Play deprivation in the adult human

Last week, I had a bunch of errands to do.  Everything took longer than I’d thought (of course) and as soon as I got home I leapt onto email.  Checked both inboxes and then stared at the screen.  Suddenly the line came into my head, “I have worried all day today”.  It was simple, clear, and terribly depressing.

The thing is, I knew what was happening.  I’d felt grumpy and tired, as though I’d been continually rallying for a very long time.  The warning signs were there – I hadn’t journaled or gone swimming in days.  Everything was framed as a problem, because my brain was stuck in survival mode.  I’d done plenty of things that were important, and several that were fun, but I hadn’t played in ages.  Blaming fatigue, I’d spaced out in front of the TV instead.  This can be useful as self-care during crisis, but it’s not play.  Passive entertainment is a bit like only eating candy – you don’t die that way, but you do keep on feeling terrible.

Even after a decade of arguing for play’s importance, I still forget sometimes that applies to me.  Going through this cycle a thousand times doesn’t mean I’ve failed – it means I’ve beaten a path back through the woods, and it’s one that I can follow more easily now than before.  My ways back include writing for fun, warm showers with nice soap, baking and stretching to the radio.  Afterwards I feel calmer, clearer, braver.  I have more room for things like generosity and empathy, and indulge in much less of that self-pitying martyrdom.

If you are unsure about prioritizing your own need for play, imagine how grateful your friends and family are to interact with your best self rather than the play-deprived version they might be accustomed to.

I want to help more people learn their own ways back to play, to make those paths clear and familiar.  So, now there’s a dedicated Facebook page, and an online course.  Registration opens today for one week only.  If you have questions or experiences to share, please get in touch!  Likewise, if you are interested but cost is a barrier, we’ll figure that out together.


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