We live in a culture that applauds being busy, exhaustion, productivity, being overworked, underpaid, and, honestly….underfed. If you stop by any college library or visit a bar downtown that’s bustling with millennials, it’ll probably be less than five minutes before you hear someone talk about how busy they are.
And I get it. A lot of us have grown up thinking that our worth is directly related to our grades, the jobs we hold, the money we make, the number of nights per week we spend out with friends, etc. We’ve been putting our worth in all of the wrong places, but then we wonder why we’re unhappy.
I *totally* used to be one of those people. I used to be the girl who needed to be hanging out with friends, going out and doing something, working, socializing, anything as long as I was not sitting alone in my bedroom.
My anxiety about being busy used to be so bad that if I woke up on the weekend and had a day where I didn’t have a single thing on my calendar, I’d be paralyzed by fear on the couch just kind of mumbling something about “I don’t know what to do with myself.”
My mom always jokes about how in undergrad, I would have a very “timely” melt down at the end of every semester. It was kind of a culmination of stress, anxiety, exhaustion, and, you know, just college.
I used to be one of those people who pushed themselves too hard, wanted to check every box, meet every deadline (early, if possible!), and that took its toll. It would always take me a good two-three weeks just to bounce back from the semester before I actually felt ready to do anything else.
During the two years I spent in grad school, it was super important for me to learn how to really take care of myself. And I feel like my experience in my master’s program was largely shaped by the growing I did as a human and as ME—not just as a therapist.
Right around the time I started grad school, Logan started a new job where he’d be working 4pm-midnight (sports, man). At first, I was pretty freaked. I grew up as a kid who hated alone time and hated down time. I liked to keep busy and have plans and do things.
At first, I had no clue how I was going to survive spending most of my nights by myself.
And then, I realized that I could actually enjoy the time I had to myself, especially because I know there will be times in my life where I wish I had more of it.
So I started figuring out ways to be alone and like it. I called my sister. I FaceTimed my friends. I read, I painted, I watched cheesy movies. And yes, I definitely did the occasional face mask.
I started playing guitar and writing songs again. I found myself excited to come home from class or work or wherever I was to do a little bit of whatever I wanted to do.
And I think some of my anxiety around alone time stemmed from this weird cultural phenomenon that we have to have fancy self-care activities and that I was somehow unproductive or lazy if I was just doing nothing.
But tying our self-worth to our schedules is perhaps one of the biggest mistakes we can make as millennials and as young-adults trying to build lives for ourselves. If we keep thinking that rest is lazy, we’re sure to burn out and suffer more in the long term than we already are right now.
Have you heard that quote? The one that says something about self-care being self-preservation? That’s what I’m talking about it! Self-care is NOT indulgent or greedy or lazy. It’s necessary.
I mean, let’s face it. Self-care is one of those buzz words that seems to be everywhere right now. With the wave of social media influencers and face masks galore, it’s easy to get caught up in luxurious self-care. But, wait—what do I even mean by self-care?
I define self-care as something that makes me feel recharged. You know when you sit down and read a good book or watch a really good movie that makes you cry (okay, maybe these are my ideas of self-care), and you just feel totally calm, centered, and replenished? That’s self-care.
Self-care doesn’t have to be luxurious things, and in fact, a lot of my self-care is stuff you won’t even hear me talk about. It’s taking a shower, getting in bed and reading, or taking some quiet time for myself to recharge.
I’m extremely grateful that I’m at a point in my life where my alone time no longer scares me—instead, it energizes me and allows me to be the best version of myself.
This change wasn’t overnight, and really, there aren’t any prescribed steps to take to figure out how to be okay being alone or being not busy. For me, it was more about realizing that I could cultivate my own interests and have a good relationship with myself. Learning that this quiet time was actually necessary for me and made me feel replenished and whole and sane was one of the best life lessons I’ve learned.
And I’ll take ownership over something right here, right now: I don’t know if I’d be as comfortable spending all of this time alone if I hadn’t been in therapy for nearly a decade. One of the main reasons I used to have such an overwhelming need to be busy was because I was running from my problems.
I didn’t want to address the anxiety issues I had, the body image stuff, the family stuff, the relationship stuff. If I kept busy, I didn’t have to face it (which is even more reason why I needed to face it)!
But after slowly chipping away at the ways I’d learned to avoid all of that, I don’t come home from work and feel that sense of panic when I realize that I don’t have anything to do. I normally end up thanking the universe than I get a minute to myself!