We all worry that it's not ok, but we all want to do it.
Our society loves to use the word lazy. We love to point out when other people are not pulling their weight or when they’re not accomplishing as much as the rest of us. Even if we don’t say it, we’re thinking it. We feel good about being busy. We feel good about being that family that’s always got something going on. It increases our sense of value and importance. It validates our need to be useful and a contributing part of society. To be busy and do not have enough time for yourself is like a badge we earn and can flaunt in public. But this drive to keep up with the Jones’s and prove that we are useful has been eating away at our self-care and mental health for decades. And it shows.
So, if we judge ‘taking it easy’ but we know it’s crucial to our health, then when is it ok to take a day to do nothing? Here are a few arguably great reasons to take a day to lay in bed…
Illness.Even if you’re one of those people who can cook, clean, take the kids to school and go to work while you’re sick, it doesn’t mean you should. Spending the day in bed when you have strep throat is ok, dude. I mean, please do. Because if you’re out in the world then you’re breathing your germs out into the collective air we all breathe. Go home.
You’re the creative type.Maybe you’re like me; you have a job that involves crunching numbers or keeping organized and being nice to people. But you also have this quiet, unorganized creative side. You like to write, or paint, or DIY jewelry. It’s your jam. But you don’t make money doing it, so you don’t make time to do it. For me, I find that spending a day in bed with my computer, a cup of coffee and some good food is incredible for my creativity. Some of my best articles are written while I’m in my pajamas, in my little house cave, ignoring the rest of the world. I literally produce 50% of my work during these two or three days sprinkled throughout the year, and the other 50% during the other 362 days.
Balance.I once had a friend who was an amazing acupuncturist. She had a very busy practice, in a beautiful high-end office. She even did house and hospital visits for people who were not able to leave their beds. She had a BUSY practice and spent 70% of her time putting herself aside to help others. One of my favorite all-time quotes was something she said during a conversation we had one day. When I asked how her weekend went, she said it was amazing. “I watched Rambo, Die Hard, and the first Predator movie.” I replied, “Really?! I mean, you’re a healer. You like that kind of stuff??” “Yeah!” she said, with a sheepish grin on her face. “Sometimes I just need to watch people die. I mean, I take care of people constantly, I just want to not care for a few hours.” Wow. Ok, this is an intense statement. She was in no way a violent person. But she needed a release of energy that had nothing to do with the energy she put out on the daily. I get it. This can happen when we are not balanced. We start to crave the extreme opposite. It’s the same when we’re forcing ourselves to only eat vegetables or smoothies: hamburger commercials and cooking shows take on a new level of significance. If you’re the busy, people-pleasing type, then a bit of regular RNR is a great way to stay balanced and keep yourself from being entertained by, well…death.
Critical Population DensityYou’ve been going from 6:30 am to 9 pm daily for two months. You’ve done what I call ‘mental juggling’ constantly from the moment you wake up to the moment you fall asleep. You’ve been inputting so much information to your brain, and processing it, all while physically keeping up appearances, and being anything but horizontal. Balance is a natural occurrence. When I was in college, I learned about something called Critical Population Density in my Environmental Science class. Critical population density is when a population of a certain animal, plant or organism reaches saturation within its environment. What happens at this point is a natural ‘backlash’ that helps to control that population and minimize its impact on the environment. This can take the form of an increase in predators (for example; wolves to eat an overpopulation of rabbits), the formation of disease, birth defects, weaker offspring, inbreeding, the disappearance of a food source, etc. I found this concept fascinating and telling, as it applies to the human race especially, so I committed it deep to the recesses of my mind. Now, I apply the same principle to life stress and/or mental stimulation.
When you ‘overdo it’ in your daily life for weeks or months at a time (I know that what constitutes overdoing it is subject to opinion), you are inevitably going to reach your own internal critical population density. At this point, one or more of the following things can happen: Your immune system will kick in and start fighting a bug that was previously latent in your system, hence requiring you to slow down or stop altogether. You’ll start craving unhealthy foods that leave you feeling lethargic, hence making you tired and needing downtime. Your overstimulated body will not perform well while you’re exercising and you’ll hurt yourself, thereby forcing yourself to rest (this has literally happened to me on multiple occasions). You’ll get irritated, angry or needy and unintentionally start a fight with your partner, family or friend in a subconscious attempt to cross that critical overwhelm point, or push them away, so you have an excuse to shut down operations. Does any of this sound familiar?
A good solution to overwhelm is to start paying attention to your rhythms.Being busy probably feels good for a while. You’re getting things done, you’re making money, you’re doing all of the things. You feel amazing. Then, slowly as the days or weeks go by, that feeling decreases. You’re still feeling good, but not so elated. Eventually, and this is where I’d like you to start catching yourself; you’ll reach the point just before critical population density. This is the time when you catch yourself getting irritated in traffic more. You’re giving shorter answers to your kids or partner, and feeling angry at them for things that didn’t anger you last week. You’re starting to crave donuts, or french fries, or beer, or cigarettes, or all of the above when you didn’t crave it last week. You care less about getting everything done. If you don’t catch yourself at this point, you will cross your critical population threshold, and hat’s when things get ugly.
The best time to spend a day laying around is just before you hit your threshold. While making a habit of spending the day in bed or on the couch is not good for anyone, using it as a well-placed conscious tool for your emotional and mental well-being is absolutely ok. As a matter of fact, it’s an investment in your health.If you ARE craving a day in bed even after spending one there, it’s possible that you’ve been overdoing it for WAY too long, or that there’s something else going on. You may be suffering from trauma, old or new. You may need to address some problems in your life that are dragging you down. If a day of relaxation is not fulfilling your needs, then it’s time to think about what else you might need. Taking a pajama day is not a fix-all, but it can help you see your life more clearly. There is something to be said for quieting the storm. The wind dies down, the rain stops. You can hear, you can see. You can feel what it’s like to be in your own skin. Re-connecting to self is hugely important when it comes to self-care. I often say that self-knowledge is the foundation of health. You can reconnect to yourself in many ways. Some people do artwork. Some go and have a quiet hike in nature or sit and stare at a lake. Some people dance or get a massage or journal. Some people stay in their pajamas and read in bed all day. Try all of the above. Figure out what activities help you find yourself and use it as a tool.