This summer has been a very odd time for me. On the one hand, living in Montreal with great company and lots of entertainment has been a nice vacation from the stresses of school that are looming on the horizon. On the other hand, I’ve been far less productive than I would have liked to have been.
For the large part, I realize that this down time has probably been necessary for my mental well-being. I’ve learned that I need to set aside a significant amount of “me time” in order to beat the panic that inevitably ensues after working too hard for too long. I’ve learned that while I enjoy socializing, I also crave alone time, and my mind never feels quite right if I don’t get it.
But beyond my learning experiences, there’s still a part of me, the driven, perfectionist part that is unarguably causing my anxiety, that can’t help but berate me for my lack of productivity. I can’t help but feel guilty when I think about how infrequently I’ve been blogging, how little I’ve been running, or how few books I’ve read. I feel like I should have been preparing for school (my first full semester in a year) or redesigning Anxiety Really Sucks! or training for a marathon.
This sort of self-imposed guilt has caused me much depression and anxiety in the past. I’m hard on myself, and no doubt you’re hard on yourself too. Being hard on yourself is probably a huge contributing factor to the anxiety that has brought you to reading my blog.
So how do you learn to stop being so hard on yourself?
The best way I’ve found is to simply change the way I see the situations that cause me guilt. Instead of focusing on the things that I haven’t been doing this summer, I should instead be focusing on the things I have been doing. Leisure time is something that is often condemned in our society, but as I’ve argued before, I think leisure time is just as important as productivity. I’ve had a lot of leisure time this summer; time to recharge and let my mind relax and focus on the things that I don’t have time to think about when I’m in the thick of school.
If you’re not being as productive as you could be, there’s probably a reason for it. Look for that reason. And let yourself be content with it. Maybe you’re spending more time with your kids. Maybe you’re cooking more. Maybe you’re simply catching up on some long-awaited TV series. Whatever it is, there’s a reason you’re doing it; and it’s probably a good reason!
Your mind isn’t designed to be constantly busy. You need some down time. And oftentimes, us anxious folk drive ourselves to be busy simply to avoid our anxiety, rather than face it head on. It’s in our downtime that we have the capacity to reflect on our anxiety and deal with it.
Are you hard on yourself too? Let me know how you deal with self-imposed guilt below in the comments!