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My previous posts in this series focused on the need to find balance with work. Often, when we feel stressed or unbalanced, it is easy to blame work for the problems we face. However, our personal lives can also be a source of anxiety and confusion as well. Many people turn to mindless activities to try to unwind, but they’ll often feel unfulfilled by their leisure time.

There are those whose personal lives place a lot of demands on them. Those who are in caretaking roles or need to attend to physical, mental or emotional challenges in their lives often do not have spare time in the day, especially for themselves. For people in this position, finding small amounts of time to take care of themselves each day can contribute to their overall well-being.

For others, the challenge lies in not knowing how to decide what to do with their spare time. If so much of our lives is driven by success and meeting goals, it can be difficult to determine what we should do to unwind. We might have things we enjoy, but it is difficult to place any value or meaning on these things when they do not fulfill a “purpose”.

There are also activities that might be considered “relaxing”, but instead fuel the accomplishment mindset. For example, exercise is incredibly beneficial, but it can lead to more stress if you find yourself feeling guilty that you are not exercising enough or accomplishing enough. If exercise has become another box to check on your to-do list or a source of inadequacy, it may be time to find additional ways to care for your emotional and mental well-being.

Instead of gravitating toward the things that you feel like you should do to relax, ask yourself the following questions:

What did you love to do as a child?

As adults, we often think we are too old or busy for the activities, hobbies or interests we used to love and engage with. The reality is that a return to these aspects of our lives may actually be beneficial for our well-being. The ability to go outside, create, dance, read or explore could reignite interests that energize us and motivate us in other areas of our lives.

When was the last time you lost track of time?

As we grow older, more of our lives become regimented and scheduled. One of the best parts of finding leisure activities is the ability to break out of our schedules and relax. The activities that allow us to relax or have enough fun so that we lose track of time can help most with our emotional well-being. Think about the activities that you wouldn’t mind spending all day on. Are you outside? Are you reading a book? Are you creating something new? What activities are exciting enough that you don’t care how long you spend on them?

What have you tried to do in the past?

We all have materials from hobbies we tried to pick up in the past, but quickly lost interest. Take an inventory of the things you keep with the hope that you’ll “come back to it later”. Are you keeping books you’ll never read? Will you ever finish that art project you didn’t like? Will you ever use that outdoor or sports gear again? If these items are taking up space, it may be a sign that these activities do not motivate or energize you in a helpful way. Instead, examine what it was about these things you did not enjoy and brainstorm new activities that excite you more.

If you can’t think of anything you’ve enjoyed, a therapist can help you examine the barriers in your leisure time. There may be aspects of your life that you need assistance navigating so that you can create a space to relax. Call today to begin this process and find a path to a more enjoyable life.

Written by therapist Elise Champanhet

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