Life Insurance
Insurance 101
Live Chat
Sign In
Apply Now
Work, Life, Balanced

‘Niksen’ for Parents: How a Dutch Lifestyle Concept Improved My Life

By Sarah Li Cain Aug 20, 2019

Being bored has done wonders for my financial life. Ditto for my physical and mental health.

I used to be one of those moms who thought she could do it all; no to-do list was too long or laborious for this mama. Being busy was a badge of honor. Ticking off tasks and scheduling in every minute of my day meant that I was being a good mom, business owner, friend and wife.

Not surprisingly, I burned out. Bad. I spent a month not working much and outsourcing most of my tasks—I hired a proofreader, virtual assistant, cleaner, signed up for meal prep services and extra hours at my son’s daycare—so I could recover. 

Now that that chapter’s behind me, I’ve made it my mission to schedule at least half a day each Friday by myself to unwind and relax. 

No agenda. No pressure to be productive. Just sit around and allow myself to get bored.

Turns out, doing nothing is a thing. There’s a Dutch concept called niksen that’s all the rage recently, according to major media outlets like the New York Times.

And it can help you combat burnout, anxiety and stress-related diseases. 

What Is Niksen?

Think of niksen as the opposite of hustling. In a nutshell, it's doing something without it being for a specific purpose—just for the pure joy of it. 

To those of us with crazy work ethics (or moms of young children) this may sound like laziness, but I assure you it’s not. At all. Think taking a stroll in the park or lounging by the pool. It’s like taking a break from a society that glorifies the hustle culture. 

The struggle is real: Stress accounts for more than half of the 550 million working days lost each year due to absenteeism. By one count, 54% of Americans found themselves lying awake at night due to stress and 75% of Americans experience at least one symptom of stress, like fatigue, anxiousness, irritability or anger.  

Megan Bearce, a LMF licensed therapist and author of Super Commuter Couples: Staying Together When A Job Keeps You Apart, believes stress can have a damaging effect on our health. 

“We can easily be in a nonstop hypervigilant, fight-or-flight state,” she says. Whether it’s feeling like you need to look something up on Google right this second or like you just can’t wait for that Amazon delivery in two hours, Bearce says we need breaks.

Niksen, she believes, is a good answer. Bearce’s mom allowed her to take “personal maintenance days” when she was in high school if she was ever overwhelmed, a habit she continues to this day. Think of it as being proactive with your health—you’re preventing illness and recovering the effects of poor decision making. 

How to 'Do Nothing' (Actually)

I’ll admit, it was really weird doing nothing. I realized that I had to start small to get used to the idea.  That meant watching three minutes of a random Youtube video in the middle of the day in another room when my family was home, or sitting at my porch with a cup of coffee while my son took a nap. During the weekdays when my husband’s off at work and my son is in preschool, I would pick a random Spotify playlist and lay on the couch.

Bearce agrees with my approach. Instead of taking an hour to practice niksen, she recommends starting with five minutes first. “Can you set your alarm five minutes early and ‘just’ lay there and take some deep breaths instead of sleeping until your child wakes you up? Can you have your partner do bath time and you take a walk around the block?” 

As a freelance writer, my schedule is much more flexible than if I had a 9 to 5. That said, niksen is a very flexible concept. Look at your schedule to see if you have random pockets in the day, Bearce recommends, like a lunch break or a few minutes in the morning. Then make that time nonnegotiable. For example, maybe you can take 10 minutes during your lunch hour so you can walk to the park, sit down on a bench and stare out at the pond.

How Niksen Helped My Bank Account

When I was close to burnout, I spent way more mindlessly than normal, and not just indulgences like takeout meals—think twice about what I’d normally spend on food. Instead of doing my errands by bike like I usually do, I ended up spending $100 on rideshare services in a single month!  I’d forget to pay important bills or I’d stuff my pantry so full we’d have to throw out rotten food. I’d forget to go to doctor’s appointments. I was just overwhelmed.

Giving yourself space to be idle can help with better decision-making. Studies have shown that stress-related exhaustion can truly impair cognitive function.

I found that when I was less tired and anxious, I was more motivated to use my bike instead of opting for Uber. I started enjoying cooking again, drastically reducing our grocery bill back to what it was before. My husband and I were able to have real money conversations, like deciding on a savings account for our son and our investment goals for the year.

How Niksen Helped My Family Life

Practicing niksen helped to improve other areas in my life as well. I was a lot more present for conversations with my husband, which helps keep our marriage healthy. I remembered our conversations so much more—I didn’t have to annoy him by asking him to repeat what was previously said.

Giving myself space to think led me to track my time so I could see where I could be more efficient. Turns out I can get the same amount of work done in four to five hours that I previously spread out over 10 hours. This gave me more time for spontaneous trips to the park with my son, so I could actually savor our time together.

TL;DR: Practicing niksen can have positive effects on all areas of your life, reduce your stress and help you make better decisions that can benefit you and your family.

Yeah, But What About My Kids?

I hear ya. Really I do. 

When I started taking these half days for myself, I felt so guilty I ended up meal prepping for the next two weeks and making ten pounds of kimchi! 

It’s hard to make time for yourself when you have little ones to care for, especially when society tells us that they should always come first.

But Bearce says it’s usually possible to find some time for yourself if you take a hard look at your to-do list to differentiate between what’s necessary and what’s not. “Think carefully. Do any of those ‘necessary’ things make you feel stressed, resentful or bad? What happens if you don’t do it? Are those ‘shoulds’ yours, your family’s or your culture’s?”

A lot of my work-related tasks weren’t as necessary as I thought. I cut some out (like engaging on Twitter) and found out that nobody seemed to care. I never looked back. 

How to Start Doing ‘Nothing’

Own the fact that you’ll be doing nothing and tell yourself it’s for the sake of your health. 

Drink a hot cup of coffee while doing nothing else. Stare out the window and count leaves. Find a place where you won’t be reminded of your to-do list. I carved out a corner in my bedroom—no phones or electronic devices allowed.

Try to find opportunities to practice niksen by spacing out when you’re waiting in line at a store, or grab a pen and paper and doodle with your kid at your side. 

At the end of the day, there’s only one guiding principle: Anything that helps you slow down.

Fabric exists to help young families master their money. Our articles abide by strict editorial standards.

Fabric Insurance Agency, LLC offers a mobile experience for people on the go who want an easy and fast way to purchase life insurance.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Written by

Sarah Li Cain

Related Posts

Work, Life, Balanced

How Spending 13 Minutes a Day on Self-Care Changed My Life

I created the Mental Health and Wealth Challenge to engage in self-care that was meaningful, simple, and free — and only takes 13 minutes a day.

By Melanie Lockert
Work, Life, Balanced

Can You Afford to Become a Stay-at-Home Parent? How to Find Out

Working vs. being a stay-at-home parent is a major decision. We’ve created a framework to provide financial clarity about your best options.

By Julie Pierce Onos
Work, Life, Balanced

How to Make Mundane Moments With Your Kids Feel Actually Special

We asked experts for ways to savor even the mundane time with family—whether or not we’re in the middle of a pandemic.

By Sarah Li Cain

Fabric Picks

Life Insurance 101

Is 30-Year Term Life Insurance Right for You?

Term life insurance provides affordable protection for many families, and a 30-year term is often a fit for younger couples and parents of young children.

By Emily Smith
Life Insurance 101

Is Converting Term Life to Whole Life a Smart Financial Move?

Convertible life insurance offers the option to convert from term life to permanent. Here’s who can benefit and who may not need the coverage or cost.

By Jessica Sillers
Life Insurance 101

Life Insurance for Parents: 6 Key Questions You Should Ask

Securing your family’s financial future is an important plan to cover as a parent. Get answers to the questions parents have about life insurance.

By Jessica Sillers

About Fabric




Download Fabric’s iOS mobile app through the Apple App Store
Download Fabric’s android mobile app through the Google Play app store
Subscribe to our newsletter

© 2021 Fabric Insurance Agency, LLC

Accidental Death Insurance policies (Form VL-ADH1 with state variations where applicable) and Term Life Insurance policies (Form ICC16-VLT, ICC19-VLT2, and CMP 0501 with state variations where applicable) are issued by Vantis Life Insurance Company (Vantis Life), Windsor, CT (all states except NY), and by The Penn Insurance and Annuity Company of New York (NY only). Coverage may not be available in all states. Issuance of coverage for Term Life Insurance is subject to underwriting review and approval. Please see a copy of the policy for the full terms, conditions and exclusions. Policy obligations are the sole responsibility of Vantis Life.

All sample pricing is based on a 25-year old F in Excellent health for the coverage amount shown. All samples are for a 10-year term policy, unless otherwise stated. Term Life Insurance policies (Form ICC16-VLT, ICC19-VLT2, and CMP 0501 with state variations where applicable) are issued by Vantis Life Insurance Company (Vantis Life), Windsor, CT. Coverage may not be available in all states. Issuance of coverage for Term Life Insurance is subject to underwriting review and approval. Please see a copy of the policy for the full terms, conditions and exclusions. Policy obligations are the sole responsibility of Vantis Life.

Fabric Insurance Agency, LLC (FIA) is an insurance agency licensed to sell life and accident insurance products. FIA will receive compensation from Vantis Life for such sales. The NAIC Company Code for Vantis Life is 68632. See the Terms of Use for additional information regarding FIA.

A.M. Best uses letter grades ranging from A++, the highest, to F, companies in liquidation. Vantis Life’s A+ (Superior) rating, which was reaffirmed in April 2020, ranks the second highest out of 16 rankings. An insurer’s financial strength rating represents an opinion by the issuing agency regarding the ability of an insurance company to meet its financial obligations to its policyholders and contract holders and not a statement of fact or recommendation to purchase, sell or hold any security, policy or contract. These ratings do not imply approval of our products and do not reflect any indication of their performance. For more information about a particular rating or rating agency, please visit the website of the relevant agency.

Plan like a parent. is a trademark of Fabric Technologies, Inc.