Hear that? No? Exactly. That’s the silence of a blissfully empty calendar: No meetings, no deadlines, nowhere to be. For the next few days, your only project is to relax. Kick back with a puzzle and a hot mug of something. Oh, and try not to let all that downtime drive you up the wall.
An open expanse of time seems great, in theory. In practice, though, doing nothing and actually enjoying it is a skill that a lot of us just don’t have. As Madison Malone Kircher has explained in Forge, up to half of adults have experienced something called “relaxation-induced anxiety,” where “the very physical sensations you might associate with being calm — letting your shoulders drop, deep breathing — are triggers.” You may find that a fully plan-less long weekend has you mentally building to-do lists, finding excuses for errands… anything to get me off the dang couch, for the love of god, please no more puzzles.
It’s okay. As with any skill, getting better at relaxing requires some time and effort. Mindfulness helps, Kircher notes. So does patience.
During this quiet holiday time, try quieting your mind, too. Push any nagging thoughts of I should be doing something out of your head by focusing on the details of your surroundings: the feel of the blanket on your lap, the dramatic background music on whatever trashy show is playing. The next day, find a time to do it again. Eventually, you’ll be able to slide effortlessly into that peaceful state of nothingness. And in the meantime, well, think of your relaxation regimen as something to do.