By Jen Scott, LMFT, MS

Something that has been on my mind as of late is the subject of down time. I’m one of those people that tends to jam pack my schedule and try to maximize time, all the time. It makes life fun and busy but also overwhelming at times. Earlier this week, I had an unusual break during the middle of the week. Part of me thought hmm this is a great opportunity to catch up on paperwork or get some good exercise in. But then the other part of me saw the old, spotted bananas on the counter and thought they would be perfect for some banana bread. I decided to whip up some banana bread with my old bananas but then later questioned myself if that was my best decision. Shouldn’t I have used that extra time to knock out more things on the to do list or to be more productive instead of baking just for fun? The more I thought about it the more I realized of course I “rebelled” and baked instead of worked. I’ve been so busy as of late and am desperate for some downtime to do what I pleased in the moment.

Are we so scheduled that there isn’t time to just be and listen to what we might be needing at the moment?

As more of a “Type A” person, I have the tendency to be so scheduled that even downtime can be planned outIs anybody else like this? But what I’ve been think about is the benefit of unscheduled time to allow our brains to untangle whatever it is storing up there. Ever noticed that it’s right as you lay down to sleep that your brain starts running through a million things? All day it hasn’t had the opportunity to get to some of those thoughts, decisions, feelings, or dreams, but once you’re quiet enough and still enough, boom! All of those thoughts come tumbling in. Some of those thoughts can be exciting or positive, while other’s can be scary or depressing. However, my guess is, positive or not they’re probably pretty important if they keep popping up and vying for your attention. Why don’t we give them the space that they need?

I’ve always been challenged by this Martin Luther quote: “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” As the father of the Reformation, I’m pretty sure Martin Luther had about a million things to deal with each day. But how awesome is it with so much to do he knew he needed to start his day with great margin for prayer. Seems like a no brainer right? If there is a lot going on in our lives or big decisions or transitions coming up we need additional space to process our thoughts and our feelings. I’ve come to learn though that American culture tends not to prioritize this. Our culture “values”, or maybe better yet, likes the idea of reflection and growth. But where are we carving out time for that sort of work? I tell my clients all the time one of the best perks of therapy is you have a whole hour to focus on just you - where else in life do you get to do that? For a lot of folks, they need to keep their weekly appointment set, so they make sure they keep that space for processing. 

So my challenge to you is to consider how much time you’re giving yourself to allow your brain to wander and wrestle through a few things? Is there anything you’re avoiding or stuffing down? There could even be some dreams that are dying to be envisioned if given the opportunity for airtime. What might even 20 extra minutes of unplanned time each week do for your emotional health and well being? I’d be interested to see what all transpires!