This one is my favorite!
How often do you play? Just… carefree, fully immersive fun?
If you’re anything like me, you might do the workweek dash only to collapse on the couch by Friday and then spend the weekend catching up on cleaning and errands. Or shuttling kids to their various activities.
I first heard about play through Brene Brown’s writings, many years ago. It sounded nice, but it was a lesson I didn’t even attempt to incorporate into my life. I was a single mom in graduate school. The idea of spending time “playing” seemed absurdly unrealistic.
Not surprisingly, I spent a lot of time burnt out and exhausted. I would frequently wind up sick and have to take a day off work just to let my body rest. Eventually, I learned my lesson (the hard way, of course).
Now, I try to take one day every week where I don’t think about work or touch household chores. No checking emails. No running errands. Maybe even no technology. If that sounds downright terrifying, it’s probably a good indicator that you need it. We are a culture geared toward productivity, and as such, the idea of taking an entire day where we are not productive can sound downright alarming, if not impossible. I’m here to tell you that it is.
But how do you do it?! It takes some forethought and a bit of planning, but it is 100% worth it! Not only because our batteries need charged, but also because if we never pause, we can never be present. Once you get the swing of it, it will be difficult to go back!
Ok… let’s jump in!
GUIDELINE #1 DO A TIME INVENTORY
We often have more time than we realize. Pay attention to your next few weekends and see how you use your time. Because weekends are unstructured, a lot of hours can slip through the cracks. Write down your activities. Note how many minutes/hours slip by where you find yourself scrolling online or watching tv. You can also lose a lot of time to the suck of household chores and errands if you aren’t intentional around when you do those tasks. Do you find you’re always cooking or cleaning or driving somewhere?
Unscheduled time… time where we aren’t obligated to anything or anyone… is delicious. But you might find you get a lot more of it when you actually schedule your unscheduled time, as counterintuitive as that might sound. The goal here is to see how much time you can free up when you consolidate and plan for certain activities.
GUIDELINE #2 MAKE A PLAN!
Pick the day of the week that is your “sacred” day. Mine is Saturday. Decide ahead of time how you are going to use it. You don’t need to make a hard schedule, but have a rough idea. Otherwise, it’s far to easy to get sucked back in to your old routine. There are three things I try to include in my sacred day:
- Get outside and into nature
- Play and/or create
- Get together with friends (more on the importance of community later)
So, a sacred Saturday might look like this:
- Morning hike at the reservoir
- Afternoon watercolor class
- Evening dinner with friends
It is useful to make a list of play activities you love, so you aren’t scrambling at the last minute. It could be as simple as reading a book, doing a puzzle, playing basketball, kayaking, gardening, woodworking, etc.
If you have kids, your list might look very different. Play might involve small humans, rest might seem elusive, and building community might seem impossible. See the parents addendum at the bottom!
GUIDELINE #3 PROTECT YOUR TIME!
Saturdays used to be the days where I caught up on everything I didn’t have time to do during the week. Sundays were more of the same, with a smattering of social activities worked in. Now, I use Sundays to run errands, grocery shop, and prep/plan for the week. If a social activity arises that I want to attend, I try to make sure I have time on either end to still get to those things. Figure out a schedule that works for you and then protect it.
I am also a firm believer in recruiting outside help. In America, we seem to think we need to do it all- work, cook, clean, childcare, finances. etc. That’s nonsense! Take a hard look at your budget and see if and where you can allocate funds for outside help. Often, this is as simple as reframing what we think we deserve or should have (we might feel it is a social expectation to drive a new car but it is indulgent to spend money on cleaning or yard service). Alternatively, if you are in a position to do so, you might consider a conversation with your boss to see if shifting to a 35 hour week is possible, so that you have a dedicated window of time to fulfill some of those household obligations.
Time is your most valuable asset. We cannot be present in our own lives if we do not protect the time that allows us to do so. Make it your most important investment!
GUIDELINE #4 TAKE IT SLOW… but not too slow!
Avoid the temptation to make your sacred day one more busy day. Don’t fill it so full that you are rushing from thing to thing. Leave room to not rush. Listen to your body. But also, avoid the temptation to stay in bed or on the couch all day. Unless we are truly physically depleted, that is not as restorative as a stroll through nature and engaging play might be. Also, research suggests that it is easier on our bodies if we consistently wake within an hour of our weekday wake time. If your body needs recharging, try an afternoon nap instead.
Play is like exercise. We might not want to do it, even when we know it will make us feel better. It takes the same shift in mindset and habit formation to make it a regular part of our lives.
Your life is loud. And messy. And inevitably busy. Battling your way to rest and play might feel like the frontlines of Dunkirk. Which is why this isn’t about perfection. It’s about doing the best you can.
You can build a pretty awesome work-free, tech-free day with the kids in tow. But what about rest? When is the last time you were alone to get creative or play? That might seem impossible. We have this sense in America that responsible parenting means spending every available hour with our children, in part because we have abandoned the multi-generational family system. But parents today spend vastly more time with their children than their own parents did.
If you find yourself needing a little time and space on your own to recharge, don’t feel guilty. Do try to find some reasonable ways to make it happen. Perhaps you and your partner trade off Saturday afternoons. Or, perhaps you partner with another family and trade afternoons of childcare twice a month. If your budget allows, consider hiring a babysitter once or twice a month. It might take some creative problem solving, but recharging your battery will allow you to be more present in your own life and, ultimately, your family’s!