I’ve been thinking about fatigue a lot lately. Fatigue & the lost art of leisure time & doing nothing.
Heck, how I have been looking back wistfully and longingly on the days when I didn’t have to check my work e-mail when I wasn’t actually at work. When my day ended when I stepped out the door. When I could completely be unplugged and turn off as soon as I walked in my door. When the only messages I had to check when I got home were those on my –ok, I’m dating myself here–ANSWERING MACHINE.
Ok, so maybe if you are someone who doesn’t really remember the days of analog & thinks Stranger Things on Netflix is just a quirky backdrop for an aging Winona Ryder & retro sets for an oddball fantasy–(and that high waisted jeans are actually something you want to invite back into your wardrobe), you might be thinking I’m just a little *too* analog for these digital days if I am looking so fondly back to the 80’s that much.
(I remember reading an article–yes it was probably on Facebook, a most decidedly digital activity, about a young millenial couple that decided to live like it was 1986 for a year. No computers. No cell phones. Answering machines. Old School. It sucked and they hated it. I’m not saying we should go back there, m’kay?)
But really, how I look back with such fondness on all the time I had to Do Nothing.
Do you even remember what it’s like to do nothing?? Have you ever had the good fortune to do nothing?? Felt so bored–the kind of boredom where you can’t turn on a device or instant distraction and channel your boredom into doing the digital equivalent of nothing–that you thought you might pass out from lack of stimulation??
The nothing I’m talking about is really kind of not nothing, exactly. It’s more having space to add something in. There’s lots of ways to accomplish nothing–what I’m talking about is the luxury & leisure of unstructured free time. Literally the space to allow yourself to be as unproductive as possible.
No classes, no gym visits, no frantic messaging on the run, no running around, no continuing ed….just nothing.
It seems to me that everyone these days has been somehow indoctrinated into what I call the Cult of Productivity. And it’s not like we were all sat down one day and asked if we were going to drink the crazy making kool-aid or not….it’s like it somehow snuck in to the drinking supply drop by drop…by drop.
While I was driving around the city a few weeks ago, running errands before we went away on vacation (aka a scheduled change in geography to facilitate doing nothing) I heard two related (and separate) interviews on CBC related to these thoughts I’ve been having about overwork, overwhelm, burnout & fatigue (I tried to find them & reference them but they were re-plays so I’ll do my best with paraphrasing).
One interview discussed the way expectations around work have evolved and one of the examples was how in many workplaces, people are expected to work now outside of work–and that is the new norm. Not like working overtime, even. Not even paid regular hours with no overtime pay. They called it “Donated Time” and suggested that in many workplaces doing “Donated Time” was becoming the new normal.
Like, what? Isn’t donated time what we used to call volunteering? Well, it kind of is, only now you are expected to volunteer….for working outside of your scheduled paid hours. For your job. Does that sound like a recipe for a healthy work/life balance to you?
The other interview discussed vacation time–and how we so often feel as though we can’t unplug when on vacation simply because our work piles up so much while we are away that taking one is almost counter-productive. That they are finding that all the supposed positive effects of taking a vacation had pretty much all but disappeared within 2 weeks of returning, simply because of the mountain of work and possibly extra hours that were required to catch up. It pretty much reinforced our North American belief system–because we have all been indoctrinated into the Cult of Productivity–that we have just got no time to take time off.
So having just come back from vacation where I literally had to force myself to slow down & get in the groove of embracing unstructured free time (and shaking the feeling that I should be doing something with all this free time to do something Productive–so I did-I devoured 7 novels just for pleasure!!), I had a lot of time to think about how little of it we have anymore (and how good it felt to do it).
I think about overwork & fatigue a lot not because it’s an inherently a compelling topic–but because I suffered from it a long time–it was my wake-up call that something in my life wasn’t working. I’m not anti-overwork because I think it’s a crazy behaviour that I see others doing that I don’t understand & am judging harshly–I’m a reforming work-a-holic & I understand oh-so-well the drive to work and achieve & it’s effects on the body when that becomes imbalanced. It’s what *literally* pushed me back into Herbalism. It’s the number one reason I work one-on-one with many of my clients. It’s not only about fatigue. It’s about the I-can’t-drag-my-body -through-the basics- life kind of exhaustion. It’s about not understanding why your body starts doing crazy things & you can’t keep up the same relentless pace anymore–maybe not even half of what you use to accomplish– & you think that something must be wrong.
Well, something IS wrong, friends, but it’s not necessarily with you.
This is just part 1 of a few different blog posts related to why we might be feeling fatigue, low energy, get crazy food cravings, starting to gain weight for no reason, why our hormones may get out of whack–and how stress & our attachment to being productive relates to the amount of energy we have available in the body, & how it can set us up for issues with our thyroid. I’m going to explore overwork/over-scheduling, stress (emotional & physical), perfectionism, boundaries, and diet.
In my usual fashion, I will write them when the mood strikes & I have time. 😉 You can now subscribe to my intermittent blog posts by clicking on the left of the page on the menu bar to keep up with my random blog writing schedule.
In the meantime, if you really feel as though you have no time to take time for yourself, I want you to start thinking about how to find some. Yes, you have to get your kids to school & to hockey practice & make lunches & do laundry & All The Things. But I invite you to try to take a small break to unplug once a day, and it doesn’t have to involve doing something Productive. Even if it’s sitting on the toilet because it’s the only time you feel you have for yourself. Don’t pull out your phone. Take 4 deep breaths in and out. And then do it again.
(Oh, and getting horizontal. I’m a BIG proponent of getting horizontal & deep breathing at least once a day that doesn’t involve bedtime. Try it. Protect one little pocket of time for yourself per day.)
We may not have the luxury of doing nothing everyday, but if we don’t carve out time for ourselves in this crazy making pace of life, no one else will.
Green Blessings (and feeling awfully relaxed from mucho restorative beach, book & hammock time)
your YEG Community Herbalist
Cayos Cochinos, Honduras