How to Create Downtime

How to Create Downtime


Most people live very active lives, including work, taking care of children, providing transportation, attending meetings, housekeeping, helping friends and relatives, shopping, exercising, cooking, arranging for extracurricular activities and more. There is time on the phone and computer, the need to check mail and pay bills. Perhaps a haircut or manicure is required. People take time to play in, or attend, sporting events or socialize with friends and family. 

Holidays require preparation as do other celebrations. Figuring out how to enhance business or make more money is on the list. As is trying to focus on children’s school work or stress issues or on personal stress issues.

Weekends are often spent addressing the things on the above list that there is not time to do during the week. Sometimes the weekends have their own commitments, like soccer or baseball games. 

Worn out yet? Hopefully one has vacation time. That requires preparation also. Vacations often do not come about easily. 

People program themselves and create a pattern or ritual to handle all of these responsibilities. If they are competent at what they do, they are often asked to do more. I am always working with people to help them recognize they can say “no.” Many have problems doing that. 

People need to relax. If they do not, they may burn out, have physical problems or become overwhelmed emotionally. Most people are not fun to be around at these times. They are not having fun being themselves either. 

How does one create down time? It requires knowing what it takes to relax. It can be different for each person. 

Recently, one of my daughters and I decided to go away for five days. That was the amount of time we could take off of work. We were both exhausted from work and other responsibilities. We talked about options and decided to go to an all-inclusive resort in Mexico. We did not want to have to go anywhere except where we were staying. We wanted to sit by the pool, perhaps under an umbrella when we had enough sun. We each read two books. We each had a massage.  We went to one restaurant outside the hotel. We went shopping for one hour and bought nothing.  

We relaxed. No computers. No phone calls. No planning ahead, except to get back to the airport. We did not feel compelled to talk to anyone, even each other. We each went to sleep when we were tired. We travel well together. The contrast to our lifestyles was significant and invaluable in enabling us to return to our homes ready to move back into the patterns we live. 

It may mean going to a park to do nothing but relax. Take a walk. Read a book. Reflect. Think. Choose whatever feels most relaxing. 


Dr. Natalie Gelman is an Alameda-based therapist. Submit questions to or through her website,