Ilona L. Tobin, Ed.D.

Licensed Psychologist

Archive for the ‘Stress’ Category

The Answer Is Not Better Productivity and Efficiency

Does the thought of doing absolutely nothing for an entire afternoon seem as wasteful as throwing a week’s worth of groceries out with the garbage?

But there are bills to pay, you might say to yourself. I’ve got to get the laundry started. Oh, and return those screws that were the wrong size. While I’m out, I should stop by Costco and then drop off those boots that need new heels. And the garage is just sitting there, waiting to be cleared out…how can I just do nothing?

Free time with nothing to do can generate near panic if you’re chronically overloaded and time-starved.

“We seem to have a complex about busyness in our culture,” says Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul. “Most of us do have time in our days that we could devote to simple relaxation, but we convince ourselves that we don’t.”

And yet, the harder we push, the more we need to replenish ourselves. As Stephan Rechtschaffen, author of Timeshifting, says, “Each of us needs some time that is strictly and entirely our own, and we should experience it daily.”

The importance of this downtime cannot be overstated. We see more clearly, we hear more keenly, we’re more inspired, we discover what makes us feel alive.

On some level, we know this already. But claiming time to ourselves— time that is often labeled “unproductive”—and sticking to it can be difficult. We need to establish formal boundaries around our idle time to ensure that others—and we, ourselves—honor this time. Some ways to do this are:

  • Make a date with yourself. Get to know someone who deserves your attention—you.
  • Stand firm. Learn how to say “no” to co-workers, children, a spouse or a friend. In just a short while, you can say “yes”; now is your time.
  • Be clear about your needs. It’s not, “I need more time to myself.” It’s more like, “I’d like to spend 20 minutes by myself in the morning before everyone gets up.”
  • Be on the lookout for stolen moments. Use a canceled dental appointment to sit on a park bench watching pigeons.
  • Practice doing nothing. “Doing nothing” is an art, and like all art, you need to practice it to reach your highest potential.

How we define idle time varies by individual. For one person, gardening may be meditative downtime, whereas for another, it is one more item on the to-do list (to be done as quickly as possible). A walk through the woods is, for some, an opportunity to be in and with nature; for others, it’s a great place for a power walk while dictating letters into your phone.

Our idle time should be like a beautiful flower: it has no purpose– it’s just there–yet it refreshes us and reminds us of nature’s glory.

Do something that has no purpose other than joy. Take a half-hour a day to surprise and delight yourself. Keep it simple, and keep it consistent.

There’s a good chance you’ll find yourself happier, kinder, more inspired— and more successful with all that you do

Too much to do, too many places to be, too little time to do it all. It’s like our national anthem.

In all areas of our life—home, work, school—we are increasingly imprisoned by the perception that time is a scarce and limited resource. We rush from one commitment or activity to another and believe that we haven’t a minute to spare. We yearn for more time, yet we often feel anxious and guilty when idle.

Is this how life is supposed to be?
No! Nor does it have to be.
But until we change our relationship to time, our lives will continue to speed away from us—at enormous cost to our health and to direct experience of ourselves and the world around us.

“There is no issue, no aspect of human life, that exceeds this in importance,” says Jacob Needleman, author of Time and the Soul. “The destruction of time is literally the destruction of life.” Read the rest of this entry »

Just like doing maintenance on your car to keep it running well, it’s a good idea to do a personal check-in to keep yourself on track. Use your journal if you keep one, or just clip these questions, or copy them down for a regular check-in.

  1. Is there something I need to do that I haven’t done? If an action needs to be taken and you’re not taking it, ask yourself what’s in the way.
  2. Am I resisting something? Sometimes that which we resist most is that which can provide the greatest opportunity for growth.
  3. Am I holding onto something I need to let go of? Letting go can be hard, but it’s the only way to move forward.
  4. Am I repeating old patterns? Do the same problems or situations show up wearing different clothes? If so, it might be time to dig deep into the bottom of this closet.
  5. Is there something for me to learn here? Resistance, holding on, repeating harmful or unsatisfying patterns almost always hold a life lesson.
  6. Am I staying in the present? Time spent regretting the past and worrying about the future is time lost to the present.
  7. Am I asking for what I need and want? Do I act as my own advocate?
  8. Am I taking good care of myself? Check in with the physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual aspects of your life.
  9. Am I at peace with people, places and things in my life? Being at peace means being in balance.
  10. Am I having fun at least some of the time? Don’t forget to laugh

Do you work hard but feel like you’ve accomplished little or nothing at the end of the day?

Do the fruits of your labor leave you wanting more?

Do you find yourself wondering, “Is this is all there is to life?”

If so, chances are you’ve been living as if you’re on an endless treadmill.

Here are a few useful ways to further investigate:

  1. Do you often feel overwhelmed and find it difficult to take action? Perhaps you’re no longer interested in trying anything new. Maybe your actions throughout the day are on “autopilot.”
  2. Has it become more and more difficult to make decisions? Our modern world can be overwhelming, and choices seem to get more complex. Have you started to simply ignore your challenges, hoping they’ll go away?
  3. Has tiredness become a constant companion? Whether it’s due to lack of sleep or just having less get-up-and-go, this is about more than aging. There’s a growing feeling of depleted energy.

Read the rest of this entry »