Why do we struggle with down time?

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I am really bad at handling free time. Down time. Transition time. Whatever you want to call it. The struggle is real and can be debilitating.

 

You’re sitting there on a chair, after sleeping-in for the first time in weeks or months, feeling nervous about not having any commitments.

 

It feels uncomfortable, unproductive, unsatisfying. Why do we struggle with down time?

 

I can be successful “away” on vacation, but when I take scheduled breaks at home, it’s a challenge to not fill up the day(s) with my “to do” list.

 

There’s always something I could or should be doing, whether it’s cleaning out the closet, organizing my office, tidying up the guest room. Or even more “fun“ stuff like making homemade ravioli, or taking a leisurely run on the NCR Trail.

 

So what do I do when this unsettled feeling starts to creep in?

 

First, I recognize that I feel anxious. I acknowledge my heartbeat may be more rapid, my thoughts may be all over the place, and I may feel unfocused or unharnessed.

 

I might even say to myself aloud, “Oh, hello anxiety. You’re back. I feel unfocused and messed up, but I know it’s just you again."

 

Then, typically it hits me, and I recognize that this is just a transition period for me (this often requires every power of my routine to override my anxiety).

 

This happens whenever my schedule changes drastically. I remember feeling this way in March 2020 when we all went into pandemic-quarantine (high gear to low gear).

 

Then again in early September 2020, when everything was shifting on a seemingly daily basis (low gear to high gear).

 

Then yet again, in late winter (high gear to overdrive). Now I’m facing it again (overdrive to park) at least for a couple of weeks.

 

So how will I get through? I’ll remind myself that I have gone through this so many times, and I’ve gotten through each one just fine.

 

Within a few days I’ll fall into a new routine, and you may mistake me for a sloth!!!

 

See you soon.

The Brain Coach Blog is written by executive function coach Mary Turos. Based in Belair, MD, Mary is affectionately known as 'The Brain Coach" for her work helping people achieve harmony using strategies based in neuroscience.

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