Who here is able to confidently state that his or her life is collectively defined by calmness, simplicity and a slow paced style? Who, on the other hand, can easily admit that he or she has a hard time trying to keep up with the pace of life, and just can’t find a moment for self care or down time? For most, life is defined as a never ending rat race that never seems to relent or slow down. So what about the time in between the commitments and ‘priorities’ of life, the all elusive ‘down times’ where you can finally breathe, take a break or try to catch up? Well, unfortunately for most, down time no longer exists as it should. The good news, however, is that by employing a simple step within day to day life, life can become much more conducive to being well rounded and balanced, and down time can once again become attainable and experienced as it should.
Without down time, busyness and the hectic nature of life never lets up. If you’re anything like the majority, you very well know that down time is a critical factor in order to rest, recover and replenish. These days, burning the candle at both ends is extremely prevalent, and rarely, if ever, results in a positive or constructive outcome. Whether it’s parenting, fulfilling work commitments, maintaining a rigorous social schedule, trying to improve your health, or anything in between, there’s little option or time to find down time for you. These days, it’s almost like you have to book time in to not have a booked commitment, yet booking in time for ‘nothing’ is often just as stressful as trying to keep up on your already busy life schedule. Although there are endless reasons why there just doesn’t seem to be any time to slow down or take a breath, there’s one major theory out there as to why most of us seem to be slaves to unrelenting fast paced lives; our potential down time nowadays is no longer reserved for empty space or time, but rather filled with technology, social media, electronics, and information inundation.
For those who agree or understand what I’m referring to here, can also clearly see that, unlike decades ago, life as we know it is no longer conducive to rest, restoration or recovery. Back when I was a child and growing up, and even into early adulthood (and parenthood for that matter), in between work, errands, responsibilities and socializing with friends and family, there was this thing termed ‘boredom’ (to some), or ‘down time’ (to others). Never did we check our emails 500 times at home, or feed into social media relentlessly before, during and after dinner. Nor were we tied to our phones while trying to have a conversation with a spouse, while watching TV, or while actively spending time with our kids at the park. Seeing a person walk down the sidewalk on his/her phone was an oddity and an experience that seemed so rare and dysfunctional, let alone checking your social media status at every stop sign while driving. Before phones and social media became an extension as the newest appendage of the body, I can personally say that I only sporadically panicked when I forgot to wear my wrist watch or left my wallet at home. There were times where I thought I lost my sunglasses, but came to realize that they were simply just sitting on my head. But lately I’ve spoken to many (and I’m guilty myself) who say they panic looking for their phone without realizing that they’re actually ON it checking emails, social media or sending non essential texts. These days, it seems that if you don’t see someone clinging on to his/her phone then it makes you either wonder ‘how can they function?’ or ‘how do they stay in touch with their loved ones when they’re out and about in life?’.
Downtime is defined by the term itself; down and time. In our modern, face paced, information gathering society, we are doing exactly the opposite; rather than putting our phones and technology down, we are constantly picking them up. And rather than using this time to create more time, we are trying to fit more into this space and causing less time for ourselves. Sadly these days, I now refer to what should be experienced as down time and coin it ‘up time’; always up to something, always upping our attention, always upping our busyness, and always upping ourselves by upping and filling our time with something. Isn’t it time we finally start slowing down?
As a naturopathic doctor who consistently sees ill health in those who seek my medical care, and regardless of the actual diagnosis itself, I consistently see stress, burnout, and anxiety as an underlying cause or contributor to what is going on. Ninety nine out of every one hundred people I see state that they wish they had more time for themselves and less time to slave at the hand of life’s commitments. Now, there are multiple (and simple) ways to help offset and improve this situation that many of us experience (such as improved sleep, better planning, proper nutrition, managing stress etc), however today I’m sharing my current personal plan for combatting the unwelcome pace of life:
Put your phone down, disconnect, and use down time and it was meant to be. If you have time to sit down, time away from the office, time after the kids go to bed, or whatever your personal life situation looks like, don’t use it as a time to surf social media, text other people, or learn something new. Rather, use it as a time for quietness, calm, to connect with nature or your loved ones. For me, it now consists of finishing work at 5pm, going home, and ensuring I put my laptop and phone away at least from 6pm until 9pm (this span of time is prime time to spend with my family). If (and only if) I feel like it’s necessary to post on my social media feed, check an email, call or text a friend or family member, there is plenty of time to do so outside of this range. And how is this approach working out for me so far? Well, let’s just say that you don’t realize what you miss in life until you finally realize what you miss. For me, this means more time with my family, more time for me, and more time for the things that mean the most. Not my phone.
Dr Jeremy Hayman, ND helps patients at Cornerstone Naturopathic Inc. feel better, live better, and achieve optimal wellness and health. Years of patient care coupled with dedication to personal life balance has helped Dr Jeremy employ the adage that “your approach to health should be simple”.