On weekends when I have an open agenda, I tend to freak out. As much as I love free/uninterrupted/unscheduled time, I also fear it. My anxiety kicks into high gear when I have nothing to structure my day and as a result, I've spent many weekends depressed and/or doing something mindless to take the edge off (marathon watching Sister Wives to escape reality, or napping the day away, or cleaning the house obsessively).
Does this happen to anyone else? For me, it starts after my morning coffee. I start to panic. Thoughts race through my head, such as "What should I do today? I should get work done! I should be productive! I should, I should, I should!" And without fail, I end up panicking to the point that I don't do anything and hate myself for it. This has happened to me so many times. Weekends have become a love/hate thing.
Part of the problem is how I view productivity and time management. Ask anyone who knows me, I HATE wasting time. To me, weekends are about catching up and/or getting ahead. This usually means working or doing some other task that I deem "productive." Such tasks include but are not limited to:
* Doing Google work
* Cleaning my apartment
* Running errands, grocery shopping
* Going on a run or some other workout
* Doing my Italian homework
* Catching up on other mundane life shit, like budgeting money for the week
The problem with these tasks is they are not fun or leisurely. There is no way to relax or rejuvenate when you are doing homework or a weekly budget. Since most of these tasks fucking suck, guess what happens – I don't do them. And then I hate myself.
I came across an article recently and it struck a chord. Leisure time IS important! So important that it's hard to function without it. For me, "leisure time" covers all the things I dream of doing but never actually do, such as:
* Visiting a new SF neighborhood
* Sitting in the park
* Watching my favorite shows or a new documentary
* Taking a bath
* Going for a walk
To me, these tasks are time wasters that don't accomplish anything. As much as I'd like to do them in my head, I never actually do them. They feel wrong in practice. A few weekends ago, I had a small revelation. I was in the throes of a panic attack. It was Sunday at 1pm here in SF and I didn't want to get out of bed. I was so overwhelmed with the thought of doing anything except going back to sleep. I called Seth immediately and he encouraged me to take a walk to Lafayette Park. I fought him tooth and nail. "Go to the park!?" I exclaimed. "For what! What good will that do?" He persisted, telling me it will get me out of the house for a short while. He also told me that I needed to give myself a break. At his insistence, I got dressed in slob gear and went to the fucking park.
I was there about a half hour, sitting on a bench and trying not to look at my phone. Seth was right. Getting out into the fresh, crisp air was already helping, even though the trip inherently felt meaningless. But since I was already out, I decided to stop at the art store and pick up some new paints, an errand I'd been meaning to run for awhile but never had the "time" to do. After the art store, I visited Basik Cafe, an acai outpost that I'd been meaning to try for ages but never had the "time" to do. Acai and paints in hand, I headed back home. By now, it was close to 4pm.
With the bulk of the afternoon behind me, I rejoiced at the fact that I hadn't slept it away. I got home and started to paint immediately, which was such a great feeling. I realized that it had been ages since I expressed myself creatively outside of my corporate job and it felt nice. I ended up painting for a few hours (including a portrait of my sister's cat Minoose) and felt quite accomplished by the time evening rolled around. Even though I had spent the day doing something "unproductive," I felt good.
Fast forward to today. It's my first weekend home alone in three weeks. I felt the anxiety creeping in as soon as I finished my cup of morning coffee, but no, I wasn't gonna let that shit ruin me. So I left the house and headed to Hayes Valley. I created my own mini adventure and I told myself that it was okay. I visited my favorite store, Oak + Fort, and spent a little more money than intended. Next, I stopped by The Juice Shop, a small shed in the center of Hayes Valley that sells fresh, bottled juice. I sat down by myself and people watched before heading home. Normally, the sheer anxiety of a) being by myself on an adventure and b) doing something unproductive would have kept me cooped up at home.
Even though it felt scary, I pushed myself to get out there today. And, I'm proud of myself for that. I'm going to continue to write about my weekend worrier issue. In the meantime, if you also experience anxiety/depression when you are alone with nothing to do, I'd love to hear your story. Drop me a line or get at me on social media (links in the top, upper right corner of the page).
And as always, be kind to yourself.