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Can You Have Too Much Downtime?

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Most people I know complain about their

pace of life being too fast.

“Crazy-busy” fast.

They are trying to find a way to add that

25th hour to the day so they can read a

book for fun, get more sleep, play, or recreate.

Or even get more work done!

But I also see people in my practice who are

suffering from the effects of having too much


Too Much Downtime?

So how does one ever have too much

downtime, you might ask?

In one of several ways:

1.  You might become temporarily or

permanently disabled from work for

either mental, medical, and/or a combination

of reasons and find yourself at home 24/7

trying to figure out what you can and/or

should do with yourself now that you carry

the “disabled” label.

2.  You may have a job with inconsistent, 

unpredictable, or widely varying work hours/

days/weeks/months.  It may be feast or famine,

14-hour days for weeks or months and then nothing

for the same amount of time. Or four months of

18-20 hour days and nothing for the other 8.

Not everyone is 9-5 most weeks of the year

and students of all ages can also find themselves

during summers or holiday breaks with too much


3.  You may have entered retirement, either

voluntarily, willingly, and perhaps joyfully or

been retired or your job phased out.  Or maybe

what began as temporary unemployment has

become chronic.  Or what you thought would

be a quick job search is turning into months

or years of trying to find employment.

Time to Act!

There’s enough research out there now for

us to know that major transitions, like

retirement, can increase the risk of heart

disease and major health issues by up to


But you can probably tell if you’ve got too

much downtime by a sense of malaise and

low-grade depression and amotivation that

begins to sneak up on you. You have all the

time in the world, but you don’t really want

to do anything with it.

Whether it is the stress of the transition

or the amount of unstructured time and loss of

meaningful roles to play, it is important if you

find yourself with too much downtime that you

be aware of the potential negative impact on

your mental and physical health and act now.

Find the Middle

You know I’m always preaching that the

ends of any continuum are where you are

likely to find less health and more dis-ease.

And when it comes to busy-ness, it’s the

same: health and happiness will be near

the center, where there is a balance between

being busy and productive and relaxed and


Structure Your Unstructured Time

If you are at home all day, you will be healthier

and happier if you have a day-planner and

schedule your day just like you were “at work.”

You can write in blocks of time you will devote

to various aspects of your life: mental, emotional,

physical, social, and spiritual.

You can set goals in each of those areas and

be sure you are spending a certain amount of

time each day or work working on them.

Just because you are “disabled,” unemployed,

or job-seeking doesn’t mean you stop being a

person who needs to take care of all aspects

of your life.

Go for Balance

Remember you don’t want to go to the other

end of the continuum and fill up every hour

with activities. Go for balance.

You still need downtime during downtime!

But you will feel better and cut your risk of

feeling depressed and anxious, or of developing

major medical issues, if you can learn how

to manage having too much downtime in

ways that allow you to feel productive,

engaged, stimulated, and continue to feel

connected to the world in which you live.


P.S. If you’re on vacation, ignore everything

you just read.  Relax, enjoy, feel free not to plan

a thing. Except for who’s going to feed your

cats while you’re gone. Take care of that…

then relax and enjoy and we’ll see you when

you get back!



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