffee, and Friends, and I let myself be utterly unproductive.
Most of us feel an urge to be productive all the time, even when we may need to rest.
We feel this need to fill the gaps in our busy schedules. When we’re not working or studying, we plan out activities like yoga, journaling, or getting a massage. These activities make us feel like we are making good use of our time: like we’re still being productive, even on a day when we’re supposed to be resting.
It’s not always Insta-worthy
Social media tends to glamorize productive lifestyles: on Facebook or Instagram, people proudly share pictures of themselves travelling, hiking, or having a vibrant social life. You rarely come across a picture of someone resting at home. And even when you do, they're spending their free time doing something "constructive," such as baking cookies, doing an arts and crafts project, or engaging in some other fun hobby. Even something as simple as taking a hot bath is made to seem like an event, with people posting Instagram stories of bath bombs, candles, and perfectly curated playlists.
It’s as if even “unproductive” days are still supposed to be productive in a way: we might not be getting work done, but at least we’re still getting content for the Gram. Why can’t we allow ourselves to do nothing at all?
There's no one right way to spend the time you're taking for yourself. It can be as simple as taking a nap. While we’re always lectured on the importance of getting our eight hours of rest, sleep is rarely seen as productive or glamorous… even when it’s more necessary than a bubble bath or a face mask.
You don’t have to fill all of your free time with Insta-worthy self-care rituals. It’s all about listening to what your body needs. If what you need is a luxurious day at the spa, then by all means, go for it. But if what you need is a few hours of sleep, then listen to that, too.
It’s tempting for us to fill our schedules until they're ready to burst, because that provides us with the structure that we crave and the productivity we've been taught to value. Unfortunately, this belief can prevent us from getting the actual rest we need.
Our culture of productivity spreads the message that we’re constantly supposed to be doing something. But sometimes, all we need is a spontaneous day of rest. When your body and mind have recuperated, you can get right back to the grind. You can only be productive if you allow yourself to be unproductive from time to time.