How to really chill out, if you’re an overachiever like me (can it really be done?) ((and why it’s important))

First and foremost, I am an overachiever. I set goals and like time-tables. I have charts, projections, and I’m always working towards something. It may be slow and steady at times, but it is always moving.

As a woman, I am a natural multi-tasker. I do laundry while cleaning the bathroom. I vacuum the couch while the dishwasher is running, all the while listening to an audio-book and keeping an eye on the dogs. More likely than not, if I’m watching a movie/tv show I’m also checking emails/blogs/reading the New York Times. Point being, I have a hard time sitting still and doing nothing.

So when work slowed down recently (after being out of the country for a few weeks) I literally found myself with time on my hands that I didn’t know what to do with. I haven’t been to work since mid-April. That was 2 months ago. Leading up to my trip I had all things packing, organizing, and preparing to take up my time. Upon return I had a friend in town visiting for a week, plus unpacking, cleaning, laundering, and getting back into the swing of things. That was two weeks ago. So for two weeks (and another ten days) I have no scheduled work to do. I have scrubbed, washed, laundered, vacuumed, sprayed, dusted, swept and mopped every square inch of this house. Multiple times. I have sorted my mail, my email, and all the random papers I could find around the house. I have organized my kitchen. I have read books, articles, blogs (in their entirety, no small feat!). I have watched movies, tv shows (hoarders for one, thus all the cleaning) and every documentary I could get my hands on.

Why am I telling you this? Because in the midst of all my running around, I realized something, I didn’t NEED to be doing any of it. In fact, it would probably be good for me to not do any of those things.

We have three dogs, (one is a golden retriever) so I could vacuum every day from here til eternity, and there would still be dog hair that needs to be picked up. The laundry will always be there, the dishes will always be there. I realized that I was filling my time, just for the sake of filling my time.

So I decided to do something for myself, and only myself. I decided to try to focus some attention on myself. I started in the mornings by making my favorite coffee. Instead of watching the morning news while putting away dishes and sipping coffee, I watched out the window while my water boiled. I poured water over my coffee grounds and listened to a record that I love. I enjoyed the moment. Was my morning so different? No. But I was present. I was in the moment and it really made a difference!

I tried watching a movie with my phone plugged in in another room. I sat out on my deck and read a new book while enjoying a glass of wine. Nothing major, nothing earth shattering. But it was those little moments that left me feeling calmer, more at ease.

Being home for an extended period of time can make me feel like I’m stalled, like I’m being lazy. But try to see those moments as a chance to take care of yourself. Go for a run, reconnect with an old friend, volunteer for an organization you care about. I can’t tell you what is going to be meaningful for you, each person will have their own thing.

Just don’t feel bad about taking care of yourself. Don’t feel bad about not working. We have all grown so accustomed to the “work hard, play hard” mentality, that any downtime is considered laziness. When I work constantly, without any sort of break, my work deteriorates. I miss things, the work absolutely suffers. When I take time to relax and enjoy my time off, I find myself ready and excited to get back to work. I put that much more into my job because I don’t feel bogged down.

So, once again with feeling, to all the other overachievers out there, take care of yourselves. Chill out a bit, whatever that means to you.

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Mommy and I in Amsterdam. Enjoying some much needed downtime together!

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