When Free Time Is No Longer ‘Free’

hand life boat

Sometimes in life a lack of structure can lead to ‘depression’. While it’s beneficial to spend a period of time in quiet contemplation, allowing life to unfold in an open manner, there comes a time when structure is very necessary, not only necessary but classifed as a life saving measure!

I have come to this period of my journey.

It’s understandable that many retired men and women can often go into a period of decline and depression when they have left behind the structure that ‘working’ brings.

Initially, great! Free time, do what you want when you want but after that many people may get sick mentally and physically, especially if life before retirement was full to brimming with activities.  Left with too much time, but being alone with thoughts that ordinarily have been hidden from view by the distractions of lifes busyness can be hell on earth for many; many not knowing what to do with the noisy chatterbox of the mind.

And much like retirees, choosing to take time out is beneficial when consciously aware and choosing to relax, feel, come to understand what we love to do.  And then we may be left with a void of time where instead of contemplating and being, we are instead like a ship without a rudder. We are knocked about by the elements and feeling powerless to our own thoughts, emotions, time.

When Free Time Is No Longer Free

Free time is great when it’s useful. Be it contemplating, discovering and exploring who we are to activities we love doing. When ‘free’ time feels no longer ‘free’ it’s time to bring structure into our day-to-day lives.

Structure may feel a scary concept after a period of free time, flowing and allowing unfolding to occur. But perhaps structure is part of the unfolding.

Variety is necessary for life to feel interesting, rewarding and satisfying.

If a child is left to its own devices it may feel unloved and unsafe. We give boundaries to children and discipline because this gives the child a sense of safety, of caring from its parents.

So why don’t we do the same for ourselves?

Within myself I liken my activities lately to that of a teenager. Get up when I want, lying in bed for too long, having an element of structure but not enough, I walk, come home and slip on my lazy dressing gown. I used my dressing gown as an excuse “It’s just comfortable” but what I was really doing was telling my body: “I’m ready for bed, doing nothing.” Not only was I becoming a lazy teenager but a depressed one. I felt powerless to my circumstances, not in control of my life “like a boat without a rudder” being knocked around by my emotional waves. I defended my excuses saying I was bored and that I had no variety in my life but the fact is I could make a whole bunch of variety if I chose too.  Especially since I have allowed enough time to discover my interests (painting, writing, baking, photography etc.). I got confused about my inner child’s needs. I thought she wanted free time, play and expression.  But she also needs discipline, structure and variety. I paint abstract and allow her to flow, but sometimes I want to paint specifics and I realised it’s just as valuable to paint inside the lines as it is to paint outside. Just like life!

Painting outside = flow, allowing, being.
Painting inside = structure,discipline, variety.

And these two both need to go hand in hand to live a fulfilling, rewarding and healthy balanced life.

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Kelly Martin
Kelly Martin

Kelly Martin, author of ‘When Everyone Shines But You’ is a dedicated writer and blogger who fearlessly explores life’s deepest questions. Faced with a decade of profound anxiety and grief following the loss of her father and her best friend Michael, Kelly embarked on a transformative journey guided by mindfulness, and she hasn’t looked back since. Through her insightful writing, engaging podcasts, and inspiring You Tube channel Kelly empowers others to unearth the hidden treasures within their pain, embracing the profound truth that they are ‘enough’ exactly as they are.

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  1. May 21, 2011 / 1:48 am

    Great analogy, Kelly! It's all about finding the balance between structure and being free and flowing. I don't have a structured routine right now and I find myself drifting off, not really getting much done. And as you mentioned, an unstructured life can lead to depression. But on the other hand, I tend to become overly structured and micro-manage every minute of my day.

    What have you tried to find the balance between the two?

  2. May 21, 2011 / 4:25 pm

    Lovely to see you again Julia 🙂

    Well as a structure virgin I can just say what I have began to do. Firstly I decided to make a timetable and this included even having my breakfast lol! I also have committed to setting my alarm for 8am each day and as soon as it goes off I get dressed (instead of hanging around in bed with a coffee). I have my breakfast and coffee on the sofa and at 9am I am out of the house for a brisk walk, for as long as feels good. When I return I have listed a number of creative activities but most of all made them varied so I dont get bored. When im not writing I want to be drawing or painting or baking. Variety is really important to me right now. And basically I continue this through the day. In the evening I only allow myself 'Good TV'. In otherwords I no longer will be watching TV, just for the sake of it. If a good movie is on, great! if its not awesome I am no longer watching it. I have activities to do in that time to. And another thing, this may make you chuckle, I no longer come back from my walk and slip into something more comfortable. Its like keeping my clothes on lol! and my bra (hehe!) keep me in work/creative mode. I also set my alarm throughout the day. Make sure I have coffee breaks and doing nothing breaks too. And this is my first day and I have to say I have loved it! Hugs xxxx

    P.S: I limit my use of social networking sites to brief visits on weekends now and do not browse (out of boredom) online unless I am seeking something out.

  3. May 24, 2011 / 2:26 am

    Thank you! Those are such great ideas! I especially like the alarm clock reminder to take breaks.

    And congrats on getting out of bed right away as soon as the alarm goes off. That's one of my biggest faults. I like the snooze button. A lot.

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