“Sometimes our stop-doing list needs to be bigger than our to-do list.”- Patti Digh
Does anyone else feel like they can get caught up in the go, go, go/do, do, do of everyday life? Then all of a sudden you realize you’re overwhelmed, burnt out, exhausted, and perhaps even decreasing in joy and physical health? Summer can be a great time for slowing down, for finding rest, and relaxation. The weather is nicer, there's holidays to take time off and celebrate, and it feels like a reprieve from the Fall-Spring months of work, school, and other obligations.
Here’s a perception shift: your job this summer, or even just this month, is to rest.
What I've come to realize is that slowing down is easier said than done. Sometimes, when we do get to slow down, it can feel unenjoyable because even though our “to-do’s” and bodies have slowed down, our minds can remain active. In this culture where productivity is not only expected, but at times can provide us with our sense of self-worth, we may have judgments about slowing down or saying no. Maybe we feel irresponsible for not doing enough, or feel if we have the time, we might as well fill it with something productive.
Here’s a perception shift: your job this summer, or even just this month, is to rest. Let’s begin to look at slowing down and resting as an essential aspect of our wellbeing, which in turn, will only help us improve our productivity in all of our jobs. Without rest, we become overburdened, exhausted, and less able to connect fully and openly with life - with our loved ones, with what we love, and with ourselves.
To tie this into the therapy room - once we learn what our (or our child's) challenges are, the usual next question from clients is: so what do we do? I promise, at some point in our process, we will get to what we can do. But the essential first step in fully engaging in the therapy process is to simply become aware of and accept what is happening, without the need to do, fix, or change any thing about it. Our brains will look for what to do because the challenge is so uncomfortable that we want it to go away. If we move too quickly into solution mode, we may miss the underlying challenges that are key to making complete and lasting change.
When we get better at being - we decrease self-judgement, burnout, and stress.
So, my answer to what do we do is often that right now, our job is to be - to become aware and accept the moment and the challenge or discomfort as it is. Something this last year has taught us is that life is unpredictable. It is short and there’s much more to life than what we do. When we get better at being - we decrease self-judgement, burnout, and stress. So anytime in the coming days-weeks-months-year that you notice a judgement or guilt or resistance in taking time to rest or slow down, remember that it is your job to just be. You will be a more present and happy Mom, Dad, partner, sibling, coworker, boss, etc. when you are able to balance the do, do, do, with the be, enjoy, rest.
Jamie Quail, MA, LPCC is a Child & Family Therapist and Owner of Wise Nest Counseling, LLC offering play therapy and parent coaching sessions in Boulder, CO.