Wednesday, 14 March 2012

The Importance of Duvet Days

Hey, we've all had them. Lazy days, duvet days, whatever you want to call them. You snuggle up under the covers, stick on an old DVD, make a cup of tea and just catch up on your rest. And, if you're anything like me, you end up feeling guilty, lazy and like a waste of space.

This post is the brainchild of a midday nap (interrupted by a variety of builders, bulldozers, drills and noisy neighbours of all descriptions) on a day where I really couldn't feel motivated to doing anything. I wanted to write a blog post, but I couldn't think of anything. I wanted to read up on life coaching some more, but I didn't have the motivation. I started to chide myself, to give myself this old, bullshit inner dialogue that goes something like "You're wasting your day, you're not doing anything constructive, you're so lazy and disgusting!" - does that sound familiar?

Well, today the laziness gave rise to a chain of thought. Why do I have to do something important or constructive every single day? Will the world collapse if I take some time to myself? Did I mention that I'm actually trying to fight off a nasty cold at the moment?

As I might have mentioned, it has often been my tendency to burn the candle at both ends. I feel as if every waking second of my day (apart from time with my fiancĂ© or friends) has to be spent at work, writing something, reading something useful or at least exercising or cleaning the house. When I "slack off", I am filled with this horrible guilt. 

If you feel the same way, I'm willing to bet that you often get ill or feel overly tired, too. You take on too much because, for some reason, you've associated resting, catching up with video games and trashy T.V. and staying in your pyjamas past noon with being selfish or idle. This fast-paced, demanding world that we live in expects us to be robots, suppressing any thoughts of illness or fatigue and powering through. 

Well, here's the news - you are not a robot. And, once in a while, taking a lazy day (or three) can be good for you. Have you never heard of a vacation, honey? People who don't take time off, burn out. We all know that too much stress is a bad thing, which can lower your immune system and wear you out. Don't we? Well, when you don't give yourself time to stop, you increase the chances of burnout. Relaxing is good for you, and not only that, but it will make you more productive later. Think of it as recharging the batteries.

But... surely we all know this? Surely we see those Japanese salarymen working overtime into an early grave, and we think it crazy that they work so hard? And yet, the hours you spend at the office might only be the tip of the iceberg. If you're a parent or carer, I'm sure you know what it feels like to never have time off. The world might even make you feel terrible for wishing that you just had one day to yourself, where you could do all those things you've been fantasising about doing. If you're a student or you work from home, you might find it impossible to separate the hours you spend working and the hours spent doing anything else. You might just fill your time with friends who do nothing but complain and criticise, leaving you drained.

I remember this one time, a couple of years ago, when I was full of cold, and I did a strange thing. I actually gave myself three days to sit in bed, drink a lot of water and watch a lot of Sex and the City. I did feel that pang of guilt for taking time off work, but you know what? I felt SO much better on day 4. I was full of an energy that I know I wouldn't have had, had I just ploughed on as usual, trying to suppress whatever illness I had with dangerous cold meds. This is, admittedly, what I usually do - and my colds have lasted up to three weeks. Not good.

We all have different thresholds for stress. You might admire a friend who works insane hours and still fits in time with her kids and for a side-project, but firstly you never know how the lack of me-time will affect her in the long run, and secondly if many others attempted the same thing they might find themselves run-down before you can say "burnout". Don't judge yourself by other people's standards. Some people can handle a lot more stress than others, but you know your own limits (deep down).

So, when you feel run-down, exhausted, full of cold or sickness, stop. It's OK to take a break. It's OK to pull a sickie; after all, what's more important, your long-term health or your current job? Give yourself permission to relax. Give yourself permission to have Disney marathons in your slacks once in a while (or whatever makes you happy). Ask yourself where exactly the nagging voice trying to make you guilty is coming from (is that you, mother?), and remind it that taking me-time is just as constructive as pushing yourself to do something all the time. After all, you're powering up for later... so see it as an investment, if it helps.

Right - I was planning on a nice afternoon of PS3, but thin walls and neighbours are going to put a stop to that, so I think I'll go and relax at a nice café with a good book instead. Let me know what you do on your duvet days, and how they help you! Happy duvet day!

Also: Check out this great article from Health Reviser - "Being Lazy is not Necessarily a Bad Thing for your Health"! 

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