What to Do in Your Downtime That Will Restore Balance

What is draining you?

The first thing to establish is why your balance is feeling depleted. In some way, you are likely pouring too much energy into things which do not fulfil you, such as work or your relationships. This is not, of course, to say that these things are not enjoyable; but if they take more from us than they give back, we can begin to feel down and emotionally drained.

So firstly we must identify: what are you balancing against? There could well be several things which are taking energy from you in different areas, and it is unlikely you will easily be able to do restorative activities and hobbies to match each of these.

Restoring balance sounds like it should involve an equal sense of calm and stress. This would be lovely, but probably isn’t realistic for many of us. If you are working eight hours a day, it is unlikely you will have eight hours to then spend engaging in acts of self-care. However, by implementing these acts into our everyday lives, and by using our downtime mindfully, we can recharge our chill.

Why you need downtime in your routine

Successful people have downtime routines! The savviest celebrity, the most prosperous entrepreneurs, CEOs of companies which span the globe — they all ensure they are getting enough downtime, and are using it wisely.

Although, obviously, downtime is useful for recovering from stress, and equips us for the tasks we have yet to complete, our right to downtime does not hinge on our productivity. Maximising taking time for yourself, even if you haven’t finished (or started!) the laundry, or that powerpoint, is a productive thing to do. Feeling guilty about time not spent engaged in “doing stuff” is unhealthy and unnatural; we need to unwind and process what we have recently experienced, and prepare for what is about to happen next. So: whilst your downtime activity could be someone’s idea of productivity, it should be something that you do purely for the purpose of reinvigoration and mental rest.

Digital downtime

A lot of the time we spend “relaxing” is actually draining us. Guess what hours spent watching TV, scrolling social media, cooking dinner and gossiping during happy hour all have in common? That’s right, they are not downtime. Whilst we may find these activities fun, or distracting, they do not actually help us to unwind or allow our brains to process the information it has received throughout the day. Downtime is not simply acts which are enjoyable, and should certainly not be highly stimulative. Rather, they are purely for the purpose of restoring our happiness and mental strength.

So time spent staring at screens is not, in fact, downtime. This means that you actually need downtime… from screens. Whilst I acknowledge that yes, a lot of the content on television and social media is informative, much of it is a filler and needs to be filtered out of the brain by one means or another.

Meditation is a good way to digitally wind down after spending a long time facing our screens. This is because a lot of the information our brains receive is unnecessary or irrelevant, and if we do not take time away from ingesting information, we simply aren’t giving ourselves the time to filter through what is useful and what is not.

Productive downtime

Invest in your downtime! That hobby you always felt would really relax you and tap into your inner peace? Get it organised! Online shopping is everyone’s new best friend. And, with the wondrous world of YouTube tutorials at our fingertips, we could all fully master a new skill set by Christmas! Maybe.

It’s likely most of us felt similarly when the last lockdown began — and that is fine! Pick up the things you did once and abandoned — or start new ones! The point is simply for your subconscious to have pleasant and productive things to ruminate on. Start with short sessions, 10–20 minutes if you like, and carve out time for yourself in which you can simply learn something new. The feeling of creating new muscle memories is unbeatable. It’s certainly preferable to work up the energy to complete another daily task for half an hour by mostly facing the other way and staring at our Twitter feeds. Make sure you’re gaining some kind of mental stimulation from parts of your downtime. After all, when we subtract screens from our lives, we can often feel a bit… Muted.

I would also suggest, perhaps once accustomed to the new routine, that prepping for downtime is also quite a good idea. It might sound slightly bizarre, but tacking on an extra ten minutes to tidy up your space or sort through emails will give you both the motivation to do the tasks you have been procrastinating, and a lovely clear inbox to look forward to when downtime is over.

As documentaries and podcasts abound — the age of productive procrastination — it would be very tempting to educate ourselves rather than move our bodies. However, using downtime to do exercise can help us release stress, whilst maintaining discipline and routine, which may be very comforting as the weather becomes ever-more unpredictable. Exercise as a means of downtime is a common habit of most successful and incredibly busy people, and they can’t all be wrong!

If you are not the exercise type, or you already have your preferred routine established, and you can only do so much Insta-worthy crocheting, you may want to simply potter:

Semi-productive activities, such as journaling, organising your calendar, unsubscribing from email lists, colour coordinating the spice cupboard, gardening and doing a full home pedicure are all relaxing examples of gentle productivity. Remember, as long as you are enjoying yourself without too much exertion, your downtime is yours to spend investing into your own well-being.

Nap!

Even if you aren’t one of the rare and magical people who can simply lie down and nap, taking half an hour (or more, much more, no judgement) in deliberate stillness can work absolute wonders. And make it a proper event too. Set an alarm for when you need to get up, put on comfortable clean pyjamas, get into bed with a sleep mask or the curtains drawn and just… Float away.

Don’t feel bad

The most important thing to remember is that there are genuine, proven benefits to taking downtime. It can make us more productive, it can help us restore focus and energy, and there are even studies which show it is essential for the development of our identities. We need to spend time doing “nothing much” — there is no guilt for investing time and effort in feeling good within yourself.

Written by Lucia Victor

WellBe is spearheading the way to a brighter future for corporate wellness. Our innovative portal is scientifically designed and tailored to each individual employee to improve their wellbeing. We specialise in a range of services from coaching and therapists, to meditation and reading materials. Our aim is to reduce workplace stress that costs UK businesses £42 billion per year. Get in touch with us by visiting our site wellbe.global for more information.

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