It’s March. The marvelous month of March. It’s the time of year for… for… for what? What happens in March? Seriously. What’s March known for? I mean, most other months have something that is pretty universally observed (or at least recognized and promoted by the card publishing industry); January has New Year’s, February has Valentines; March has… what? Yes, St. Patrick’s Day is in March, and it is nationally observed, and a few here in Birmingham will wear green or toss back a green beverage or eat green eggs and ham (actually, I just threw that in for my kids), but it is not (and I hope I do not offend) a major holiday for southerners. Many very special people observe it, but it is not so much widely embraced or remembered (I’m always lucky if I remember to wear green, but I’m not widely pinched if I forget).
So what’s in March? Sometimes Easter, but mostly in April. Sometimes Spring Break, but that depends on where you live. Yes, this year we all get to spring forward for Daylight Savings Time. Yes, there is Spring Training (for baseball, if you can afford a trip to Florida or Arizona); and there is March Madness (great fun for basketball fans; I particular enjoy the first weekend of the tourney, when there is usually an exceptional amount of madness). And yes, spring does officially begin in March (whether the groundhog saw his or her shadow or not—either way, it’s still six, actually seven, weeks from then until the first day of spring). But are any of these universally celebrated? Do we gear up for anything? Really? No? No. No we don’t. So let’s take advantage of that.
March is when we have settled into our routine. Holidays are past, work and school and weekends have determined their pace; it is the in-between time. Take a moment to consider your routine. What is the rhythm of your week? And more importantly (yes, here comes the point of the article; I’m not just ranting about having nothing to do in March—it’s actually the point), do you incorporate rest, leisure, play, downtime, time of not-being-needed into your schedule?
In my work with clients, I often use a version of a temperament assessment (not really a personality test, which sounds like you could fail: “sorry, ma’am/sir, you have no personality; therefore, you really need counseling”; no, none of that). The assessment I use the most indicates on one of its scales how a person needs to “recharge his or her batteries”, to obtain optimal rest and recovery. This scale shows if the assessment taker is more of an extrovert or an introvert (oh, sure, you’ve heard those terms—we’re determining if the taker likes people or hates people—uh, not so fast). Being an introvert or an extrovert has to do with how a person re-energizes, how he or she rests or recovers in a social context. Extroverts need the energy of people, and depending on the degree of extroversion, sometimes the more the merrier. Introverts need solitude, or the presence of one or two people with whom they feel comfortable. These interactions are as necessary on a regular basis as eating, sleeping, and breathing.
This is considered playtime: time with or without people where you are not needed, but you can simply be, able to enjoy a laugh or discussion with a group of friends, or to enjoy the peace and quiet of a book, or a fire, or a cup of coffee. Without these types of interactions, without them being a part of your routine, a person will get tired, angry, burned out, empty, exhausted. You are a social creature, which means that part of your recuperating system needs a particular type of interaction on a regular basis. You must make time for it. Put it into your schedule; make it a part of your routine. Know your rhythms and needs. Without rest, without downtime, you will shut down. A person can go for only so long without sleep or food; the same is true for social interaction.
People with a faith tradition often call this need their Sabbath rest (not that they are any better at it than those without faith). But it is one day a week that is a part of the routine where a different set of activities occurs; yet maybe not so different. What is different, what is intended, is this level of social interaction. Not working, not being needed, but drinking deep from the well of relationship, depending on what your design requires—introverted or extraverted activity. So in this month of March, as you participate in your regular routine, make sure to schedule in this type of rest and recovery. Doing so is a step toward limiting March Madness to basketball, and not making it a characteristic of the rest of your life.
—Paul Johnson, M.Ed., LMFT, LPC; www.lifepractical.org
To talk further about your rhythms and rest or recovery patterns, you may reach Paul at 205-807-6645, or email@example.com. Paul Johnson is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a licensed professional counselor in the state of Alabama.