4 Ways HSPs Can Overcome the Struggle for More Downtime
I proclaim a lot about getting plenty of downtime - on this blog, on social media and and in real life. You may be wondering why I’m talking about it all the time? Honestly, one reason is because I need more of it myself. I really do. I think we all do. Ultimately, though, it’s because getting a daily dose of quiet downtime is the one essential practice all Introverts and Highly Sensitive People (HSP) need to survive. Without downtime, we stare straight into the eyes of our kryptonite - overstimulation and overwhelm which leads us directly to experiences of anxiety, depression and a whole list of other mental and physical ailments due to increased stress!
Getting enough downtime is a battle I fight everyday. Every. Single. Day. It’s challenging to achieve the right balance of productivity and rest. There are times when it’s especially difficult because choosing solitude means sacrificing time with loved ones or not being as productive as I want to be. Not being productive (i.e. creative, successful, helpful, etc) is difficult for HSPs as we tend to lean towards perfectionism, people pleasing and high achievement. Our awareness of subtleties makes it impossible to ignore when something isn’t done the best it could be. As a result, we often sacrifice downtime in order to meet the expectations of others and to “be enough”. It’s exhausting!
Reaching contentment is a bumpy road for us because we’re constantly in a battle to get our own needs met while wanting desperately to please others (conflict avoidance anyone?). So how do we find balance and carve out enough downtime to get even close to thriving?
See below for Four Ways to Overcome the Struggle for More Downtime
Let Go of Perfectionism
This is not easy, but getting more space for ourselves will involve taking off our perfectionist hat and setting some difficult boundaries. Saying no is one of the most uncomfortable things to do, I know, but it’s the first step in prioritizing our needs for downtime. Prioritizing ourselves often feels impossible or selfish, especially if we have children or others depending on us in some way. The guilt is probably already starting to rise up, telling you all the reasons you can’t put yourself first. That’s okay! Don’t let the guilt stop you from taking care of yourself because it will most likely always be present at some level. The trick is counteracting guilt with self-compassion, otherwise known as talking kindly to yourself as you would a friend.
Make Downtime a Routine
Transitions and decision making are often difficult tasks for Highly Sensitive folks because we are wired to process every decision at length, to pause and reflect before acting. This is why it’s easier for us to follow a routine rather than be spontaneous. If you are someone who tends to work late and skip lunch breaks, this becomes a comfortable pattern, despite the end result of feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. The thought of beginning something new, even if it will decrease stress levels, can create some resistance. Therefore, the secret to getting more downtime is to get more downtime! In other words, schedule your downtime in and make it a habit. Try starting small by blocking out 15 minutes a day to relax, take a walk, meditate or do nothing.
Soften Your Inner Critic
When we begin to offer ourselves more downtime, our inner critic will surely have an opinion about this and won’t be shy about expressing its displeasure every chance that arises. You may hear the “shoulds” (i.e. you should be working right now) or fear tactics (i.e. you’ll never get ahead if you take so many breaks). Don’t let this stop you! The critic has good intentions of wanting to protect you from harm, criticism, or failure but it loses touch with reality sometimes. It fails to see that pushing you so hard is causing more stress.
Next time you notice your self-critic, take a few moments to listen to what it has to say and then rewrite the narrative you’re hearing. For instance, “You should be working right now” can be transformed into “I know taking a short break now will help me be more focused to meet my work deadline.”
Put Yourself First
Prioritizing myself has been my biggest obstacle to getting more downtime and maybe yours as well. It is so incredibly difficult to choose ourselves when others seemingly need our support or we could put more time into a work project. However, putting ourselves at the bottom of our priority list will eventually catch up to us in the form of stress, burnout, compassion fatigue, overwhelm, anxiety, among other issues. So how can we prioritize ourselves? It’s as simple as setting aside some time each week to get quiet and focus on an activity that we enjoy.
Quiet downtime is an essential practice for all Highly Sensitive People because without it, we end up feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, anxious or irritable. We can find the balance between productivity and rest by letting go of our perfectionist habits, creating a consistent routine of prioritizing our needs and not taking direction from our inner critic.
If you’re struggling to get enough downtime and battling overwhelm as a result, join me for my 4-part workshop series happening this March in downtown San Francisco or online this summer.