How Boredom And Space Help You Understand Yourself
What Have You Been Avoiding?
Understand Yourself | We're –s-t-u-c-k- safe at home. For some of us, as we continue to transition into this new lifestyle this means more stress and even busier schedules. Living almost minute by minute, taking care of young kids who are home (all the time), while still striving to meet the slow-to-change expectations of employers.
But if that isn't you and you find yourself with more time and fewer outlets than you’re used to, you're probably feeling bored, listless, and maybe even a little lazy. Counting myself among this group, I'm struggling to feel motivated even as I write this! All this time at home can lead to an odd combination of frustration with not having enough to do and a lack of drive to do what you can or even need to do. Maybe even questioning yourself and wondering, Who am I?
I'm sure you've also seen the two social media messages floating around about this experience:
- Start a hobby! Learn something new! Now is the time!
- Just chill. It's okay to feel whatever you feel. Take it easy if you need to.
Both of these approaches are valid and helpful. Pick what works for you – and change your mind as needed. But here's what these messages don't talk about: How boredom and space can help you understand yourself.
Boredom has always gotten a bad rap. Now more then ever, our internet tribe is talking about the big, bad boredom-monster. We're taught to avoid boredom at almost any cost, by staying busy, distracting ourselves with tune-out technology, and being “productive.” Maybe this is because slowing down to get to know yourself better can actually be pretty uncomfortable and scary. Because understanding yourself better can lead to confronting some things you've been avoiding with all that business and distraction.
As an online therapist and life coach, some of my clients too are struggling with some long-term issues that have recently been “brought to the light.” I want to encourage you to allow yourself to sit with these feelings. With a little bit of boredom and space, here are a few not-so-comfortable (but important) things you might uncover:
You may know your relationship isn't perfect (I mean, who's is?). When focused on the hustle of life, we can put off dealing with relationship concerns and the difficult conversations they demand. Now, alone with each other, it gets harder to ignore what isn't working. This is a good opportunity to notice what's coming up for you, to understand yourself in the context of your relationship and get curious about what your relationship might need, and consider if you're ready to start making some gentle repairs.
What You Really Want
Anxiety is up with the Coronavirus epidemic. But for some of those who experience it under ordinary circumstances, anxiety has actually gone down during quarantine! With boredom and more time on your hands comes less pressure and obligation. Suddenly, many are finding themselves relieved of the unspoken but ever-present expectation to be busy and constantly moving toward worthy goals. What arises from this new space is the question, “If I'm less anxious now, did I actually want these goals for myself or did I just think I should have them?” Boredom and space can help you separate what you really want, enjoy, and value from what others think or want.
Having more time with yourself, you might pay a little more attention to your thoughts. Following those thoughts can lead you to your core beliefs. We tend to assume, for example, that our value comes from things like productivity, social engagement, or helping others. Right now, our ability to do each of these has been limited, which can lead to new, healthier beliefs about intrinsic value from being, rather than doing. Boredom and space means we can sit with beliefs and consider them with curious objectivity. We can question them and change them, if we wish. Opening your mind to these personal growth moments will help you in your journey to understand yourself.
As we slow down and get back to basics under quarantine, we create room for more things to grab our attention. You may notice more synchronicities, remember more dreams, or be inspirationally struck with new, creative ideas. These are just some of the ways that deeper, unaddressed feelings work their way to the forefront. Slowing down to embrace a little boredom, what feelings come up and what are they trying to tell you?
Challenges create opportunity for solution-finding. Obstacles illicit creative thinking. Under self-quarantine, we are called to find new ways to connect, help one another, practice self-care, and maintain our hobbies, responsibilities, and goals. Leaning into boredom and space gives you a chance to surprise yourself, to truly understand yourself.
Is it uncomfortable? Definitely. Scary? Yes. But what if this boredom thing is also an opportunity to slow down and sit with an old friend…yourself? Who knows what you might discover?
Wishing you the best,
Kathleen Stutts, M.Ed., LPC
Kathleen Stutts, M.Ed, LPC, helps you build your self-esteem and create strong, meaningful relationships in a non-judgmental, productive space where you will feel safe, comfortable and understood.
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