I Didn’t Put RELAX on my To Do List!

Maybe this isn’t your problem. Maybe your problem is you’re relaxing TOO much and the dishes have been sitting in the sink in the kitchen for over two weeks now. Growing an interesting mixture of molds that might just cure cancer if we knew what to do with them.

But maybe this IS your problem…the dishes may still be sitting in the sink, but it’s because you’re running around like a chicken with its head cut off and you’re going to get to those dishes just as soon as you get back from your kid’s gymnastics/dance/karate/little league game and can get a casserole in the oven (yeah right…), throw a load of laundry in, help with homework, get online to make sure you don’t bounce more checks, finish up that project from work…

If this is sounding familiar, the dishes in the sink are the least of your worries. You think “If only I could get a little quiet, downtime to myself…that would feel so good.” Then, if by some miracle, you actually end up with an hour or more to yourself to do anything you want…you just end up doing more chores or errands instead of relaxing and doing nothing.

You don’t take your DOWN time, you turn it into more UP time. What’s UP with that?


I hear too many people say they can’t relax, they can’t possibly take an hour to sit and do nothing (I think that’s called meditation?) because that’s being lazy. There’s too much to do. That’s a waste of time. They’ll just feel guilty with all those dishes and piles of whatever staring them down if they try to get away with an hour or two of recharging their batteries.

If there are things still written on the TO DO list, then it’s not okay to just hang around listening to your favorite music and reading a trashy magazine so you can discover why you should start/stop wearing leopard prints this season.

Well, guess what? (You perfectionists are not going to like this!) There is ALWAYS going to be something left on your TO-DO list! There is ALWAYS going to be something that needs to be washed, cleaned, ironed, checked, balanced, organized, or completed.

You will never, never, ever reach the end of your TO DO list…if you are alive, that is. Once you’re dead, I think you’re off the hook. No one’s really going to expect you to come back from the grave and finish those dishes. Geez, I hope not anyway.


The deal is that this life maintenance thing is supposed to be an ongoing process…a work in progress…that is never complete. It’s like a game of double Dutch jump rope where you just jump in and play for however long you want to or can and then jump back out and rest awhile. It’ll be there ready for you when you’re ready to jump back in. That pile of laundry isn’t going anywhere. Trust me.

Those dishes are not moving. Those credit card applications are not going to throw themselves into the shredder by themselves…don’t you wish they could? The windows, floors, bathrooms, junk drawers, garage, and closets aren’t going to organize themselves while you take a moment with Calgon.

So, you really do have permission to take a break, step out of the game for a while to take a breather, get a glass of ice-cold lemonade or perfect hot chocolate, and RELAX!!!! You can catch your breath, gather some energy again, and jump back in when you’re good and ready.

You’re not being lazy when you take that time for yourself, you’re taking care of yourself and recharging your batteries so you can keep going, you Energizer bunny, you! The whole purpose of taking downtime is that it should have no purpose…no productive value. It’s all about just relaxing, enjoying, being… a human being instead of a human doing.

When you want to do a long jump, you don’t just jump from the scratch line. You back waaaaayyyyy up…. to gather some momentum. But at first, it looks like you are going in the wrong direction. Getting your downtime is just your way of backing up, gathering energy and momentum, to be able to move forward again with a sense of joy and purpose.

So, it’s really okay to put RELAX on the top of your TO DO List. Don’t worry about all the rest of the stuff on your TO DO list. It’s not going anywhere. It’ll be there, safe and sound, right where you left it when you’re relaxed, recharged, and ready to tackle it all again.

So go do nothing for awhile and see if you can do it without feeling guilty. For a change.

DrAnita Sanz, PhD, Psychologist

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