*This* is why you should learn to love lazy
It’s 11:15 on Saturday morning and, after hitting snooze for the sixth time, you finally wake up feeling bright-eyed and bushy- tailed. But when you grab your phone to start planning your day, panic sets in. Right before your very eyes, there’s Angie from gymnastics at the finish line of the Color Run...and as you continue to scroll, your feed fills with the pretty proof of everyone else’s early-bird achievements: the crumbly breakfast scones baked by your lab partner, the wild flowers your BFF foraged and artfully arranged. You groan—and instantly feel guilty for “wasting” the day on those three extra hours of sleep.
Sound familiar? That nagging feeling in the back of your head—that whatever you’re doing isn’t productive enough or good enough or cool enough—is caused by time-shaming...and it’s a pressure we get from our parents, teachers, friends and, yep, even ourselves. And while it’s hardly ever intentional, the result is almost always the same: You’re stuck feeling like you just don’t measure up.
You’re not alone. Nearly every girl on the planet faces some sort of pressure to be constantly productive, yet most lack the time to do it all. But here’s the good news: If you’re on obligation overload, pressing pause on your whirlwind life can be good for you, regardless of whatever else awaits your attention (like homework, SAT prep, violin lessons, soccer practice and driving school, just to name a few). How?
“When you’re well-rested and veg out once in a while, you’re better able to cope with stressors in a healthy way, retain more information and function more efficiently,” says Erica Curtis, a licensed family therapist in San Juan Capistrano, Calif.
The Shaming Cycle
But that’s not always easy, especially when pressure is being applied from multiple sources. Take Erin H., 15, who feels her schedule-induced stress is sometimes amplified by her parents. “On a rare day off from dance and play practice, I got all my studying finished and turned on Netflix,” she shares. “But then my mom said I should be outside or reading or doing something useful.”
Another sneaky sort of shaming? Look no further than the device you’re constantly carrying. While many girls might think endless scrolling on social media is a good way to detach from the grind, it’s quite the opposite. Turns out, the constant stream of fashion snaps, homemade recipes and DIYs actually increases that guilty feeling you’re not doing enough—or at least not doing something worthy of a status update.
“Sometimes I’ll want to try a cool hair tutorial or make a yummy dessert, but
I realize I just don’t have enough time,” says Gia P., 14. Reality check: You see an endless amount of staged shots because our culture prioritizes achievement and “post-ability,” not because everyone is actually living their best life 24/7.
So what’s a busy babe to do? First, understand that a few hours of free time are far more valuable than you may realize. We’re not saying you should lounge around in your PJ pants and fuzzy bunny slippers all weekend long—but yes, a little laziness goes a long way.
“There are a lot of benefits to spending more time tuning out. For starters, it’s important to give your mind a chance to process all that it’s taking in: like facts you learned in school, problems with friends or feelings about a new crush,” says Erica. She explains that when you’re resting, your brain is able to absorb and sort through the backlog, even though you’re not aware of what’s happening.
“Downtime is valuable,” agrees Constance Dunn, a communications instructor at University of California, Santa Barbara. “You’ve got to protect it, even when others are trying to heap new obligations onto your plate.”
That means scheduling time to relax— and sticking to it—just like you would with your many other priorities.
“Write something personal and funny on your calendar like ‘sit on the porch and do nothing’ or ‘skateboard down the street and laugh,’” she suggests. The more it speaks to you, the better.
Spend your free time with caution, however: Activities like TV or texting are totally OK in moderation, but they’re not always the best bet when you really need to unwind. So monitor how you’re feeling before, during and after your downtime. If that totally addicting thriller is actually freaking you out a bit too much or a group text has you worrying about weekend plans, then maybe it’s time to turn off the tech and give something else a try. (Check out our top time-wasters below for low-key ways to give your brain a break.)
Being Brilliantly Lazy
Whatever chill-out method you find most rewarding, there’s one more major bonus factor to a little lollygagging: Research on creativity suggests that when our minds are calm and relaxed, we can form new ideas we hadn’t thought of when we were actively focusing on something. So don’t be surprised if the perfect solution to a problem miraculously becomes clear, or if you get a burst of brilliant ideas when you’re outside counting clovers.
“I’m always under tons of deadlines, and I’ve got way too much going on, so my downtime is priceless,” confesses Keri L., 16. “Seriously, when I’m in the middle of a sketchbook coloring sesh, a million dollars couldn’t get me off the couch.”
Here’s the one true time-waster: squandering your precious spare moments by judging yourself, feeling guilty or trying to multi-task instead of taking a real, restorative break. So tune out, turn down, cozy up—that history thesis will still be waiting after your get-pumped power nap.
3 signs you *really* need a break
1. You stand up to deliver your rebuttal in debate practice... then start rattling off Spanish conjugations. As if you need more proof that all-night cram sessions aren’t good: Skipping a healthy sleep sesh can make you disoriented, moody and uncoordinated the next day.
2. Your mind is *everywhere*. Your text- book is all “syntax! semantics! style!”... and you’re all shopping, sea creatures, Selena Gomez. The good news: A ve-min- ute brain break can x that failure to focus.
3. Your shoulders hurt from carrying your workload—literally. Aches in your back and neck could mean you’re overexerting. Your bod can temporarily absorb stress, but it’ll send up a red flag when you’re really in need of some rest.
5 things it's totally OK to spend time on...
1. Getting that fishtail bun just right. Sure, you might be a couple minutes late...but your hair’s gonna slay.
2. Listening to your BFF recount every single detail from her first date… again. That’s what friends sign up for, and you’re totally killing it in the bestie department.
3. Reading one last chapter, even though it’s waaay past bedtime. Because when you’re thisclose to finding out if Jules can survive round two at Everless, stopping just isn’t an option.
4. Camping on the couch for cuddle time with the new puppy. He’s usually moving nonstop, so when Sprinkles finally gets sleepy, snuggling up for some bite-free bonding time is essential.
5. Skipping your Saturday morning sweat sesh to play some Exploding Kittens. Hey, take those small victories wherever you can find them.
GL’s top 15 chill-out ideas
• Take your pup for a walk—she misses you!
• Learn how to cook one truly delicious meal
• Send an overdue thank-you note
• Plan your dream vacay
• Go to the park and listen to the sounds
• Look at piglets on the internet
• Play a kiddie board game (Candy Land, anyone?)
• Catch a butterfly…then let it go
• Write a letter to someone who is important to you—but might not know it
• Make a vision board: Step 1) Find a swing set. Step 2) Swing until you get that flying feeling. Step 3) Close your eyes.
• See if it’s really possible to watch the grass grow
• Play with your little bro
• Find shapes in the clouds
• One word: Catnap
What's your favorite way to relax? Share below!
A version of this story appeared in the April/May 2018 issue of Girls' Life magazine.