It’s the post-holiday come down and many of us are feeling worn out from parties, planning, and a plethora of other events. Not only does this leave us feeling the burnout bug, but our brains don’t benefit from the constant go, go, go, either. In fact, our always-going-always-on culture is one of the reasons so many of us are facing issues with stress, anxiety, depression, and more. See why downtime is so important.
Your nervous system in stress mode
You may not have realized that downtime is important for your overall well-being, but having some time to do absolutely nothing at all is part of living a balanced life. When you are at work or engaged in a task, your sympathetic nervous system is activated. This isn’t a bad thing. It helps you to focus, achieve your goals, and do all the things you want in life.
However, if we don’t shut off that sympathetic nervous system sometimes in favor of the calming parasympathetic nervous system, we are living in a state of constant stress. That is NOT desirable for a balanced, healthy life.
So, what are the benefits of engaging in more downtime on a regular basis? You may be surprised to find that it isn’t all about finishing that Netflix series you love.
Your mood will improve
Let’s face it: When we feel exhausted, we want to bite everyone’s head off. If we have been going on overdrive for too long, our nervous system will simply have a more difficult time finding its calm center. Being overscheduled, overworked, and under-rested makes for a cranky pants that no one will want to hang with.
But incorporating some downtime into your schedule will have amazing results for your mood. Taking time for yourself to rest and refresh without worrying about work, parenting, bills, etc., is a great way to come back to your parasympathetic nervous system. If you find yourself having trouble calming down, even during your “me time,” include some gentle movement like yoga, a nice warm bath, or a calming cup of tea into your routine.
Your productivity will increase
It may sound counterproductive to rest so that you can get more done, but it works! Our brains function at a better level when we have had appropriate rest and relaxation. Think of the last time you were up all night and how groggy and unproductive you felt the next day. Resting your brain with some unstructured downtime will give you the boost you need to get through those tricky work projects.
You will feel more creative
Creativity needs space to thrive. If our brains are constantly on, there is no time for creative contemplation. If you start making time for yourself, you may find the bonus of an increase in your own creativity. Heck, you may even get your next great idea while you are sitting in a bubble bath or taking a relaxing walk in the woods!
Your health will improve
Back to that constant stress. When your nervous system is stuck in the sympathetic state, you are also swimming in stress chemicals. Although small doses of these are evolutionarily necessary, bathing in them all day every day leads to a whole host of chronic and acute conditions. Stress has been linked to an increase in heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, digestive dysfunction, tension headaches, depression, sleep problems, and more.
Downtime leads to happiness
We already spoke to how downtime can affect your mood daily, but your overall happiness will also increase. What is great about that is the happier and more balanced you feel, the more you can enjoy the life unfolding right before your eyes. And that is what rest is about sometimes—simple enjoyment. You don’t need to make downtime into another way to be productive. Instead, allow yourself to enjoy the simple pleasures that bring you happiness and fulfillment.
Incorporating some downtime into your life will have drastic results, and some that you may not have foreseen. So, next time your body is aching for a nap or a bubble bath, give in. Listen to your nervous system; when things feel overwhelming, give yourself plenty of downtime.