How much time do you devote to activities purely for the pleasure and renewal they provide?
Depending on your idea of play and fun, rejuvenating activities can be reading a gripping novel, getting a pedicure, gardening, dancing, painting, a volunteer project, making love, doing yoga, going for a run, playing basketball, playing cards, playing the guitar or piano or violin, hiking in the woods, visiting a museum, attending a play or concert, calling and chatting with a loved one, tackling Sudoku, learning another language, a quiet bubble bath or hot-tub soak, and the list could go on and on.
A moment of truth. Did you say to yourself, as you read through the list, “I don’t have time for that!”?
The truth is this: You don’t have time NOT to schedule play and fun, pleasure and renewal for yourself.
Without time for play and renewal, life becomes a never-ending grind of hard work, and eventually, the feelings of burnout, overwhelm, and stress take over.
I notice this tendency in myself and in my clients who come to coaching feeling “stuck”; their sense of aliveness is diminished and their zest is gone. When I ask what they do for fun, I get the dismissive shrug and the classic phrase, “I don’t have time for fun (or self-care, or play).”
Play is Key to Living a Thriving Life.
As a runner, I like how authors Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, of The Power of Full Engagement, liken the emotional and mental energy we spend every day, at work and at home, to the energy athletes expend when they compete. Athletes who fail to adequately rest and recover will find themselves in a cycle of poor performance and injuries. Unlike athletes, we don’t tend to take our fatigue or need for recovery seriously.
Loehr and Schwartz point out, that in order for us to perform at our best, the emotional muscles we readily need access to at work and in our home lives are pleasant and positive emotions, the ones activated when we are living from enjoyment, challenge, adventure, and opportunity. These emotional muscles, best serving performance, depend on us being able to create a balance between exercising them regularly and properly allowing them the opportunity to rest and recover.
Instead, when we notice our creativity, engagement, excitement around a project begin to diminish, we generally think it is time to push harder, work longer, and muscle through to the finish. In this way we drive ourselves to exhaustion. This is the perfect recipe for frustration, anger, overwhelm, and other negative emotions which rapidly draw down our energy – depleting our energy reserves. This is the danger of not making time for activities which renew us at a soul-level.
To make play and fun, and rest and renewal, a priority in our lives is a choice – our choice. Often, I think, we somehow secretly hope someone else is going to come along and tell us we deserve a break and urge us to “take it easy”.
Choosing playful renewal is a choice to be on our own side – to believe we deserve the opportunity to engage in quality time designed to enliven us and bring back our joy.
According to productivity pro, Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, successful women (and men) who have fulfilling personal lives, have discovered the secret to balancing and managing their energy by consciously scheduling leisure time. You have to say, “This is my time” and deal with what everyone else wants from you around that. It is the ultimate in permission-giving for personal playtime.
Five Ways to Get Your ZEST Back:
Make it a Priority.
Schedule fun, playful activities in your calendar; take that 20-minute lunch-time walk no matter what. Yes, it is about consciously scheduling leisure time. Vanderkam suggests making a rough plan to fit in three fun things you’d like to do in a weekend, that way, your time off will be rejuvenating instead of just a bunch of chores.
I personally love her strategy for stopping work at a decent hour, by asking yourself at 4:00 p.m. : If an evil villain is going to steal my laptop and phone in an hour and keep them until morning, what would I still need to do?
Do Something RESTORATIVE everyday.
Create a gentle, nurturing morning routine – perhaps you focus on a 10-minute gratitude practice, or a walk, or journal-writing. Do something that connects you with your values and sense of purpose. Create a calming evening routine which allows you to review: What Went Well during your day …The moments of learning …A list of what needs to happen tomorrow … all so you can sleep easily and peacefully.
Define YOUR Sense of FUN
Only you know what feels relaxing and playful for you; make a list – and keep it handy – of things you like to do; although it sounds so obvious, I’ve noticed when I am in a funk, I “forget” or “can’t remember” what sounds like fun. Sometimes it can be as easy as cranking up the volume on a favorite tune and just dancing. Lately, I’ve liked having pastels (grown-up crayons, essentially) and a pad of paper handy for a 20-minute doodling session, instead of something more time consuming, like breaking out the paints.
Choose Quality Activities.
Choose absorbing, enriching, enlivening forms of fun which require you to be fully present. While watching TV can feel relaxing, and at a level it is, according to researchers, prolonged television watching is actually correlated with increased anxiety and low-level depression. While social media, like Facebook, can certainly be a source of fun, they can also have you overly invested in the lives of others instead of being thrilled and loving your own.
Check Your Perspective.
What perspective are you holding about play and renewal? Perhaps, like a number of my clients, you feel guilty for scheduling “me-time”? Perhaps you’ve decided exercise is a chore, not a means of renewal? It turns out if you view a workout as something like personal time versus exercise you’ll enjoy it more and be less likely to feel like you need to “reward” yourself with a treat afterwards. Do you feel deserving of light-hearted fun or have you unconsciously decided life is hard and fun only comes after “hard work” and the work is never done?
So, go ahead and give yourself the permission to play. (Like my girlfriends who just texted me – they are taking a WEDNESDAY off from work to go shopping!) Lose yourself in an activity you find particularly delicious and rejuvenating – it is time to let your emotional muscles positively recover and restore themselves. You deserve it and your best performance depends on it; it is the key to living your thriving life at home and at work.