John Scalzi, a sci-fi author I follow on Twitter (and read regularly — check out his Redshirts if you’re a Trek fan), said something recently that made me remember the importance of down time. He said something along the lines of: ‘Who knew that living in interesting times could be so exhausting?’
He was referring to that curse that kind of sounds like a blessing, and boy howdy, does that ever sound like it applies to the last few years. Between the chaos that is the current US administration, the last couple of Canadian elections, which featured things like promises to set up dystopian hotlines or a lovely paid-to-smear PR campaign, not to mention concerns about climate change, Brexit, and the angry circus that is social media these days… well, I often feel like I’ve been through the wringer. And that’s before I factor in whatever might be going on in my work and personal lives.
I bet you’re feeling it too.
So, I’ve been making more of an effort to do things to preserve my sanity. It’s trendy to talk about ‘me time’ or ‘self-care,’ but those terms often seem to be paired with commercially-loaded expectations, where you’re supposed to indulge in something you’ve purchased. I started with the term ‘less.’
Less social media. Notifications turned off completely on the phone, and browser tabs closed when I’m on the laptop. And ‘unliking’ several groups and news pages where I know I’m likely to want to wade into the comments section.
Less caffeine. I know, right? Sacrilege! I still like (neeeeed?) a couple of (smallish) cups of coffee in the morning, but slowly cutting back has made me realize how much ‘feeling stressed’ was actually ‘feeling too caffeinated.’ I feel much, much better for having cut back, and I find I enjoy my java a lot more, too. If you’ve worked your way up to a few (that’s all I’ll admit to!) bucket-sized cups per day, you might find the same thing if you slowly taper it off.
Fewer late nights. I hate this one, as I’m a night owl by nature, and I find it really hard to go to bed before 2 a.m. But given that my current schedule demands that I be up at the crack of dawn (*shakes fist at world*), I’m not doing myself any favours by trying to burn the candle at both ends.
And then there are hobbies.
In those years when I was busy with babies and a full-time business, these were definitely off the table. So far off, I’d forgotten I’d had any. But with a little more room in my timetable, I’ve rediscovered how much I love flower gardening (my preferred colour scheme, as you can see above is: riot). I’m back into cooking (as opposed to just warming things up, not that there’s anything wrong with that). And I’m enjoying PC-based games again (currently Tropico 6, which, given that it’s about a tinpot dictator with fascist tendencies isn’t exactly escapist, but it is hilariously cynical. The Penultimo character never fails to crack me up.)
These all have the benefit of being relatively cheap activities both in terms of cash and environmental impact, and two of them also get me up and moving. Movement has also been a key defense against crazy-making; just as it’s easy to slide into over-caffeination, it’s very easy to slump into a sedentary lifestyle if your day job demands a butt in a chair.
So that’s what I’m doing. What hobbies and activities keep you going? Tell us in the comments.