Womans feet in sandles on the edge of a ferry boat with frothy foam traveling over the water

All Work and No Play? Ward off Stress, Depression and Burnout

As the weather turns warm and people turn to outdoor pursuits, I am reminded of the importance to the human spirit of spending time in recreation. Over fifteen years ago, I remember a business consultant advising the small business where I worked. We all worked a lot and he was talking with us about the importance of recharging and renewing - for the health of the business. He reminded us that the word recreation means to "create again" and said we would be more valuable as employees if we could commit ourselves to making time for recreation.

While I agreed with him, I also noticed how it was difficult to actually take time for recreation in an increasingly competitive world where survival is not always a given.  No surprise, in a 2012 article from Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal, researchers Yang et. al. said that nearly half of Americans (48%) believe that their stress levels have increased over the preceding five years and that stress has a negative impact not only on their physical and mental health, but also on their productivity at work. In order to survive the long haul, we must find a way to replenish ourselves or we will burn out - physically (illness), emotionally (derpession, anxiety) or both. Further, most people would like not only to survive, but to thrive; To enjoy life, not just survive life!

Burnout Buster: The Power of "No"

With the pressures of modern life, it can feel nearly impossible to figure out how get self-care on your priority list and protect that time. Some worry that they are being selfish for making time for themselves, while others fear that they will not have enough talent or skill if they try something new. Indeed the voice of the internal critic can be a big obstacle! Others simply cannot see the value of taking up a hobby or may be caught up defining themselves solely by their career. Often the only way to find the time is to learn to say "no" to the time takers that are not serving you. You and your life will be better served when you invest in developing yourself as a well rounded person, discovering and experiencing youself beyond your roles as mother/father, worker/breadwinner, caregiver, etc. When you say No to something that does not serve you, you are making room for the Yes of that which does.

"After an enjoyable event we know that we have changed, that our self has grown: in some respect, we have become more complex as a result of it."  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, from Flow, The Psychology of Optiman Experience

Perhaps you had a pursuit that you long ago gave up, or have an idea in the back of your mind that "someday" you will take an art class, learn how to play guitar, take up dancing or travel to South America. Whatever your dreams, they are an important part of you. And you should know that 1) you are not being selfish when you take time to recharge and nurture your soul - in fact you are modeling health and vitality - and 2) it is the process of engaging in recreation that nurtures you, not necessarily the outcome of the activity. If fears about being good enough block you, see if you can let go of any outcome you may be holding onto. Outcomes are best considered as an overall result of the process and based on how you feel over time.

And of course, "someday" doesn't exist. There is only now. As the saying goes, nobody winds up on their death bed wishing they had spent more time at the office. Whatever it is you dream of, it should nourish a sense of feeling alive. And of course feeling alive - by expressing yourself through your recreation -  is the opposing energy to depression (think expression vs. depression). Sometimes you just have to experiment with trying things out and see what makes you feel alive.

What experiences await You? What is your "someday" and what is one action you can take today, right now , that will get you on track to doing it?