Take the pressure off: seven ways to manage down time

Most of us are not content with the idea of staying in and being relatively immobile for extended periods of time, and it can feel like an especially stark change after all the Christmas shenanigans. For those who are used to being active and surrounded by family and friends, suddenly becoming unproductive can bring the gloomy feeling of guilt or self-shaming, because we expect ourselves to be consistently productive and checking every item off our long to-do lists.

But maybe we expect too much of ourselves?

Perhaps instead of feeling ashamed for everything we’re not doing we should focus on taking the pressure off ourselves and relieving any unrealistic expectations.

Look back to your busiest days, the days you thought to yourself, “I can’t wait to get back home and sit on the sofa with a cup of tea and a good book, and well, do absolutely nothing”. With more time in retirement (often February is an especially quiet month on the social calendar) now is that time to enjoy peace and reduce the daily stresses we subconsciously set on ourselves in regular life.

Give yourself a break, don’t feel bad for the hours or days you aren’t doing anything significant. The creative project you didn’t finish, the closet you didn’t clear out or the photo albums you didn’t organise, and remember these lazy days are just as important for our well-being as the busy ones.

Here are a few tips on what to do when you don’t want to do anything and how to be okay with that:

Seven ways to manage down time

Roll with it

Some days we’re more gung-ho than others so go with whatever you’re feeling for the day. If it means a day of sluggishness, then give yourself permission to embrace it and don’t feel guilty for it. We’re all experiencing days like that and they are sometimes much needed to feel rejuvenated. Simply go with the flow and remember self-compassion is key.

Try to do some exercise – only if you want to

When you’re feeling motivated, go for a walk or do an at home exercise for 10 minutes, it’s a great distraction, but also a great way to uplift your energy. However, if you’re not feeling up for it, that’s okay too, take a couple of days off. You’ll return to it when you’re ready and stressing over not exercising is more harmful than not exercising in the first place. Listen to your body and do as little or as much as you feel up for.

Sort through your emotions

Are you feeling anxious, sad, lonely, angry or detached? Allow yourself to feel what you are feeling. Try journaling about those emotions or leaning on a friend or family member for support. What comes up may not necessarily make sense or give you a clear exit to total happiness, but it’ll help you manage those feelings and accept what you’re experiencing.


Meditation isn’t for everyone and it can be tough to master, especially at first. But why not give it a try? It’s famously known to reduce stress and help to effortlessly live in the moment. It also doesn’t require a whole lot of energy, which is ideal for the days you feel slow-moving. Visit our YouTube channel and watch Willow from our Audley Club at Redwood take you through relaxation or download an app such as Headspace.

Listen to music

There’s nothing like a good song to bring you back to a moment, to soothe a restless spirit or speak the lyrics that you feel. Though it can also just help fill the silence and give you something to think about when you don’t feel like doing much. Some research also suggests music may have the potential to help reduce pain and symptoms of depression.

Create a schedule – but only if you want to

Maybe today isn’t a day of achievement, but perhaps the next day will be, or the one after that. Create a schedule for one of those days and give yourself something to look forward to. You don’t have to account for every minute of your day (unless that helps), but try to create some general time blocks for:

• Getting up

• Preparing for the day

• Making meals

• Household responsibilities

• Exercise

• Plan a video call with friends or family

• Going to bed

Read or listen to a book or watch a film

If you’re in a mood to disappear into another storyline, then read a couple chapters from a book or listen to an audio version. Sometimes living through a different fantasy is relaxing. If you’re feeling less inclined to focus, then put on a familiar film or TV show and let it play in the background, there’s not much to focus on when you know what happens in the end, though it doesn’t make it any less comforting or enjoyable to watch.

With each day comes a range of different emotions. Make sure you recognise the self-judging ones and cast them aside. There are the people who write to-do lists and the people who don’t, maybe you’re a mix of both.

But if you are the type to write them and find yourself feeling down for not completing every small task you’d set out to do, remember that it’s just as healthy and therapeutic to take a day off and allow yourself to feel okay with the art of doing nothing.

Find more health and wellbeing tips on Audley Stories