Dear New Shrink,
The idea of having too much free time is hard for me, but I also hate to be overly busy. It’s so hard for me to find a balance; I’m either too bored or too stressed. It’s strange because I wonder why I get so antsy about having nothing to do. But then when I have options of having full-time jobs that will take almost all my time, I don’t want that either. I guess I’m just lost around this topic, and looking for some advice/suggestions as to what can be going on.
It’s actually a good question because it says a lot. However, because I don’t know you personally, your age, gender, life circumstances, I will have to answer this in a general way, and hope that it helps you.
Many people have difficulty finding balance in their lives these days. You are not without company.
It is important to say that stress is very bad for us; it’s bad for our health and also, we do not make our best decisions under stress. On the other hand, boredom is not a natural state either. When one is bored, it generally means that they are not engaged with life. Sure, we all get bored from time to time but when it is put the way you say it, as a chronic condition, there is reason for concern.
You are either not truly engaged with life as your true self would choose or you actually do not know your real self.
People who enjoy some silence, down quiet time away from all the buzz and fuzz of everyday life, are generally more connected to their selves and tend to be more enlightened. I am not talking about isolating, although there is a case to be made for that in certain societies. Monks are well known for their choice to be alone and silent for long periods of time. Their goal is to be enlightened and spiritual.
In our society, isolating can be a sign of depression, social phobia or an interpersonal problem.
But to be bored or antsy when alone or with nothing to do, as you put it, is a sign of not being really connected with your self. I would guess that there is a deep or at least true fear of being in touch with your real feelings about yourself, your life or others around you. The other possibility would be profound loneliness that is also like stress, very bad for our health. But then there is the question of what is causing this type of loneliness, if that is what you have.
My suggestion to you would be to try to work out what type of realistic schedule works for you, one that will not stress you out too much.
After you get that worked out, then take your down time and try something like meditation or yoga. Definitely use the time to get real with yourself and know who you really are and what you truly feel in whatever way that works for you.
Feelings never killed anyone as long as they are processed in a healthy way. Our fear of being in touch with ourselves is usually much bigger than it needs to be.
Often fear of feeling comes from childhood feelings that at the time we were unable to deal with because we were young and did not have the tools. But most adults have the tools to deal with suppressed or hidden feelings and will be just fine in terms of getting honest with themselves. It is definitely easier to do with the help of another. A supportive friend that you can trust, a spiritual mentor or a therapist can be a big help. But even this is not always necessary, especially if you do not have an unusual trauma history or a mental health problem.
The only way to a happy and healthy life is to be in touch with you and true to you. And definitely it goes without saying, that it should be as stress free as possible.
Antsy. Ask yourself why? If you are honest with yourself, you will know.
Dr. JoAnne Barge is a licensed psychologist and licensed marriage and family therapist with offices in Brentwood. Visit her at www.drbarge.com or send your anonymous questions and responses to firstname.lastname@example.org. Got something on your mind? Let us help you with your life matters.