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Articles > Mental Health January, 23, 2019

Why it’s OK to Take Time Off

Emma Ward
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7.07 / 10

In today’s society, there is a certain amount of pressure to constantly be doing something ‘worthwhile’ or ‘exciting’ and to stay connected 24/7. With expectations like this, it can be difficult to find time to relax.

A friend recently asked me about what I’d been doing for the past week. I tried to think of something to say that would turn into engaging conversation, like telling them that I’d gone to a festival or volunteered at a children’s art camp, but nothing came to me. It was during the school holiday, so I didn’t have the ‘I don’t have time’ excuse, because frankly, I had loads.

The truth was, I hadn’t done anything other than relax and keep myself alive by eating and sleeping. And it had been glorious. I didn’t even wear a watch or look in my diary, because I didn’t really care what the time was – I didn’t need to be anywhere, and no one expected me to do anything.

Of course, when I met up with a group of friends later on and they breathlessly retold great tales of their surfing weekends and charitable escapades, I couldn’t help but feel guilty. What had I done? I’d just wasted a whole week of my life doing nothing. God, what kind of lazy loach am I?

I don’t know how many others have felt this same type of guilt, but after reflecting on it, I have something pretty important to say about it. Listen closely, and put the guilt to rest.

What other people do is nice for them, but there is no requirement for you to match their standards. It doesn’t define your worth as a person and certainly does not make you lazy. If you need quiet time at home or elsewhere doing very little, then don’t be afraid to take it. There’s nothing inherently wrong with being unproductive, today’s world just makes us believe that we are robots who can keep on going regardless of energy levels and lack of sleep. News flash: you can’t. If you work intensely and never take a break, you will burn out.

No one is superhuman, and for your mental and physical health it’s important for you to look after yourself, and that includes having ‘lazy’ days if you need or want to. I’m not referring to the commercialised ‘me-time’ used by cosmetic companies to squeeze money out of people, convincing them that this coconut face mask will suddenly make them feel serene – I’m talking about listening to your body accepting when it’s had enough. At the same time, it is imperative that you don’t compare yourself to your peers, colleagues, acquaintances or even family members.

Everyone is different, and even if your friends have similar interests to you, they are not living your life. Only you are. People have different coping mechanisms, and everyone’s individual tolerance of stress is completely different. Don’t take anyone at face value; you’ll never known all the details of someone else’s life, and they won’t know yours.

Taking this in to consideration, be kinder to yourself in general, because to unintentionally (but slightly ironically) quote L’Oreal: ‘You’re worth it’.

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  1. Ryan Chung

    Hey Emma I really enjoyed reading your article, and many people can relate to your story. You may not remember me but it’s Ryan from Durham SP, I haven’t heard from you for a long time. Hope you’re doing well and keep enjoying life.

  2. Juliana

    I think…que as pessoas (sociedade, família, amigos) exigem muito de nós levando-nos a sofrer de estresse e ansiedade.