I remember about 10 years ago I was talking with a co-worker of mine about our out-of-work activities planned for that weekend. I happened to mention to him that I love nights and weekends because they allow me time to finally relax and unwind a bit, focus on some of the simpler things in life, enjoying my time before life literally passes me by. The weekends were my time to relax.
His view was quite a bit different – in fact, work for him was the way to relax. His nights and weekends were so jam-packed with activities that, amazingly, it was the office that allowed him the time to focus only on a few tasks at hand rather than going, going, going literally all damn day long.
At the time I never thought much of it. Who am I to judge someone on how they spend their time? People can do whatever the hell they want to do.
In the 10 years since that conversation, I have learned that the way he spends his nights and weekends was not all that uncommon. Nay, he wasn’t the one in the minority…I was. In fact, his lifestyle appears to be so common that finding the time to just sit and relax, even for 30 minutes, seems to be a goal that too few manage to achieve.
Errands to run. People to meet. Yard work to do. Soccer practice. Picking up and dropping off the kids at school. And, of course, a full-time day job. Have you ever used the phrase, “There simply aren’t enough hours in the day”? If so, then you might be too busy.
Wait – isn’t staying busy a good thing? What about all those studies that claim staying busy during the day actually increases happiness? The last thing you want to be is bored, right?
What’s the problem with staying busy?
Our society has turned into a Go! Go! Go! world, and I am afraid that many of us are getting too caught up in activities, racing from one place to another, to truly enjoy our time on this earth. The problem is stress is far too often accompanying our [wanted or unwanted] desire to stay busy.
There is nothing inherently wrong with “being busy”. But, the heart and mind also need time to relax and process information from throughout the day. Think of this as a reboot for your brain, just like you might reboot your computer to make it run faster. Believe it or not, our minds work in much the same fashion.
Without a reboot, information simply gets piled up within our heads, clogging up our mind and literally consuming our every waking moments. When this happens, we tend to spend more time catching up with life than enjoying it.
Certainly, one does not have to be bored to enjoy a relaxing life. Having things to do in life that keep you productive and active is paramount to maintaining your self worth and keeping sane. The idea, though, is to couple those daily activities with carving out enough time for yourself.
Sunday afternoon solitude
This reminds me of what I did last Sunday afternoon on a warm, sunny 75 degree day in February (pictured on the left). Nothing. I just sat on my ass in one of our recently sanded and stained wooden outdoor chairs and relaxed. The dogs roamed around the yard from time to time, but that was really the only activity.
I sat there and enjoyed the peace and quiet. I think I may have even took a short nap, too. It was bliss…relaxing and tranquil.
The truth is you don’t have to be an 80-year-old to enjoy a chair and a nap on your back porch. Life will still be there when you’re ready to do stuff again, I promise.
But until you’re ready to re-approach the world, relax. Stop doing things every minute of the day and instead fill your time with the best medicine that money doesn’t actually have to buy: rest and relaxation.
Easier said that done, you might say. Sure, there are some days where you’ll need to be on the run, but surely at least a couple days a week, we all can carve out at least a little time just for us – to sit and relax, in the quiet, and think about nothing in particular.
Rest and relaxation doesn’t need to be a retirement thing.
That’s right, we all have the power to spend a little more time for ourselves before we call it quits at work and live the rest of our lives in jobless bliss.
How I maintain my sanity
Keeping yourself from getting too busy is not easy. It takes a little practice to get right, finding the appropriate balance between getting things done and maximizing time for yourself to reflect on life and enjoy some peace and quiet. Here are a few techniques that I use to make sure I don’t get overly busy.
I make a single errand trip during the day, max. This means that I plan ahead as much as I can and get all my errands done during the same trip. I don’t leave the house more than once unless it is an emergency. If I forget something at the grocery store, then it can probably wait until my trip the next day. After my errands, I’m home.
At night, my phone goes on silent. After a certain hour at night (around 8:30pm), I turn my phone’s ringer off and my wife and I spend the night without listening to email or text message notifications. We’re done for the day, and digital communications can wait. If people want to get a hold of me, they do so before 8:30. Otherwise, they wait until the following day.
I prioritize my gym sessions. Though I’m lifting heavy weight, fitness is a way for me to relax and unwind. I thoroughly enjoy that zen-like feeling I get when I step into the gym, and it allows me to throw on some music and just focus. The gym makes me happy and healthy. Most importantly, I prioritize my gym sessions. I plan my day around them. Other things can wait until I’m done working out. This even includes my job.
I have learned to say no. Sometimes, “no” is the best answer, especially if it’s to a question that might wind up over-extending your social commitments, making you busier than you already are. This is often the toughest part of finding more time for yourself, but often, saying no can be one of the best ways to secure some time to relax.
I focus on ME first. Though it seems selfish to admit, I make sure that I take care of myself first and foremost in life, because if my life or health suffers, I won’t be able to do my part in this world as a person and a husband. More or less, I secure my oxygen mask first before I help the person next to me, just as any airline’s safety instructions state.
What are some of the things that you do to relax?
Steve is a 38-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence. Steve is a regular contributor to MarketWatch, CNBC, and The Ladders. He lives full-time in his 30′ Airstream Classic and travels the country with his wife Courtney and two rescued dogs.