‘Empty’ Time

My Dad is currently in India on a work trip. When he calls me to check-in, he often asks “What are you doing? What are you up to?”

My go-to reply, with actually anyone who asks a similar question, is “Nothing.”

However, I’m never actually doing ‘nothing’ because doing ‘nothing’ starkly goes against the American Dream: the idea that one must keep hustling in order to achieve their goals and dreams. Doing ‘nothing’ is also terrifying because then that means all the thoughts that I’ve locked away can come back – with full force. Thinking about those thoughts is emotionally draining, so the best solution would be to just go-go-go.

Once you’ve been go-go-go-ing for quite some time, you start to notice how depleted and overloaded you feel. Many define this as ‘burnout.’ A lot of people (and information on the Internet) claim that the cure to burnout is to do things that bring joy. The thing is, though, many people actively schedule those joyful things into their day-to-day lives. The act of scheduling joy may be helpful for some, but I found that it was actually more detrimental for me.

“According to the Western perspective, filling every moment with “value added” activities is a sign of virtue and significance….The archetype of the virtuously over-busy person is so ingrained in our societal mind-set that it takes strong language to knock it loose.” – Martha Beck

When I schedule joy, I start to look at joy as a task that I need to check off. For example, let’s say I schedule “write a blog post at 2:00pm.” Writing and posting on this site is one of my creative passions that brings me lots of joy. However, it only brings me joy when it’s not a structured part of my life. Therefore, when I try to structure this passion of mine into my day-to-day To-Do list, I found that I actually begin to not like writing as much as I used to.

The key to prevent such backward healing is to schedule ’empty time.’

“Empty time is a powerful medicine that can make us more joyful and resilient, but it’s strangely hard to swallow.” – Martha Beck

Schedule ’empty time’ into your calendars. Do not title that block of time with anything – just write ’empty time.’ When you reach that period of time, then decide what you want to do. Do you want to just sit on your ass and stare at the walls? Do you want to journal all your crippling thoughts? Do you want to go out for lunch with your best friend? Do you want to go downstairs and chat with your family? Decide what to do in that moment. Lean in to the things that feel like home. For someone who likes to be in control and plans everything well in advance, this idea of being spontaneous during her ’empty time’ is an uncomfortable, but refreshing feeling.

Martha Beck does an incredible job of conveying the importance of having empty time here.

Dear Diary

It’s currently 9:06am. I just finished a sweaty workout and am sitting on my Yoga mat with my gross hair in a bun, listening to Too Young to Burn and simply just vibing.

It’s been a hell of a couple weeks ya’ll. I feel like I’ve been getting whipped by a belt for the past month with the amount of stuff that I had to do academically, socially, even emotionally.

Today was different though.

My alarm went off at 6:00am. I physically just was not in a position to wake up, so my alarm went off again at 6:15am. Could not get up again. Alarm went off at 6:30am. I was awake. At least I thought I was. But then I check my phone again and it’s 7:11am.

I had a moment of panic, but then I smiled. I smiled at the fact that I gave myself enough grace to just sleep. I haven’t done that in a while. It felt good to just give myself unconditional love and permission to rest. I gradually got up at 7:30am, did my morning routine, got my cup of coffee, and submitted an assignment.

And then I finally got a workout in. I forced myself to stop working and just sweat it out. I am immensely grateful that I listened to myself because I just feel so freaking rejuvenated right now. It may also have to do with the fact that I was listening to Dr. Santos’s podcast while working out. The episode on Guilt made me feel incredibly validated. Listening to something that brought joy to my soul while simultaneously sweating my ass off with Kayla Itsines’s workout ultimately made my morning so freaking amazing.

I’m happy. I’m glad I got some endorphins out. I’m elated that I was kind to myself this morning. Just a reminder for all of you to also do the same. It’s a nice feeling 🙂

Dear Diary….

You are okay. You are overwhelmed, but you are okay.

Your monotonous routine was suddenly bombarded by other factors and that has been the biggest source of anxiety for you. You have been unable to wake up at the dusk of dawn like you usually do. Your ability to work for hours on end has significantly decreased. You’re reverting back to the mindset of thinking that you are “falling behind.” It’s all of this and more that is scaring the living daylights out of you. You are okay.

Let me be your guiding light 💡

Rigid routines are just as anxiety provoking as not having a routine at all. Striking that balance is essential. You don’t regret any of your decisions when you prioritized your health and happiness. And if you do, you shouldn’t. Health and happiness should be strived for. They should never be second priority. It’s uncomfortable for you because you’re not used to it. But here you are, letting yourself try new things and feeling new feelings in 2022. Though you are now silently cursing yourself out for allowing so much work to pile up, remind yourself that this – “this” meaning the present moment – is a tiny tiny tiny drop in the vast ocean that is your life. Everything is so temporary. You are okay.

Let me also remind you that there is no such thing as “falling behind.” There are no ‘start’ and ‘finish’ lines in life. It’s just a wiggly and curvy path that only comes to an end when our biological selves decide to shut down. Up until that point, your only job is to navigate through that path at your own time and pace – free of comparison and full of an extreme amount of self-compassion.

Rooting for you always.

Rest Up!

Coffee Date #25 and I had some amazing Frutta Bowls today. I came back home from campus and felt the food coma kick in.

My original plan was to come home and bang out a shit ton of work so that I could get ahead of my classes that are beginning next week, and possibly even get in a good workout.

What actually ended up happening is my mom excitedly jumping up and down as soon as she saw me, me smothering my brother, and my cousin being her usual hilarious self.

Despite all the love and energy I was receiving from my family, I forced myself to go upstairs to start my classwork. I barely lasted 30 minutes before I realized that I couldn’t work anymore. Hoping that maybe having my endorphins pumped up would help me finish my work, I went to go put my workout clothes on. That’s when my brain decided to activate and tell me that my body was just not really feeling it today.

That ‘devilly’ side of everyone’s inner self began telling me that I already did not do enough work, so now if I skip a workout, I will be utterly useless, unproductive, and a disaster.

It took me around 10 minutes to come to peace with my decision: let go of work (you can do it tomorrow), listen to the combined connection of your mind and body (skip a workout), and go spend time with your favorite humans (especially because you haven’t seen them for a week).

I always read and look for a resource to bounce me out of my negative self-talk because, naturally, I seek for validation. I look to find other people who have a similar experience because it provides me with so much comfort knowing that I’m not alone.

Therefore, I found this article and it kinda helped me ‘snap out of it.’ Specifically, the part of the article that states that we need to “avoid feeling guilty about feeling guilty” and “focusing on what you love about your workout, rather than punishing yourself when you need to skip it.”

Overall, I’m just super proud that I was able to force myself out of this little rut because this is one of my 2022 goals: to not let toxic productivity or hustle culture rule my life.

Sleep is a Waste of Time

Note: This post is also published on happy2thrive.org

“I sleep only 4 hours a day,” one says. 

Someone replies, “Wow, that’s impressive! You must be so productive and hardworking.”

“Yeah, I am. Sleep is a waste of time. Every second you’re sleeping, you’re missing out on a chance to accomplish all your life goals.” 

Since when has our productivity become linked with our physical and mental health? Although incorrect, society continues to teach the growing generation that hard work trumps everything. Known as the “Hustle Culture,” it has been ingrained in children early on that if they are not constantly at their maximum productivity, they’re falling behind in life.

But on whose standards has that person fallen behind? Who deems how hard someone must work to achieve their own life goals? Who says that you can’t achieve all your goals in life while also making room for sleep, food, exercise, family, and friends? 

The modern education system thrives on “Hustle Culture”. Students are provided a motive to put their health on the backburner simply for grades and the “pride” of making it onto the Honor Roll or Dean’s List. Many social media influencers glorify “Hustle Culture” and toxic productivity by posting content of themselves up at 4:00 am and working until 11:59 pm. Parents support “Hustle Culture” by comparing other children to their own. 

This is nonsense. 

There is no point in staying up to work if the work you do is of bad quality! It is not necessary to sacrifice your health for your dreams and aspirations. In fact, there is no way you will attain those aspirations if you sacrifice yourself in the process. 

Hustle culture inevitably leads to burnout, which is defined as a “state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.”

According to Brian Dyson, CEO of Coca-Cola in the 1900s:  

“Imagine life as a game in which you’re juggling 5 balls in the air. You can name them work, family, health, friends, and spirit. And you’re keeping all of these things in the air. You will soon understand that work is like a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls are made of glass. If you drop them, they’ll be scuffed, damaged, and potentially even shattered. They will never be the same again.” 

With the constant stimulation from the outside world, we become our worst enemies. We feel guilty if we take a day to just relax because all of the celebrities and “successful” people supposedly never stop “hustling.” But do not forget, social media shows us only the best of people, rarely the worst.

Don’t compare yourself to others’ standards. Compare yourself to the holistic standards of your mind and body combined. Productivity should not come at the price of your health, family, friends, and ultimately, yourself. 

Be present. Be mindful. And be “productive,” in your own way. 

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