Down Time Illuminated

Whether it's from being an HSP or an introvert, or both, the gigantic mismatch between the amount of down time I seem to need, and the actual time I have left after working and running a household continues to be a major issue. As I discussed in The Limitations of Being Highly Sensitive, putting in the number of hours I needed to work on the job I’m soon to leave has been very difficult. Now that things have soured with my boss, I’m feeling even less motivated.

So I was heartened to stumble across this repost. The name of her blog alone ( is enough to brighten your day, right? Elizabeth McFarlane argues that down time actually creates energy. At least, I thought she did. When I went back and read the article just now, she doesn’t say exactly that. But close enough. That reminded me of Dr. Carmella’s (cartoon) Guide to Understanding the Introverted, which sums up: “Introverted people make their own energy and, rather than taking it from others, give it on social contact.”

hackysack ballSome extroverts are offended by this characterization, which they perceive as an accusation that they are energy vampires. I think of them more as lifelong energy hackysack players, perpetually passing energy back and forth between themselves.

But I digress. The point is, a number of people, including famous and infamous therapists, seem to feel that down time is generative. This doesn’t totally offset the self-questioning that ensues when I notice how many people around me apparently have little or no need for down time, but it helps a little.

With self-acceptance, that is. But how in heck do I get paid for that???

13 thoughts on “Down Time Illuminated

  1. I consider downtime as a time to cover my raw, exposed nerves back up. Actually, I’m an HSP Extrovert – with ADHD. (Imagine the tension that creates!) I look forward to reading more of your posts! It’s a relief to find people whose experiences I can relate to.

    • I tried to picture HSP/Extrovert/ADHD, but my mind balked, and threw me into a gorse bush (whatever that may be. They have them in England, I think). In the split second before I became airborne, I wondered whether your parameters for right-sized stimulation are even narrower than mine. I had begun to suspect I might be slightly ADDish myself before I learned about HSPS. I still haven’t ruled it out, but for the moment, am content that being HSP and introvert substantially explains my distractibility.

      • It’s worth it to at least check out if you might actually have ADD. I just wrote a post tonight about being HSP/Extrovert. Please check it out, when you make it out of the gorse bush! :)
        I experience other issues with HSP/ADD. I might write a little bit about that in the future. Take care!

      • Hey, don’t I recognize that theme from somewhere? Interesting that you are an ENFP/J – (I’m an INFJ/P). Also that you feel you have become more introverted over time. I’ve been thinking that too (about myself, I mean). I haven’t figured out whether I genuinely used to be more interested in socializing, or was I just trying harder to conform back then?

      • We have the same theme? :) It’s the third one I’ve used. I need to settle down soon. That is, indeed, interesting about our personality types! I do believe that I am an extrovert when all is said and done. I actually notice myself wilting when I don’t get a lot of interaction for a long time. That’s hard to pair with needing lots of HSP downtime.

      • It first occurred to me how challenging being HSP would be for extroverts when I watched this video. I’m curious how you feel about one-on-one conversations vs. group talk? Still trying to place myself on the introvert-extrovert spectrum. I sometimes feel like I need to get outside into a different environment when I’ve been working at home for a few days, but I rarely feel a specific need to see people. On the other hand, I have always had casual, ongoing, chatty relationships with people I encountered in my day-to-day (neighbors, bus drivers, store owners, security guards, etc.), which does not seem to be something non-HSP introverts enjoy at all.

  2. Actually, I enjoy both settings, as far as conversations go. Plus, I’ve taught before. So, that’s obviously a whole lotta with people time!

    My problem comes in when I’m always feeding my need to be around people and socializing. This gives me no time to replenish, like she mentioned. So, the protective coating around my nerves gets worn away, bit by bit. Then, the HSP is a lot harder to keep at a manageable level. Mine is primarily emotional and mental, actually. And I wonder if my “thing” about food texture (sogginess, oatmeal) is part of the HSP.

    I can’t be sure, but I’m thinking you might land closer to the introvert side, because of what you said about not necessarily needing to be with people.

    I have a good friend who is an introvert, but non-HSP. She’s definitely chatty and social, but there’s that point where she’s like, “okay. That was great. Time to retreat.” And for her, that point comes a lot sooner than it ever does for me!

    Isn’t it interesting how we can have some many clear characteristics of HSP, but some aspects of our personalities seem to be in such congradiction?!

    • Yes, we’re so complicated :) Thanks for your description of your introvert non-HSP friend, that’s helpful. I feel a much stronger sense of identification with most traits listed as introvert than with extrovert traits, which has been a a huge shock, since all my life I assumed I was an extrovert. However, there are a few that don’t resonate for me, and I’ve been wondering if that was because I’m also an HSP.

      One thing I noticed at an INFJ gathering I went to is that people related at a more leisurely pace. There was a sense of openness and inquiry coming from them, but limited conversation. Like they were waiting to see who I was, but very politely, without any rush or intrusion, and revealing themselves at the same unhurried pace. I think my HSP-instant-oversharer side was a little relieved by this.

      I’m curious to hear more about your food texture thing. I’ve read that it’s different senses for different people.

      • I’m glad my info about my friend was helpful.
        Here’s a link to a post where I discuss a bit about food texture. I feel all creepy-crawly and gaggy just from writing about it and having to think about it! Haha!
        Have you ever been to an HSP gathering? I haven’t, but would like to go.
        I love that you mentioned being an “HSP-instant-oversharer!” That is me to a “t.”This is to the dismay of my friends, though…

      • Hmm, interesting about the food textures. My contact with other HSPs has been limited so far, but I’ve read that different senses are sensitive for different HSPs. I’m betting okra is not your favorite, am I right? I recently discovered that an 18-inch long cuke-like veggie (or technically fruit, I suppose) that I see at Chinese grocery stores is giant okra. Because somehow, someone, somewhere, wants bigger okra! It doesn’t gag me as it does you, but since it has no flavor of its own, I just don’t see the point.

        It does occur to me that the incident where you were forced to eat the pancakes could’ve have created a trauma-related aversion. Did you hate soggy/slimy foods before that? I had a similar childhood incident where the adults decided to teach me a lesson about overeating by letting me have all the pumpkin pie I wanted, and then stood over me laughing while I vomited. My interest in pumpkin was more tepid after that, and I eventually developed a mild allergy to it (my only food allergy). Even though I know it’s probably psychosomatic, I feel a little queasy for a good 24 hours whenever I eat it (even when I eat it unknowingly). This kicked in after age 40 – for the first 35 years after the incident, I could eat a pumpkin muffin or cookie, no problem. Brains are weird.

        I’m with you about the cat rubbing, on me, anyway. I just think it’s funny when they self-pet on an object (it relieves me of any guilt I may feel about not being able to respond in kind to an expression of affection). They are actually scent-marking happy juices from little glands in their cheeks, I believe. When you move, you are supposed to move furniture they have scent-marked to the new home before you move the cats, as they will be calmed in the new environment by smelling their own happy scent.

        I can’t stand constricting clothing, especially shoes, which I have removed every chance I got ever since someone first tried to put them on me. Turtlenecks choke me. I’ve grudgingly accepted the necessity of sun hats and bike helmets, but always feel a little off balance and distracted with something on my head. The first thing I do when I get home from anywhere is change into looser-fitting clothes.

        Re: oversharing – if you haven’t read Susan Cain’s Quiet yet, you should check it out. In one chapter, she describes an HSP conference, where everyone first shares intensely, and then mellows into a lighter, more recreational mode – the reverse, she says, of how other people share.

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