Author Christine Hohlbaum shares five easy ways to kick it down a notch
If your weekend schedule resembles the timetable at Grand Central Station, you’re not alone. According to the American Time Use Survey, people engage in a lot of leisurely activities on Saturdays and Sundays. People sleep, for instance, almost a full hour more on weekends and holidays. The weekend is the time to fill your tank for the week. Slow Saturdays and Sundays mean we turn from clock combat to a slower, softer pace of life. In fact, according to a report in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, our heightened well-being during leisure time is called the “weekend effect.”
If you’ve ever battled against time, you know how stressful it can be. We automatically hop on the hamster wheel, racing against the clock in the hopes that we can “cram it all in,” whatever “it” is. Disengaging from clock combat on the weekends is extremely liberating. We move from stress to rest when we allow ourselves the freedom to choose, at any given moment, what we’d like to do.
Chances are you’re not the best communicator when you feel time-crunched. When you are relaxed, you literally breathe easier. You can let your thoughts dance and you tend to be more open to other people. We listen better when we are relaxed, too. And in another article, researchers point to the benefits of healthy leisure pursuits, especially in children, that lead to heightened self-esteem. Think about it. If you engage in self-care activities, your self-esteem is automatically boosted when you spend time on things you love.
How do we make the best use our downtime? Here are a few tips:
1. Create an altar of relaxation. Whether it’s where you keep your favorite book, your hammock (my personal favorite) or your bath salts, indulge in a free time activity that nourishes your soul. Even if it’s taking a bath in the middle of the afternoon! While it is tempting to finally get that housework done when the kids aren’t underfoot, make sure you give those feet a pedicure first! That requires sitting still for at least twenty minutes, a true exercise in the power of slow and the delight bringing it down a notch (or three) can provide!
2. Get your inbox down to zero by the end of the week, if at all possible. Don’t treat it as your list of to-dos. Instead, create action items in your task manager so you won’t forget and file important emails in their appropriate folder. Treat your inbox like your mailbox. You wouldn’t leave bills or other action items in your mail box. Neither should you do so in your inbox.
3. Create a ritual to end your weekend on a good note. Whether it’s watching a movie, going to your favorite exercise class or having Sunday dinner with friends, celebrate your leisure time by doing something, well, leisurely! Scheduling down time not only helps you relax, it makes certain that you have adequate time to do so. Families that play together stay together. So when you have enough ‘hang time’ with your family, those spontaneous and memorable moments have more time to unfold, such as a spontaneous game of cards or watching old family videos from your own childhood with your kids or grandkids.
4. Remember life beyond the digital. It seems unheard of to enjoy ‘gadget-free’ time anymore. We’ve become so reliant on our gadgets that life without them seems unimaginable, but unplugging regularly can actually help us recharge our batteries faster. Gadgets tend to place us in a space of reaction versus action. Going off the grid every now and then puts you back in the driver’s seat of your own life.
5. Most important of all: If you need time alone, then take it! We don’t get angry with our car when its tank is empty. Neither should we beat ourselves up for wanting some time to refill our tanks, too. If the feeling of guilt arises, acknowledge it. Oftentimes it’s simply our insecurity masking itself as guilt, as if we think we don’t deserve time to nurture ourselves. Self-care is an essential part of the overall picture. As women we need to remember that nurturing the nurturer is not only life-affirming; it’s life-saving as well!
Editor’s Note: Christine Louise Hohlbaum, author of The Power of Slow: 101 Ways to Save Time in Our 24/7 World , offers quick tips for slower living at http://bit.ly/slownews.