What To Do When You Want To Do Nothing

It hit me out of nowhere. That horrible feeling I get when I do not want to do anything. Of course - this feeling has to come when I have two events that need planning, trips that need arranging, meal prep, and a host of other things that must be completed by the end of the week.

I know that you know the feeling, and like me, you have wondered how to shake the feeling and get back to work. For me, it’s been largely by trial, error, and learning the difference between an overstimulated brain and an unmotivated one.

Out of that trial and error, was the misconception that I could “bully [myself] into taking action”, as Dr. Steven Hayes of Psychology Today explains. I would criticize myself for starting too late, for laying in bed for too long, for scrolling down social media instead of facing the issue head-on. Internally, we are built to resist coercion, and this will only undermine a healthy relationship with self according to Dr. Hayes. Instead, we need to get things done while preserving a healthy perspective of ourselves and building ourselves up instead of tearing ourselves down.

Here’s how I do it:

Do nothing

Seems counter intuitive to give up, doesn’t it? Well, after years of trying other methods this is the only one I’ve found that works. Why do nothing? Well, I’ve come to recognize these feelings as exhaustion or what I consider to be a “thought block”. In other words, the resistance to do something comes from the wires in my brain being tangled up.

That’s why I decided that the first thing I would do is keep my brain from working hard by going with the flow instead of resisting what my brain is really asking you to do - take a break. Dr. Hayes says, “The more you cling to “feeling good first”, the harder it will be for you to take action.”

If your brain is exhausted, you’ll give it a rest by sitting back and doing nothing. No scrolling on social media, no talking, just existing.

Reflect on what could be causing a “thought block”

If your brain is cluttered or you feel that you could be overwhelmed, take a moment to think about what is bothering you and reorganize your day so that you get what is bothering you done first.

Writing everything down may help get it out of your head and on to paper. From my perspective, it helps me to focus on one detail at a time. By writing tasks down I perform a “brain drain” and then fill my head up with the tiny parts of the one task that is driving me nuts.

Do a mindless task like showering, cleaning, or taking a walk

Wonder why you come up with the best ideas in the shower? A mindless task “relaxes the prefrontal cortex, switches on the rest of your brain’s “default mode network”, [and allows you to] make new, creative connections that your conscious mind would have dismissed.”

Doing a mindless task is an alternative to writing for the same brain drain to occur which allows you to release the things that are important, but not urgent and focus on the thing that is giving you heartburn. It will also help you to get creative and potentially solve the problem your subconscious mind is ready to address.

Prioritize and run with it

Once I find the thing that is bugging me, I do it. I’ll even clear out my entire schedule for the day if that’s what it takes. I know I’ll be much happier when it’s done, so if I end up having time for what was scheduled for the day I will most likely have the motivation to get things done later.

Don’t stop and think. Just go. Break the task down into bite-size pieces and come to an understanding of what you mentally need to be done with today to take the anxiety down a few notches.

Just like that, you went from being as depressed as Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, yes we’re old now, to being ready to tackle the world like Tigger! Once in a while, someone amazing comes along and LOOK - here you are. Let’s get to work!

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