Constant-doing syndrome is a need to be constantly doing something. It’s not a real medical term, but it is a real trait that I have. Instead of winding down at night, you can find me unloading the dishwasher, organizing notes from a book I recently finished, or researching swim schools for my daughter. Downtime does not exist for me, despite my best efforts.
Constant-doing syndrome is part of my personality. It is part of who I am.
I would love to lay on the couch, watch something mindless on TV, and drift into a state of calm contentment. But I don’t. And I can’t. Though I’ve tried. I’m the restless type, always going, always thinking, always doing. Some people are good at taking it easy, some people are always on. I’m always on. However, I have a little trick to force relaxation when I want: I plan for it. Yes, as lame as that sounds, I make time in my schedule for R&R.
If I’m on a relaxing vacation, I build it into my schedule for the day. For instance, it may be on my list alongside running, an excursion, and reading. The same goes for my daily life. The relaxation is planned out well ahead of time. And I know that sounds a little… well… insane. But it’s the truth. I like to get things done and I like to plan.
Relaxation for Someone Who’s Always “On”
If you’re thinking, why don’t you just block out time to relax each night then? Problem solved, right? Well, no. Because remember, I like doing. I like getting things done, working on projects that add fulfillment to my life, being active. I don’t want loungey couch time each evening. Downtime is important, but so is knowing yourself. And I know that I have constant-doing syndrome, an impulse that is best satisfied when getting things done.
That said, I’m aware that relaxation is important. So, I plan for it as needed. I may be spontaneous about it, but often I’ve thought it out well in advance. That way, when the time comes, I can go into it with the right mindset. A downshifted mindset. A slower mindset.
I put a pause on doing for a while so that I can enjoy being. I momentarily hold back the flood so that I can repair the dam. For example, our community pool area has been closed for some time. It reopened recently though. I checked the weather and noticed it was going to be cold later on in the week. Perfect hot tub conditions. So, I planned for the Friday of that week to be a light day. Following my run, I would go for a soak and relax. And that’s exactly what I did. Sparkling water in hand, audiobook playing, smile on my face, it was a delight.
Could I have spontaneously had that day happen? Possibly. Again, it’s about knowing yourself. And, personally, I am prone to guilt. Knowingly veering off the path I set for myself would likely reduce my enjoyment in the moment. Thus, why I do it the way I do it.
Planning Is the Cure for Constant-Doing Syndrome
When you feel the need to relax but, like me, have constant-doing syndrome, try planning for it. More than likely, if this article resonates with you, you’re probably already the type that plans out their time. If by chance you’re not, start doing so. Then, in your plans, block out periods for relaxation. How often and for how long depends on you. I personally don’t do it that frequently. If I had to guess, I probably do it maybe a couple times a month for an hour or two.
The rest of the time I’m on the move.
That’s not to say I never take breaks. I take a lot of breaks. I’m more saying that for extended periods of relaxation, where you’re doing very-little-to-nothing, I find it helpful to plan for it. To mentally prepare for it. Otherwise, I experience feelings of antsiness and drive everyone around me crazy (including myself) until I direct that energy into something productive.
Even looking at my hot tub example, it’s not perfect. I remember laughing to myself because I was listening to and finishing up an audiobook the whole time I was there. I was still doing even when I wasn’t. However, I wasn’t doing as much as normal though and so I consider it a win. But you can see how tricky it can be sometimes to get yourself into a state of relaxation. Even meditating requires something. So getting yourself into a place of neither mental or physical exertion takes practice and I’m still learning.
Moving Forward with Relaxation
Are you always on the go? Do you want to relax sometimes despite your best efforts? Try planning for it. Look at your schedule for the week. Block out a chunk of time for it. Whether that’s hitting the sauna, watching a movie, or looking at the clouds, plan for that time now. As it approaches, ensure that your workload that day is light. That way you won’t be worrying about to-dos in the moment. You can just be there, in the bath with the wine and the candles. It may feel silly, planning for relaxation like this, but if you don’t plan for it you’ll skip right over it.
Instead of relaxing, you’ll be doing. Which again, doing is great, but relaxing every once and a while is valuable. In my case, I can normally tell when some relaxation is due. Often it’s when I’m feeling overworked or have gone too many days of doing in a row. The relaxation I go with varies, depending on mood, weather, and availability.
Watching a movie is always a favorite of mine though.
In your life with constant-doing syndrome, utilize the planning that you’re already so used to doing. Block out time to relax. Know what it will look like ahead of time. Make your schedule that day light. Mentally prepare for a downshift in energy expenditure. And then, when the time comes, sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.