Frederique (24): “I feel I always have to have something useful to do. I hardly ever relax and enjoy myself. It makes me so tired. What can I change?
Ingrid: Having a to-do list that never ends, is exhausting. What happens if you stop working your way through the list? Most likely, your internal critic will have something to say. Thoughts telling you that you are lazy and that you shouldn’t be wasting your time. This internal critic is actually the voice of someone who played an important role in your life in the past. This could be your father or your mother. He or she told you that you had to be doing something useful. Maybe this was done very subtly in your Calvinistic family by judging others for their lazing around. The motto ‘put your back into it’ has therefore become your motto. You have internalised your father’s or mother’s voice.
If you don’t realise that your thoughts have been implanted, you will take them serious. Before you know it, you will be spring-cleaning, studying or working again. Take note of what your internal critic is telling you, shut him up and do not take his advice. You will then regularly laze about on the sofa, sit at a sidewalk cafe or browse through a magazine. It won’t bring you immediate relaxation and joy. Your critic won’t agree and will stir things up.
In an attempt to bring peace to my life, I installed a mindfulness app on my telephone last week. Every day, I am now being in the here and now, and focus my attention on my big toe or my knee. I do the body scan. My internal critic has all kinds of ideas about this: senseless waste or time and foolish goings-on. I know that he is wrong, but I have to be strong in order to silence him. My to-do list hasn’t gotten any shorter. The big difference is that I don’t need to reach the bottom of the list today. But secretly I am so happy that after this sentence I can tick off another thing from my list.
Would you like to ask psychologist Ingrid Candel a question (you may do so anonymously)? Send an e-mail to [email protected]
Do you have any questions or problems and would you like to speak with a psychological counsellor for students from Maastricht University, contact [email protected] or call 043 3885388.