Time off doesn’t equate to downtime: understanding your mindset for optimal wellbeing
The Sector > Quality > In The Field > Time off doesn’t equate to downtime: understanding your mindset for optimal wellbeing

Time off doesn’t equate to downtime: understanding your mindset for optimal wellbeing

by Nicola Russell

January 20, 2022

For many people working in early childhood education and care (ECEC), a new year comes with a renewed promise to “reset” and think about goals, priorities, practises and ways of working which will serve them through the year and beyond. 


Having time off or away from regular duties does not necessarily mean taking some ‘downtime’ though. Let’s define these two concepts.


Time off versus downtime


Time off means that you have time away from your everyday life such as attending work daily, paying bills, attending to a child’s routine drop offs or navigating the daily commute. 


Downtime is time away, physically or mentally. This might be a two-week holiday or five minutes here and there but during this time you are able to actually switch off. Your aim during downtime is to prioritise your wellbeing so that you can mentally step away from your day to day routine to recharge your batteries.


Achieving true ‘downtime’  can be very challenging for many as it’s not always that easy to clear your mind of all your responsibilities. 


As we step into the new year I thought it might be appropriate to share with you some ideas about what downtime can look like, how you can have downtime anytime and how your mindset can hinder you from switching off.


Barriers to downtime, and how to beat them


Here’s some factors to consider about your mindset that will help you to understand the true power you have over your ability to prioritise your wellbeing:


  • You don’t see your own wellbeing as a priority, for example, you are too busy, you feel like you are constantly on a treadmill, your family life is challenging, you have a constant stream of work to do. All this may be true and it may be really exhausting but how we respond to these situations will determine how well we feel. 


Reflective question – how do I choose to look at things that challenge me? 


  • If we approach these situations from a different mindset, one which supports us and shows we care about ourselves, a mindset that prioritises us in those moments, then we can move through these situations with much more ease. 

Reflective question – what is in my best interests right now?


  • Ultimately, our nervous system (parasympathetic and sympathetic) should be in a state of balance. Otherwise we are in constant fight or flight mode and we can become unwell. We can balance our nervous system by simply taking deep breaths in with longer exhalations.


Reflective question – what do I notice about my body sensations right now?


  • Can you acknowledge that your wellbeing is one of the most important things you can do for yourself? Maybe you can’t see it yet or you may choose not to see the importance of your own wellbeing (see first point).


Reflective question – can I recognise that when I am well everything around me operates at a better level?


  • Step back and ask yourself, if this was a friend what would I say to them? Something like, “You should slow down, look after yourself, take some rest and be kind to yourself”. Become your own friend and your mind and body will respond in a more positive manner to the situations around you.


Reflective question – how can I treat myself as well as I treat others?


Downtime – what does this look like in a busy life?


Downtime doesn’t have to be going on a holiday for a week or lying by a pool all day. 


Breaking downtime into chunks is much better for your wellbeing than deciding you will wait for your holiday to relax. 


How many times do you hear of people becoming unwell once they are on their holiday? That’s because their nervous systems all of a sudden aren’t in fight or flight. The body’s defence barriers are down and this exposes them to a lowered immune system, therefore they are more prevalent to becoming unwell. 


Downtime is instead, taking opportunities throughout the day to tune into you.


Breaking downtime into chunks to reset!


  • Giving yourself five minutes intermittently throughout the day by closing your eyes, relaxing your shoulders, taking deep breaths and unclenching the jaw can do wonders for your nervous system. Maybe put in your ear buds and listen to relaxing music or dance and shake out your limbs to release pent up tension. Everyone has 5 minutes available here and there (if not go back to the first point in the positive mindset paragraph).


  • Do more yoga/meditation/relaxation/mindfulness for yourself and with the children intermittently throughout your day. Try taking a few deep breaths together every time you sit down to read children a story or say positive affirmations while you are all sitting at the lunch table.


  • Step out into nature and be in the moment by observing how the leaves move, the clouds blow by or find joy in watching the magpies hopping around on the grass.


  • Bring reflective questions into your everyday life such as how did I respond to that? Could I have responded better? Include check ins such as how am I feeling right now? What thoughts are racing around in my head? 


  • Give yourself permission to be present for just a few moments. When we recognise that these moments are beneficial to our wellbeing we ultimately respond to our environment better. Also, we learn to recognise that whatever it is we need to still do will be there after our downtime and that it can wait for just a couple more minutes!


  • Taking these moments to reset allows us to tackle things with much more clarity, positivity and patience.


Thinking about yourself more is not selfish, it’s selfless. When you are well everyone around you benefits. 


Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is stress and negativity! You can allow thoughts that don’t serve you to build up causing stress and tension but you can also reverse that by reflecting on what is going on within you. Responding to the situation with a more positive mindset is in your best interest.


Let’s make 2022 the year we tune into what wellbeing means for us individually by reflecting on our mindset and taking some downtime to feel better.


To request a free copy of ‘Yoga Play Program – A Comprehensive Guide for Early Childhood Services’ for information on yoga and wellbeing programs, consulting, PDs and courses, email [email protected] 

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