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The Do Nothing Challenge

We constantly feel pressured to add things to our schedule. Society seems to reward being busy and punish anyone who takes time for themselves. Moms are expected to put the family above all else. No wonder so many people neglect their own self-care when it would lead to negative judgments from others!

You’re encouraged to work too much, schedule your kids in too many activities, and attend too many social events.

Everything FEELS so important.

How will your son ever play varsity baseball if he doesn’t play every season after the age of 5? What will your friends think if you tell them you’re taking some time for yourself?

And when you do have down time, I’m guessing it’s spent keeping up with social media, reading the news, or engaging with your phone in some way. I know this struggle personally!

Why do we feel this need to fill every minute of our schedule?

1. Society has taught us that doing nothing means we’re lazy.

2. We only feel good about ourselves when we’re productive and checking things off our endless “to-do” list.

3. We see everybody else doing it, so that means we should too.

4. Engaging in activities, even pointless activities, can keep us distracted from emotions like sadness, anxiety, or guilt. And if we just keep on doing, maybe those emotions will even go away.

5. We’ve never learned how to do nothing so it’s uncomfortable.

Consequences of Doing Too Much

No matter what the reason for staying busy, the research has shown that little good comes from it. The chronic stress of always being on the go can lead to physical illness and diminished mental health.

It’s probably no surprise to you that it can also lead to feeling exhausted and overwhelmed… All. The. Time.

We always feel behind and never actually catch up. The to-do list seems to get longer even as we’re being productive.

That busyness can interfere in relationships as well. How many times have you neglected date night because of the kids’ activities? Is quality time with your children spent mostly in the car?

Relationships are unbelievably important to our health so consider whether you’re spending quality time or quantity time with those people you value the most.

Giving Yourself Permission to Do Nothing

We often jokingly challenge our 3-year-old daughter to quiet contests. At times it feels like the only way to get her to stop talking! And let me tell you, it’s a challenge for her even when it’s only for one minute.

I’m going to offer you a similarly difficult challenge. When you’re done reading, or another time today that’s more convenient, force yourself to do nothing for five full minutes. It may sound easy on paper, but I’m betting it will be a true challenge in the moment.

Use those five minutes to focus on your breathing. To notice things in the world around you that you typically take for granted. Scan your body and notice if there are any sensations, pains, discomforts, or tensions. Sit in stillness without the pressure of doing.

Doing this for a few minutes every day can have surprising benefits to your physical and mental health. No, it won’t make all your stresses or anxieties disappear, but it’s one small piece of self-care that can help you begin to take back control of your life again.

If you’re feeling the stress of always being on the go and need a little help to slow down and overcome those challenges, please reach out and schedule a free strategy call. I have a few slots open in my practice and I’d love to help you reach your goals.

Don’t wait, start here

Dr. Kevin Hyde

Dr. Kevin Hyde

Dr. Kevin Hyde is a clinical psychologist licensed to practice in the state of Florida. He resides in Pinellas County with his wife and two young daughters. In his spare time, Dr. Hyde enjoys relaxing at the beach with family, watching Nationals baseball, baking bread, and keeping up with current events. He founded Pinellas Anxiety Specialists with the intention of providing high quality anxiety therapy to reduce the stress and anxiety that so many cope with on a daily basis.