The time to have fun is when you have no time
Wednesday, May 22, 2019
We live in a fast-paced world, no doubt about it. We are constantly rushing here and there for appointments, for work, for shopping, for school, for church, or for sports obligations. There’s no time for anything because your schedule is packed with things you must do, not necessarily what you want to do.
But these obligations are generally man-made. They are the product of our own demands and self-expectations, where busyness is frequently valued more highly than productivity. Not only do we adults get caught up in this endless cycle of busyness, I’ve witnessed it in the children they parent as well.
I remember one mother who rushed to pick up her kids after school, take them to two different sports practices, pick them up at different times, feed them dinner at different times, and then supervised their homework until a 9 p.m. bedtime.
Where was any time to just be a child, daydream, doodle, use imagination for play? There wasn’t any. Every minute of their day was orchestrated in nonstop activity and obsession with the clock.
Now, this lady considered herself a good parent, giving her children opportunities for after-school activities. She didn’t see herself as robbing her children of free time to do what they wanted to do; their lives were organized around a rigid schedule. And the reason is that her own life was rigidly organized like that as well.
When I asked her what they did for fun, the predictable answer was that there was no time for fun. Indeed not.
So why do we torture ourselves with this constant activity of our own doing?
Perceived needs and self-worth. My family needs me, and my self-worth as a parent means I have to schedule activities that will present my family with opportunities for growth. My job needs me so I have to work overtime or nobody else will do it; I am indispensable.
I got caught up in that erroneous thinking some years ago. From an eight-hour/day job, I constantly felt the pressure to work harder, work longer. I was exhausted but, hey, what would they do without me?
By the time I was routinely working 14 hours a day, I was definitely burned out and unhealthy. I reluctantly quit. But guess what? The employer replaced me within two weeks. So much for being indispensable. I paid a heavy price healthwise to learn this lesson.
There’s also the inability to say "no" to requests and favors because you’re dependent on others’ opinions of you: They won’t like me if I say no; they’ll think I’m selfish and ostracize me. Well, yes, that’s a distinct possibility. When you finally tell users "no," they do move on to other people who will say "yes."
Quite a few years ago, I worked at a nursing facility part-time. Before I accepted the position, I stressed that I could only work night-shift every other weekend because of other responsibilities. They were happy to have someone guarantee to work the worst shift on the worst days of the week, so they hired me on that schedule.
Not one month later, I got a phone call in the middle of my other workload — someone had called in sick and could I come in right away to work at their facility. I politely told them no and reminded them of my schedule of night shift every other weekend. They cajoled, pleaded, threatened, and played a guilt trip on me.
I reminded them I had other obligations and the answer was no. They were quite angry and yes, they did ostracize me after that incident. But it did prove to me that they did not care about me, my family or my other work obligations; all they cared about was making their life easier. They were simply users, and my priority in life was not to oblige users.
Overwork and overscheduling lead to resentment and stress, which leads to burnout, depression, and a host of real, well-documented physical repercussions like heart disease, fatigue, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes. You must incorporate some fun into your daily life.
OK, you might agree, but demur, saying that you’ll have fun when you retire — you’re too busy now. But I’ve seen it time and again: when you retire, you’ve forgotten how to have fun!
You haven’t developed any hobbies or formed any close relationships. All have been sacrificed by your obsession with work and busyness. So, you retire and then have no idea what to do with yourself. Pointless days can lead to thinking that your life is pointless, which causes physical and mental health issues.
Doing something fun recharges your batteries and renews your stress-coping reserves. It doesn’t need to take hours or days; even a few minutes of fun per day helps. Do something that fills you with joy, whether it’s reading, calling a friend to say hello, or a strolling around your neighborhood.
Don’t make excuses: "Well, I love to fish but I certainly can’t fish every day." Think outside the box: you love to fish, so read an article on fishing, subscribe to a fishing magazine, make some lures, plan your next fishing expedition. Those peripheral activities to your central joy act on your brain the same way.
I love to travel but I can’t travel to exotic destinations on a daily basis. So, I read travel articles about both familiar and unknown destinations; I look at others’ photos and review my own photo gallery. I scope out my next several trips and I spend time daydreaming about the destinations I have yet to uncover. I talk to people about my passion for travel. All of this supplements the actual travel itself.
You get the idea. The busier you are, the more you need to incorporate some fun and joy into your schedule. Your well-being — and the well-being of those who have to live and work with you — depend on it.
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