By: Ellen Brenner
Now that the holiday rush is behind us, you can be left feeling a bit overwhelmed, overloaded and over-stimulated.
After all the gift giving, shopping and family gatherings comes a time to make resolutions. New year. New me. Or at least as much of a new and improved model as I can manage. But often the list of resolutions is long and we are already tired and depleted. Our good intentions can disappear faster than using new gym memberships by March.
I’d like to propose adding something else to the list. Doing nothing. And that means scheduling time for doing nothing. Because actively doing nothing is actually doing something. It is a state of being rather than a state of doing. It is in this restorative state that our mind, body, and spirit can rebalance to improve our overall wellbeing.
The holiday season can feel like a pretty intense marathon. So now what? We’ve entered the deep winter period, which I’ve come to think of as a restoration season. It’s a time to slow down, rest, and recover in preparation for the coming renewal of Spring.
Like many ancient civilizations after the Winter Solstice, I feel the pull to enter a restful hibernation. When I lived up north, I used to look forward to blizzard weekends for the opportunity to stay huddled indoors with a fire going, a book in hand and no place I had to be. The hectic schedule of life was temporarily canceled, which left me the time (and permission) to just be.
Taking time for restoration and recovery is vital for our overall wellbeing. The holiday season rush can be fueled by stress hormones. In Take a Breath and Cool Your Jets, we discuss how the prolonged release of these hormones can increase our inflammation response and decrease our immune response. In turn, this can leave us vulnerable, especially in times of seasonal sickness.
A Body in Balance
When we can take time to slow down and go with the flow, we support our body’s built-in mechanism to keep us in a state of balance known as homeostasis. In this state of balance, the body functions optimally. But, when we are in a constant state of stress and pressure and we are out of balance for far too long, our body can no longer compensate. And, usually, our minds are also going a mile-a-minute at the same time. This distress of the mind also contributes to stress in the body.
According to the Mayo Clinic, active relaxation reduces the flow of stress hormones. Benefits may include:
- Slowing the heart rate
- Lowering blood pressure
- Slowing the breathing rate
- Reducing muscle tension and chronic pain
- Improving fatigue
- Enhancing concentration
- Boosting mood
Restoration season is not only a great time to recover from the holiday season, but also a great opportunity to create a new healthier habit. Learning to balance activity with rest as an everyday rhythm for our everyday lives is another aspect of our mindful practice in creating our own conscious wellness.
While resting allows us time to restore by supporting the mind, body, and spirit, it does not come easy at first. If you’re not hard-wired that way, being told to do it won’t help without telling you how to do it.
So what does one do when doing nothing?
First, we may need to give ourselves permission. Remember, this is your planned time to do nothing. You are doing something by supporting your overall wellbeing. If your brain is wired to feel like you should be doing something every minute of the day or you feel overwhelmed by life, try repeating an affirmation such as this: “Doing nothing is doing something. I am balancing my wellbeing for now and for later.”
- It’s not a matter of just plopping down exhausted “when you have the time.” The idea is to try not to get to the state of exhaustion.
- We need to put it in our schedule and hold this time sacred. Like a sabbath for the soul.
- The time can be anything from short periods within a day to an entire day (or more). I have 30-60 minutes every afternoon that is all mine for relaxation. Also, I take a restorative bath every evening and I leave 30 minutes of easy reading or journaling time before bed. On weekend mornings, I give myself more time for relaxation activities. Long weekends might turn into a whole mini-retreat for a day or two depending on the week preceding.
- This is not the time to complete projects, tasks, or chores around the house, or make lists of things “to do.”
- Doing nothing does not mean you are available to do something when someone calls or asks what you are doing. It means you are simply unavailable.
Planned nothing also means unplugging
These items can contribute to mental clutter and impact our ability to find a quiet time to relax. Put away the smartphone, tablet and laptop, turn off the TV and refrain from using the phone (even the landline).
Try finding something that is relaxing to the mind, turns off external and internal noise, supports mindfully tuning into the moment. Here are a few ideas:
- Create some artwork
- Read an inspirational or relaxing book.
- Enjoy a relaxing bath
Naturally, aromatherapy is a wonderful support for helping to balance mind, body, and spirit. I love to diffuse this blend during my doing nothing time. And, I especially love the warm spices during the deep winter restoration season.
You can use it in your diffuser, double for a personal inhaler, or simply add the drops to a cotton ball you place nearby for passive diffusion or to take periodic whiffs. This is not a KidSafe blend.
Soul Soothing Diffuser Blend
You might also like to add:
- 1 drop Vanilla (CO2 or Oleoresin)
This restorative blend is intended to support body, mind, and spirit coming back into balance, especially after mental and emotional exhaustion. Don’t wait for the next snow storm to curl up with a soothing blend and a good book. Especially don’t wait until the pace of life knocks you back for enforced recovery. I’m hoping you will give yourself the gift of doing nothing is doing something. Allowing yourself regular time-outs supports your wellness and allows you to be ready for whatever life brings.
 Carnegie Mellon University. “How stress influences disease: Study reveals inflammation as the culprit.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 April 2012.
 “Relaxation Techniques: Try These Steps to Reduce Stress.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic8, 8 May 2104. Web. 09 Jan. 2017.
Keim, Joni, and Ruah Bull. Aromatherapy & Subtle Energy Techniques: Compassionate Healing with Essential Oils. N.p.: CreateSpace, 2015. Print.
Shutes, Jade. “The Dynamics of Blending: A Guide to Blending and Reference Manual for Essential Oils and Base Materials.” N.p.: East-West School for Herbal and Aromatic Studies. N.d. Print.