A few months ago, burnout was officially recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as an “occupational phenomenon.” (Yikes.) The group defined burnout as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
If you’ve ever felt overworked, overtired or just generally stressed-out, you need to know about niksen.
Translated literally, niksen means to idle or lounge. In practice, it’s a stress-reduction technique that involves doing nothing for the sake of countering burnout and overwork.
Doreen Dodgen-Magee, a psychologist who studies boredom and wrote the book Deviced! Balancing Life and Technology in a Digital World, told The New York Times that niksen is kind of like a car whose engine is running but isn’t going anywhere. “The way I think about boredom is coming to a moment with no plan other than just to be,” she told the paper.
Lest you confuse niksen with laziness, the concept is more about recharging (so you can be happier and healthier) than doing nothing for the sake of doing nothing. Think about it: If you’ve hit a wall at work, sometimes all it takes is taking a short walk around the office (not thinking about anything in particular) to reinvigorate your brain and push through the task. In fact, in a 2013 article in National Geographic, University of Florida psychiatrist Eugenio Rothe said that as our minds wander, different parts of our brains activate. This allows us to access information that may have previously been dormant. Per Rothe, "This accounts for creativity, insights of wisdom and oftentimes the solutions to problems that the person had not considered."
How you practice niksen is up to your discretion, but it could mean taking a few extra minutes during breakfast to just stare out the window while finishing up your coffee, or eschewing your normal podcast routine on the subway to just sit there and let your mind wander. Note, though, that you shouldn’t stay dormant for an entire day: just a few minutes to an hour or two is the norm.
So the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed by everything and everyone, take a few minutes to just let yourself be. Permission granted to daydream for a few minutes.