The Value of Doing Nothing this Summer

It’s the time of year where days are long, kids are out of school, and it feels great being outdoors in the sunshine.

It’s also the time of year where it’s easy to feel emotionally and physically drained with all the activities: BBQ’s, vacations, sport camps and swim parties.

Sometimes it feels like there’s not enough time to get everything done. When work and kids and relationships and school and sports and family are all so busy that it doesn’t feel like there’s time in the day to fit everything in, let alone time for you or your wishes.

I get nostalgic thinking about how slow and relaxing summer felt when I was a kid. It felt like time was endless. I would spend hours doing nothing, lying by the pool, reading, watching movies, or just sitting with friends at a park in the shade.

Summers don’t feel that way to me anymore.  And honestly I wish they did.

Yesterday was the official start of summer and this year I’m going to take a different approach.

I’m going to pick and choose where I spend my energy.

Instead of scheduling every spare minute, I’m going to prioritize my time.

I’m going to invest in and place a value in down time.  Time where I can lie by the pool, read a book for hours on end, or sit with friends at a park in the shade.

I’m going to say no to extra commitments that I’m not 100% passionate about.

Some of my hang-up around taking time for doing nothing is it feels like a waste of time. I know I’m not alone in this. In my work with many amazing (and slightly over committed individuals) when your “to-do” list is a mile long and it’s hard to justify spending two hours doing nothing.

For me, this summer will be different.

I will value down time.  I will value doing nothing. I will value long leisurely naps in the sunshine or sitting with friends talking for hours on end, without pressure to ‘do’ something.

What about you?

Are you willing to watch another summer fly by without having a moment to relax, unwind, calm down and enjoy?

What can you (and what will you) prioritize today so you feel more balance with your time?

As an adult there are some things that won’t go away, like the responsibilities that keep your life and family running. What can change is your mindset; the over commitment and devaluing the importance of doing nothing can disappear.

Here’s to a relaxing summer!

Adriana

(One way I'm shifting my time is by taking the next few weeks off from blogging. I'll see you all in August!)

 

Adriana Joyner, LMFT, is a Sacramento Area therapist specializing in counseling for people healing from painful life experiences and traumas, support for individuals exploring their gender identity and expression, and the LGBTQIA community. Her office is located in Gold River, CA located off Highway 50 at Sunrise Blvd.  For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call (916) 547-3997 or email adriana@adrianajoynertherapy.com.

How to Give Your Brain a Vacation

Does your brain need a break? A day off?

If you’ve ever felt like your brain is working overtime, it’s probably because it was!

Every day, hour, and even second, our brains process massive amounts of information.

In any given moment we are bombarded with sensory information: sights, sounds, smells. Even tastes and textures. We assess temperature and moods and environmental activity. We interpret non-verbal cues.

We assimilate on both a conscious and unconscious basis. We create meaning and understanding.

We interpret behaviors of others and make instant decisions about what we should do. If someone is rushing toward us we make rapid decisions to identify it’s a threat or a friend that hasn’t seen us in months. We assess safety and act accordingly.

We multitask at work and in our free time.

Does this sound familiar? You get home from work and plop on the couch, turn the television on, read news stories or look on Facebook on your tablet, snack on something delicious, and chat casually with your honey.  Your night flies by and you head to bed, just as exhausted as when you got home, even after five hours of ‘down-time’.

While your body may have been quiet, your mind wasn’t. Our brains get overworked taking in and processing all this stimulation, working non-stop from the moment we wake to the moment we fall asleep.

The result is we are fatigued, checked out and aren't able to fully participate in our life.

It’s challenging to schedule a vacation for your brain! How exactly do you turn off your brain if you’re accustomed to a go-go-go existence?

Slowing down and unplugging our minds from the stimulation is one way to give it a break. Check out a few ways you can implement this.

One thing at a time. This is where I give you permission to NOT multitask!

The times where multi-tasking are necessary are very few. In actuality, when we try to manage three things at the same time, we aren’t being more efficient, we are distracted and not giving our tasks our all. Often this results in us not really being aware of what we did or having little investment in the outcome.  Mark Morford sums it up best in his article “Hurry Up, Get More Done, and Die”.  This is worth the read!

Put down your phone. Connecting with others during a conversation has almost gone by the wayside. When I watch others in public, most have their devices out and frequently check emails, Facebook or texts instead of interacting with the person they are with. 

Commit to putting your phone on silent when you are with a friend, have dinner at a restaurant where you don’t check your phone once, create a basket in your home where everyone places their phones during family game/movie night. There are some powerful things that happen when you disconnect from electronics. For more ideas about ways to unplug check out this post.

Turn off the TV.  It’s a habit most Americans have, walk in the door and turn on the television. Rarely are you sitting down and only watching a television show or movie. Most of the time the television is background noise, just static behind multi-tasking.

For one day, try to turn off the television when is it is not your focused activity. That means that if you’re on your computer, talking on the phone, doing something else around the house, playing a game on your phone… turn off the TV.  See how your attention shifts and if it changes your connection with what activity you were engaged in. Then turn the TV back on when you want to make watching a show your prime focus.

Breathe. Spend a minute or two breathing and only breathing.

Most likely this will be a challenge. Your mind will push you to jump back to your lengthy list of must-do’s. When this happens, know that it’s OK and don’t worry about what ‘should’ be happening as you breathe.

The RAIN process can be helpful with helping you let your mind unwind.  RAIN stands for: Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Non-Identification (or non-judgment). As you’re sitting there breathing, recognize the thoughts and feelings that are popping into your head. Allow whatever happens to happen. If you feel anxious with all the tasks you need to complete today, pay attention to how that anxiety feels in your body and let it be there and return to your breathing. If your mind starts running away with thoughts, recognize what your thoughts are, investigate what is prompting the thought, allow it space in your mind, and return to your breath.

I believe the non-judgment step is the most important part of this process. It’s easy to get hung up and judge yourself for having a busy, active mind. Criticizing yourself for having a restless mind isn’t doing you any good, it’s not helpful at all, so catch yourself when you’re judging yourself and let it go.

For a more detailed explanation of the RAIN process check out this article here, or follow along with this 10 minute meditation by Tara Brach.

With the over stimulation that our brains experience daily it can initially feel uncomfortable to start to cut out the white noise. When you decrease the outside sensory information your thoughts may seem busier, or louder, when there is nothing else to distract you from them.  That’s OK!  It takes practice to slow down the thoughts we have.  Remember non-judgment is your friend.

I’d love to hear where you are in your journey toward quieting your mind. Have you tried any of these techniques and want to share what has worked?  Send me a message here.  If you have any questions or are ready to dig in deeper to a mindfulness practice you can schedule your free telephone consultation here where we can discuss how I might be able to help.  I look forward to connecting with you.

Adriana

 

Adriana Joyner, LMFT, is a Sacramento Area therapist specializing in counseling for people healing from painful life experiences and traumas, support for individuals exploring their gender identity and expression, and the LGBTQIA community. Her office is located in Gold River, CA located off Highway 50 at Sunrise Blvd.  For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call (916) 547-3997 or email adriana@adrianajoynertherapy.com.

Unplugging from the World

I had the most amazing opportunity this weekend to participate in my son's school field trip to Westminster Woods in Occidental, CA. Three days in a peaceful redwood forest, a challenging high ropes course, vibrant youth ... and no cell phone reception. 

Being disconnected from the outside world was a challenge for me. What I observed is that when I settled to the fact I couldn't check my emails/phone calls, I was able to be more present and attuned to what was around me. I was able to notice the breeze in the tree tops, the joyful laughter of adolescents, observe the amazing process of children overcoming their fears and riding a zip line. I was able to slowly release my anxiety about staying available and just be in the moment.

I'd like to challenge each of you to unplug. This will look different for each person. Some ways you could unplug could be:

  • Leave your phone in another room during a meal with family

  • Skip surfing the internet all weekend

  • Take a texting hiatus for an hour or a day

  • Stay off those game apps for a day

  • Leave your emails unopened until Monday morning

  • Turn off your phone/tablet/computer for the whole weekend (you up for a challenge?!?)

 

While you're unplugged try these things:

  • Take in the world around you by going for a walk or hike

  • Connect with your family, friends, pets

  • Try something new

  • Feel the sunshine on your skin

  • Listen to your favorite music and dance

  • Sit outside and listen to the sounds around you

Share your experiences with me! I'd love to hear what you tried and what worked.