As I’ve been working on recovering from all the stress of the past few months and trying to find ways to still make progress on my goals without worsening my current degree of burnout, I’ve realized that my most restful days of late are days that include a mixture of actual rest, enjoyable activities, and moderate productivity. While I’ve always known this to some degree or another, I’ve never been able to nail down a formula for it. Experimentation over the last few weeks though, has had startlingly positive results. If I have enough rest and relaxation intermingled with a moderately busy day of self-directed activity, it is usually a net-restful day for me, even if I’m cleaning my apartment and doing all my laundry. If I can be a little productive on a day set aside to not need productivity while also engaging in restful occupation, it is usually quite restful.
For example, today I slept until eight, did my usual stretches, made myself a nice breakfast, and then played video games until about noon. Every so often, between making breakfast and playing video games, I’d shift my attention away to cleaning my kitchen (in general and then tidying up after my big breakfast). At noon, I moved into a different room, settled onto the couch, and read some graphic novels I’d bought for a little over two hours. After that, I picked up around my apartment a bit, went on a walk, and then returned to my computer to record some poetry and work on blog posts. Mixed into the recording, editing, and writing (part of which is this blog post you’re reading right now), I created my weekend to-do list, went through today’s to-do list, and did some theory crafting for some homebrew Dungeons and Dragons material I told a player I’d have ready by Monday.
All-in-all, it has been a pretty nice day. It would be better if my tinnitus would return to its usual, more-dormant state (which usually happens once the period of high-stress causing it to spike is over), or if the weather hadn’t spent the last few days flip-flopping in ways that make my joints hurt, but it has still been pretty relaxing. No day will ever be perfect and I’m sure future days will be better than this one, but I cannot understate how nice it feels to just have a day. That’s all today was. No work, not a weekend, no special chores to do, no demands to rest in a significant way. It was just a day and I’ve just been doing stuff.
As an anxious and depressed person, I am incredibly aware that most of the stress in any given day comes from me. I know that my intense focus on making use of all of my time every single day makes it difficult to believe that rest is a part of productivity (though putting the word “rest” multiple times on my to-do lists has pretty much solved that one), and I know that expecting myself to feel better after a day of doing nothing is just going to sour the day I was supposed to spend resting. It makes it even more difficult to rest because I wind up spending so much time trying to manage my mood and my thoughts. You can’t really relax if you’re constantly focusing on shutting down mental processes that start negative spirals. It’s still better than negative spirals, of course, but it’s not really rest, either. Which is why I’ve spent so much time over the last month getting as much done as I can and starting to build good apartment maintenance habits so I can cut down on how much time and energy I spend on considering what I should be doing or could be doing instead of resting.
It’s not a perfect situation, but it works better than most things I’ve tried lately. Now all I have to do is keep stretching so all this joint pain and mental tension stops twisting me up like a blanket in a dryer.