Dr. Patricia Farrell on Medika Life

Is Self-compassion and Quiet Time, a Good Thing or Simply Narcissistic Behavior?

Permitting ourselves the time to be quiet and to care for our minds as well as our bodies may seem like inordinate time better spent in some productive activity. Is it?

A favorite childhood character in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the White Rabbit (who was made even more famous by Grace Slick’s “White Rabbit”), was always sputtering, “I’m late, I’m late for a very important date, I’m late.” Late? Did he not know that being a bit late or downright lazy has its merits, too? Had he not heard the expression, take a load off (and The Band recommended it, too)?

Laziness (a pejorative term for self-care) is to be derided in all its manifestations. Anyone who dares to exhibit this trait is seen as an enemy of the industrious and a scourge on humanity. Nay, they should be shuttled off to Coventry, but surely not The Hamptons shuttle. But the East End would be the ideal place to take that load off for a bit and allow body and mind to, once again, meld together.

I recall a man with whom I worked in an open editorial area. At lunchtime, he pushed his chair back, put his feet up on his desk, and took a 20-minute nap each day. He deserved it because he wrote the total newspaper column for a very famous psychologist, even though he’d never gone to college. He knew about the need for downtime even before people talked about it.

We live in a world where mindfulness, massages, and yoga sessions are now a major business opportunity, and spa days are encouraged as a component of our lives. Why? Herein lies a fallacy. Not everyone can afford these physical pleasures, can they, but aren’t they needed?

Pity the poor single mother with two or three kids who is being blasted with the message to get a massage or take a Pilates class. It’s cruel because she doesn’t have that luxury. Sure, she has a TV, and yes, she hears the messages. How must she feel, and what toll does it take on her?

Do you have an extra $100 or so sitting around taking up space in your dresser money drawer? That single mom doesn’t EVER have $100 in her pocket. Yes, I knew a woman who opened a dresser drawer, and it was loaded with money.

A friend had a therapist who showed him shoeboxes filled with money in an office coat closet. A physician once admitted to stuffing cash into a desk drawer. They had money to spare but didn’t use it. Was it that rainy day concern they had? What about self-care? They didn’t have time for it. The therapist died suddenly one day.

The therapist and the physician, I believe, were paid in cash to avoid paying income taxes on their windfalls. Not honorable, but they did it, anyway. The woman had more money than she knew how to use, so she stuffed it into the drawer.

I haven’t seen any t-shirts or sweatshirts with the stenciling, “I’m lazy, and I like it,” so I suppose laziness still has a bad rap, but it shouldn’t. Watch enough TV, and you’ll realize how much money is devoted to promoting in-home gym equipment (some cost $4K) and talking up activity. Yes, exercise is good. I’m not against it.

Unfortunately, sitting around doing nothing is still listed as the deadly sin of sloth. Taking time off to allow your mind to wander as your body sinks into whatever soft item is around is to be honored and encouraged. How can we justify kicking back and doing nothing if it’s sinful? Research is the answer, my friends.

As outlined in one paper, “There’s a terrible price to be paid when our exterior life is not an honest reflection of our interior life — when we are out of sync with what really matters. And when we turn away from that inner exploration and look outside ourselves for answers, it becomes very hard to avoid or correct that disconnect. However, taking time to do nothing will make us more productive and creative. As the saying goes, sometimes we need to fall from the mountain to realize what we have been climbing for.”

In fact, doing nothing can be seen as a means to increase our creativity and provide ourselves with much-need quiet time away from the demands in our lives. Labeling it boredom, laziness, indolence, or whatever you wish denies its value.

But it’s not always creativity we need to nourish in our “lazy time.” These are times for allowing our bodies and minds to have needed respite. We are not machines that can go 24/7 without consequence. Vacations, my friends, are good for biz and good for you.

Even computers need some downtime or time to defrag. Deny that, and you’re asking for trouble, and that’s what we’re doing to ourselves. Want an equation I made up for those who don’t take time for quiet, contemplative activity?

Multi-tasking =↑ stress =↓ immune system = ↑ anxiety/depression and ↑ potential for illness.

Print it out and tack it over your computer or workspace as a reminder.

I am not advocating for procrastination here, but for enough concern for self-care (and that’s not narcissistic) to be mindful of its importance in our lives. Time out or time away have benefits that cannot be denied.

If you need a visual of how devoting massive amounts of time working can be seen, take a look at some of the recent photos of corporate giants in their obits. Many of them look 10–20 years older than their true age. Stress also ages you on the interior as well as the exterior. Cremes and face jobs can’t fix all the damage a lack of idol time will do over a lifetime.

Learn to lounge without guilt, and you will be doing yourself an incredible favor.

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Pat Farrell PhD
Pat Farrell PhDhttps://medium.com/@drpatfarrell
I'm a licensed psychologist in NJ/FL and have been in the field for over 30 years serving in most areas of mental health, psychiatry research, consulting, teaching (post-grad), private practice, consultant to WebMD and writing self-help books. Currently, I am concentrating on writing articles and books.


Medika Editor: Mental Health

I'm a licensed psychologist in NJ/FL and have been in the field for over 30 years serving in most areas of mental health, psychiatry research, consulting, teaching (post-grad), private practice, consultant to WebMD and writing self-help books. Currently, I am concentrating on writing articles and books.

Patricia also acts in an editorial capacity for Medika's mental health articles, providing invaluable input on a wide range of mental health issues.

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