Have you seen the new craze? If only I had come up with the idea: adult coloring books. The only way these could cause stress is if you just cannot bare the thoughts of mistakenly coloring outside the lines.
I have never been one to just do something without purpose, and admittedly this is very hard for me. Even when I played an online video game years ago, my purpose was to be able to hang out with my friends that lived hundreds of miles away. As an adult, there has been very little down time between pushing forward in my career, being a co-caregiver, and being a mom of young children. When my husband purchased my first coloring book, I thought it might sit on the kitchen counter forever before I would ever actually use it. Then…
One day I took it to work and colored during my lunch break. Before I knew it, I was completely focused on each small place to add new color. I was challenged to be precise and choose colors wisely, but I was also trying to branch out with colors that I normally would never put together. It didn’t take long until the tiny boxes and shapes began to morph into a scene of its own. Then all of a sudden my lunch break was over.
My job can be very stressful at times. It is not the life and death kind of stressful, but it can be the “do your job right or you can walk away with a little piece of yourself missing” kind of stressful, so this little break with the coloring book changed the way that I look at down time. During most lunch breaks, I would spend my time thinking about all of the things that I could have done better, while eating as quickly as possible to get back to the task of trying not to mess up. (My current “day job” is in live television.)
Now that I have been introduced to this simple concept of coloring, I am beginning to understand that down time is not for actively trying to process every problem in life. It’s not the time to fix your loved one’s health issues or the time to figure out how to pay all of the bills. This is time that your mind needs (yes needs) to rest.
You may not be into coloring books, but maybe you enjoy crossword puzzles, gaming, knitting or painting. The activity in itself is not the key. The key is giving your mind some space to process. Did you know that your brain actually does not do multiple things at one time? This is a crushing thought for those of us that think we are awesome at multitasking, but it totally makes sense. If you are concentrating on coloring, you are not actively trying to fix the world.1
As caregivers it is easy to forget yourself, but you need to remember that if you are burnt out, you are no help to your loved one. Taking the time to take care of yourself is actually another way to show how much you care. It is much better to spend your time on a very detailed butterfly after a difficult day than to use words toward your loved one that you can never get back.