Loving one’s self can be a full time job. And in those daily thoughts to yourself, you may always be thinking, what should I be doing right now and what should I do next?

The mind is always pushing itself to fulfil your heart’s desires and to make you happy. And having just come back from a 10 day ‘annual leave’, there were times I’d ‘quickly’ log on to my work emails just to ‘keep up with what’s happening’ and not ‘miss anything important’. I felt the pressure to always be available and wanted to present myself professionally,  in a way that others would view me as forever reliable and hard-working. Especially as a remote worker (more on this in another post). And I felt guilty for not writing a post on this in just over a month.

But it was a battle between, keep yourself switched on and brain wired for healthy stimulation and sanity vs full rest and recovery for health and relaxation.

Let’s put this straight. This is SO NOT the right attitude.  To put this into context, for my holiday, I wasn’t going anywhere exotic, but simply staying at home to spend some time with my family and sister who came home from the US for a visit (yes, damn it, she’s a ‘Californian’ girl now). But this shouldn’t mean, that just because I was in country and technically ‘available’, that I should’ve been thinking about work or anything else for that matter. I had a few other personal and professional obligations outside of work and just too many things to think about including spending quality time with my family.

And I realised, sometimes the mind, soul and body truly need to rest without feeling guilty about ANYTHING. Many self-help happiness books promote the idea that stimulating the brain and doing something you’re in fear of, keeping challenged on a daily basis etc are the keys to being content. And whilst all of those are true. Another thing is true.

Sometimes, there are periods in your life, where you just need to do nothing. Or just do something relaxing with yourself,  family or friends. And these periods can be as regular or sporadic as you like.

A post that I came across from 5 years ago in the Huffington Post describes exactly this. And as Hyman describes, being dictated by external forces (lots of them) is a great contributor to stress. And what does stress lead to?

It manifests itself in many different ways for different individuals. For me, I have no doubt that pressures from society and pressures I put on myself can cause havoc, particularly with an already existing chronic condition.  And once a detrimental cycle sets in, it can be hard to break.

Whilst his post is about kind mindfulness and the concept of Buddhism which is something I strongly advocate and have done for years, it can still feel like I’m in the early stages of learning. For example, if I’ve known about ‘mindfulness’ for as long as I can remember, why didn’t I apply this philosophy of ‘being in the moment’ with my family and holiday time?

Then it dawned upon me, that exactly as it summarises in the post, I was criticising myself harshly again, for trying to be a good citizen and having human thoughts- (erm wanting to be a professional, wanting to be a dedicated worker, wanting to be the best at everything, wanting to know I tried my hardest, wanting to write a blog post every week, wanting to do yoga daily, wanting to do amazing things with my family, wanting to do more for charity at the same time etc). Write it out like that and I realise I was chastising myself. And I shouldn’t have. So, thankfully, in the latter half of my holiday, I just let all those thoughts go and reminded myself, I don’t have a holiday again for a while,  nor will I see my sister again for a long time. I needed to ENJOY this time for what it is. No more, no less.

And I did nothing. I simply enjoyed the time with my family and didn’t have an ounce of guilt. Even the Italians have a concept for piddling around known as “La Dolce Far Niente,” which means the sweetness of doing nothing. Thanks ‘Eat, Prey, Love’ for that scene and teaching the masses.

Eat prey love julia roberts

And you know, for a sign that reminded me to continue being ‘good’ to myself and be less harsh on ones self, was when the holiday was finished off with a piece of good news from my respiratory consultant. And this was, that my lung function has slightly improved!

This is a BIG deal for me, because despite there being no cure as yet, an improvement is rare (especially as COPD is thought to continually decline your lung function) and it brought a big smile to my face, confirming that perhaps, FINALLY, all my combined efforts of the following has helped in some way:

  • More yoga
  • More mindfulness
  • More gratitude
  • More probiotics and overall health diet
  • More talking to family and friends
  • More writing about my condition (whether privately to myself or publicly on this)
  • And prioritising what matters in life (health of course!)

And finally, ask yourself this:

How different would your quality of life be if you made time throughout the day to experience la dolce far niente? Instead of using your free moments to catch up on Netflix, instead of checking your email one last time to see if anyone else is needing you to do something, instead of using your free time to check your bank accounts or pay that phone bill. What if you just did nothing?”

Enjoy those holidays!