Updated: Jul 3, 2019
My quitting points in the day are 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
At 10 a.m., I've gotten the kids off to school, cleaned up the kitchen, straightened up (or possibly cleaned) the rest of the house, and the first caffeine burst of the day has worn off.
At 4 p.m., I've "finished' most of my work (professional and domestic), the kids are now doing their homework or playing outside. I'm tired, and it's a dead time between productivity and dinner prep.
What I really want at both of these quitting points is to sit down and rest. And I often do sit-down. But I feel like I need an excuse, or rather an activity, to keep my busy and so I know when the sitting is over. So I reach for what most of you reach for:
My phone, to scroll through Instagram or send texts.
My laptop, to check email or troll Facebook (which I've removed from my phone).
The remote control, to cue up a 22-minute show on Netflix.
A cup of coffee.
Cookies, or some other form of sugar.
A glass of wine. (Not at 10 a.m. And at 4 p.m. I might have poured it in a juice glass because someone might walk by, and it's not 5 p.m. yet.)
It has occurred to me that all my excuses to sit down are potentially addictive substances and behaviors. Which means the things I use to rest may do me more harm than good.
We all need moments to refresh and reset during the day. So why is so hard to just sit down and do something good for ourselves? Like drink a glass of cool water. Or take some deep breaths.
Last week, I hit my 4 p.m. quitting point and noticed that after a week of gray skies, the sun was out. I grabbed my hat, my red folding chair, a Real Simple magazine, and went and sat on my porch. Flipping through the magazine felt infinitely more soothing than scrolling on the melatonin-blocking blue light of my screen. I like the smell and feel of paper And unlike looking at the Internet, I can read one article in the magazine and not get pulled down a rabbit hole to other links.
The article I read was about finding a healthier relationship with your phone. (You can read it here at Unplug and Recharge). It quoted research psychologist Larry Rosen, PhD, as saying that reaching for our phones is not an addiction, it's "an anxiety-based disorder. We're not checking in to get pleasure. We're checking in to remove anxiety." Anxiety can be caused by boredom, worry, or just the overwhelming every-day sight of a kitchen that is cluttered again after being clean three times today.
Though some experts say that we can get addicted to the dopamine hit of checking our phones, my amateur opinion is that the two disorders are just two sides of the same coin. We reach for addictive things (caffeine, sugar, technology, alcohol) because we are tired and anxious. And we are tired and anxious in part because we are addicted to these things.
For me, I avoid real rest because at the outset, rest makes me aware of uncomfortable feelings. But these days, I'm giving myself permission to be still long enough for anxiety to pass, and to find more restorative ways to "reset" at the quitting points throughout the day.
Here are some things that I've found work for me, some of which involve sitting, and some which don't. I hope they might work for you.
Sit outside, in the sun if possible. Even in my little suburban street there are birds to listen for and butterflies to see.
Read a magazine article, a devotional (one that doesn't require you to have a pen in hand for making notes), or one chapter of a good book -- on paper! Unlike Netflix episodes, a new article or chapter won't automatically start playing in 18 seconds.
Drink a class of water.
Make a cup of herbal tea. All the ritual I crave in making coffee or pouring a glass of wine is there in the filling of and waiting for the teakettle to boil. Sit and drink it, or take a walk. Go home when your cup is empty.
Take some deep breaths. If you can get into "downward dog" or child's pose while you do it, all the better.
Make something look pretty. Fluff cushions on your couch, square off the corners of the stack of books on your end table. Or pick a flower and put it into a vase. I find pulling the dead leaves and blossoms of my porch pots of geraniums very satisfying, and then I bring a fresh one inside.
None of the above activities will increase anxiety or hook you into addictive behavior. Instead, they will feed your body and maybe even your heart. Put your phone down (on which you are likely reading this blog) and go try one. No excuse needed.