I’ve just spent ten days pushing myself to keep going and finally realised that I knew better – I needed to let myself have a day off. That made me reconsider what a day off really means.
In this case, I was feeling somewhat under the weather – just not well. I made some allowance for it, cutting down on my expectations of myself, but I wasn’t willing to ‘give in’ to it. The consequence was that I didn’t even meet the expectations I did have of myself, so got cross with myself, or did and felt unreasonably exhausted. And of course, my health didn’t improve at all.
So eventually I remembered that the answer is to remove all the expectations, even those we aren’t usually conscious of, like getting washed and dressed or answering the phone. I spent two days doing what I felt like when I felt like it, with no list of must do’s at all, and I feel so much better for it!
It’s the removal of expectations that makes it a real day off, because that frees you up to genuinely follow your own body and heart preferences. It doesn’t mean doing nothing – unless that is what you feel like – nor taking some of the tasks off the list. It means giving yourself free rein for a day.
Usually we fill our days with expectations of ourselves, which come from us, from our culture and from others, so can be quite a collection! We assess how successful our day was by measuring ourselves against these expectations – and frequently fail to come up to the mark!
If we do allow ourselves a bit of space, because we’re feeling a bit ‘off’ in some way, or sometimes because we think we’ve earned it, that usually means that we take a few of the expectations off the list for the day. ‘I’ll leave the washing till tomorrow, or make that phone call later in the week, or finish that task another day.’ So we load our next few days a bit more, and still have the rest of our expectations of ourselves in the day we have alleviated.
I have known for a long time that a day without any expectations of myself at all, except to do just what I feel like doing, is as good as a holiday. It allows my mind and body to reset and refresh themselves. And yet I realise that, although I am kinder to myself than many, I rarely give myself permission to really take time out from the demands of everyday life.
So I won’t be waiting next time till I’m desperate for that relief. I’m going to write some days off into my diary, and teat them as a priority for my mental and physical health.
So what about you? Do you let yourself have real days off? And if you don’t, can you plan one in and experiment with it?