Don’t Feel Like Doing Anything? Try Not Resisting It
Conventional wisdom says that when you’re feeling down and blue, get out in the fresh air. This is, on the whole, good advice — except when it’s not.
Recently, leaving the house has felt more difficult than usual for me. All my normal coping mechanisms and tips for getting-out-of-the-doldrums seem to not be working. I end up spending most of the day lying on my couch with my cat, wishing I was doing something else. (My cat, on the other hand, loves it.)
I have valid reasons for feeling this way, ranging from the personal to the health-related. But still, I feel endlessly guilty about it. However I realized recently that much of the suffering that happens on those days is not because I’m stuck in the house — it’s because I feel bad about being stuck in the house. That even if I can’t do anything “productive,” I think I at least should be doing something more enriching or present.
I also notice a creeping fear on those days, one that whispers: “You will always be like this. You’ll never get your get up and go back again.” Of course, there are all kinds of reasons that voice is not true, and steps I could take if this period lasted many months. But it’s a hard voice to shake when, like many people, I have a history of getting my value and worth from achievements and productivity.
When I expressed this to my acupuncturist (one of the few things I recently dragged myself out of the house for) she put it simply: “If you don’t feel like going for a walk, don’t go for a walk. Why resist it? Maybe that’s not what you need right now.”
Like most good advice, its simplicity is what stuck with me. What’s making me suffer is not that I don’t feel like doing anything, it’s how I feel about the fact that I don’t feel like doing anything. If I simply accept that I am having a very slow and lethargic couple of weeks or months, I remove an entire layer of thoughts and judgements about that experience.
Better still, if I begin to see these months not as a shortcoming or failure, but instead, what I need to be doing right now, I might even be able to tolerate and welcome it, if not entirely enjoy it. I’ll leave that to my cat.