Most people I know complain about their
pace of life being too 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!