Stress remedy: Do nothing

Escape pressures of everyday living

By Barbara Pierce

We’re all under way too much stress. We keep hearing about all the harm stress does. We get that. We know it’s bad for us, really bad. That stresses us out even more.

But, if you’re like me, you may not have heard any reasonable, practical suggestions that work for you as your stress levels climb higher and higher.

But now there’s an answer — an easy, enjoyable way to relieve your stress.

I guarantee you’re going to love this suggestion of what to do as your stress levels soar.

No, it’s not meditation, which I’ve never been able to get the hang of.

Doing nothing is increasingly being suggested as a positive, stress-fighting tactic.

Yes, you read that right. Doing nothing.

It’s a European trend that’s gaining popularity in the United States. The Dutch concept is simple: Do nothing. It’s called “niksen,” which most closely translates as “nothing” in Dutch.

It’s a way to reset your mind, a form of mental resting.

So, how exactly does doing nothing work? Exactly what it sounds like. You simply do nothing. Deliciously do nothing.

You don’t have a purpose. You don’t give yourself deadlines. You don’t do anything useful. You just do nothing. This could be as simple as sitting down and writing your thoughts to see where they take you, or carving out time to watch the clouds.

Gloria Koslofsky, 78-year-old retired teacher of Schuyler, has the idea: “When I need to escape the bustle of my life, I simply open my back door, walk onto our deck holding my coffee cup, sit in front of the bird feeders and watch my winged friends flutter around.

So does Christopher Peruzzi, online: “I love cutting my lawn. Cutting my lawn is a labor of love. Anyone who uses a lawn mower has found peace in the smell of cut grass, order in the lines of his tire tracks, the sound of the machine, an the rhythmic going back and forth.”

Doing nothing is different to everyone; there’s no one size fits all. It is whatever appeals to you and whatever makes you happy. Doing nothing is about making good use of your free time, whether that’s listening to music, going for a walk, knitting, talking to friends, gazing out a window, or just being.

For Koslofsky, another stress buster is hiking one of the trails in the area or escaping to a park.

“Our historic parks in Utica (Conkling and T.R. and F.T. Proctor parks) are an unusually large quality-of-life amenity,” said Philip Bean, executive director, Central New York Conservancy in Utica, recently.  The nonprofit conservancy works to preserve and enhance Utica’s historic parkway and parks.

“Our parks offer a diversity of opportunities — tennis, swimming, miles of trails for hiking, running, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, beautiful vistas, and large open fields for just contemplating,” he said. “Each park offers slightly different opportunities.”

Research is strong when it comes to the benefits of slowing down and doing nothing, from emotional perks — like reducing anxiety — to physical advantages — like curtailing the aging process and strengthening the body’s ability to fight off a common cold. You may also consider float therapy which may not only decrease your stress level, but also relieve pain.

These potential health effects might be enough to encourage even the most hectic and overburdened among us to consider carving out time to practice “niksen.”

It’s not laziness. It’s a thorough enjoyment of life’s pauses without guilt.

The work ethic is instilled in us, which tells us that we have to be doing something productive all the time. Ignore that inner voice that tries to tell you this. “Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time,” said legendary musician John Lennon. There’s something to this, say the experts.

Feeling work and family pressure and always being in the “go” mode takes a toll. Giving ourselves time to chill out and cutting back on multitasking makes us more productive and more creative. Brain breaks are good for your brain.

If you feel like you’re just too busy to take time to do nothing, recognize that most of us really do have the time to do nothing. Most of us do have actual free time throughout the day; we just don’t always use it wisely.

Schedule do-nothing time. Find pockets of time to do nothing and give yourself permission to take it. You might even consider putting it on your calendar, like any other appointment. It is as important.

Ditch your devices during your do-nothing time; taking a media break is a powerful way to improve your well-being.

As for me, sitting down with my knitting makes a refreshing pause during the busy day, and so does a walk. In the evening, playing video games helps me wind down. Now I don’t have to feel guilty about any of those things.

Enjoy discovering what you most enjoy doing during your do-nothing time. Try several different things; some you will enjoy, some you won’t.