Why It’s OK to Stay Inside When It’s Sunny Out, According to Therapists

published Aug 9, 2023
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Level up your next chill day at home with our guide to having your best low-key home sesh ever. This content is presented in partnership with La-Z-Boy; it was created independently by our editorial team.

You open your eyes and let out a sigh of relief: It’s finally your day off. The sun reaches through your blinds to greet you, and you can almost feel its heat kissing your skin. But you don’t want to go outside. At all. Despite how “perfect” a day might seem, sometimes you need to stay home. 

It’s important to keep these moments in perspective. “It’s one day, not the totality of the summer or the year,” says Dr. Sally Nazari, PsyD, a licensed psychologist at Chrysalis Psychological Services. To help you navigate those days when you don’t want to do anything — but feel like you should do something — I spoke to three mental health professionals and got their valuable advice on how to deal.

Should I stay in or go out?

Walk yourself through a thought exercise to determine what you truly want. Nazari recommends the STOP method, which stands for stop, take a breath, observe, and proceed. After you take a beat with the first two steps, “Observe what’s happening internally and outwardly … in [your] body” as you contemplate staying inside, says Nazari. 

Do you feel calm? Anxious? Are you in a relaxed physical state, or are you tensed up? “We want to observe [the situation] without casting judgment [on ourselves],” she explains. 

Once you assess your emotions, you can make a clearer decision about whether you want to “proceed” spending the day at home. “We can [use the STOP method] to discern if it’s the external pressure, or if there’s an internal need,” says Nazari.

If you feel a strong pull to stay home, listen to that. And if you have any doubts about staying in, try to pin down the source.

“What is this anxiety about? Is there another piece of it?” asks Hilary Jacobs Hendel, licensed clinical social worker and author of It’s Not Always Depression. Feelings of FOMO or shame can make you feel as if your decision to stay inside is wrong, like you should be doing something else. “Anytime you use the word ‘should,’ it’s a cue to get curious,” she adds.

“Make sure that [your decision] is coming from you and that it’s aligned with your values,” says Dr. Ilene Cohen, PhD, a licensed marriage and family therapist at Doctor Illene, LLC.

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What if you have FOMO? 

You may feel a push to go outside because you don’t want to see all of the pictures on Instagram or hear about how fun your friends’ barbecue was. FOMO at its core is a feeling that you “[lost] out on an opportunity,” explains Hendel. “When we experience a loss, it’s going to bring up sadness,” she adds.

Identify and validate those emotions, and move through them in your body. With FOMO, maybe that’s sadness; you may experience heaviness in your chest. Hendel encourages “staying with” the feeling while practicing deep breathing. She says to treat yourself with love and compassion as you experience the emotion. After a while, the sadness “may come up and out and dissipate.”

Next, create a balance by sitting with positive emotions you have about staying inside. Focus on the joy or peace the day might bring you.

What if you’re worried about disappointing others?

Perhaps, by observing your internal feelings, you realize you’re content with staying home but worried about the effect your decision may have on your friendships. “You’re trying to harmonize those relationships by giving in to what the other person wants,” explains Cohen. But pleasing other people can be counterproductive, leading to “resentment and burnout,” she says.

“For us to want to go out and spend time with others, it’s not a bad thing,” says Nazari. “But if we’re doing that without also balancing our own connection to ourselves, it starts to feel depleting.” She says this is when we stop “bringing our best selves to these connections.”

If you have a hard time saying no and setting boundaries, Cohen advises a firm approach. “Don’t leave any openness. It has to be straightforward,” she says. Instead of something that leaves room for convincing like, “Oh, I don’t know. I think I’m going to stay in today,” say, “Thanks for the invite, but I’m going to stay in today.”

What if you think badly of yourself?

You may tell yourself cruel lies like, “I’m so lazy and unproductive,” but these thoughts don’t appear without a root cause, says Hendel. “I don’t think anyone is born feeling pressure to go out and take advantage of a sunny day,” she says.

If you were ever on the receiving end of anger or disappointment because of a time you wanted to stay inside, you likely feel shame today when you make that decision on your own. But remember what you’re feeling isn’t a complete and fair picture.

Nazari emphasizes having “a balanced view of ourselves.” She says, “You can acknowledge that you’re having these thoughts about how you feel like you’re this awful person, but it’s not the totality of who you are.”

To get out of that negative mindset, Nazari suggests recalling a time when you did the opposite of what you’re feeling ashamed about in the moment. “So maybe you didn’t go out in the sun today and hang out with everyone you wanted to, but a couple of weeks ago, you did,” she says.

“The overarching theme is just to be kind and compassionate to ourselves when we have days like [this],” Hendel says.

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How can you enjoy your day inside?

After dealing with your emotions in a healthy way, you can happily spend your day indoors. “Give yourself permission to do whatever feels right,” says Hendel. That may be reading a book, exercising, doing yoga, watching your favorite TV show, or cleaning your room. 

Nazari says it’s OK to “bring the outside in” if you find yourself looking longingly out the window.

“We can bring in some plants or [use] light therapy, which I call ‘little rays of sunshine.’ It gives us that same sense of sunshine, without the heat,” she says. If you’re anxious about spending all day inside — and have a little energy — go for a short walk outside, or sit on a patio or deck if you have one. 

How can you reset after a day inside?

“Some people, when they’re burnt out or anxious, might have less energy and [not be] as productive. If you’re noticing, ‘Wow, OK, I’m taking [this little break] too far,’ the hardest part is to start again,” Cohen says. For example, you may spend multiple afternoons in bed watching movies or prioritize long scrolls through TikTok rather than taking care of chores or other responsibilities.

If you find yourself in a pattern where you’re not getting done what you need to, Cohen recommends making a schedule of tasks. To jumpstart your return to a routine, begin the next day with one of those tasks instead of a distraction. “If you’re watching too much TV and not getting anything done, don’t turn on the TV in the morning,” she says.

Cohen notes it’s not helpful to pile on too many responsibilities: “Some people give themselves too much to do in one day — and [they] end up doing nothing because they become overwhelmed.”

How do you make sure your need to stay in isn’t something more?

One or a couple of days spent inside can be refreshing. But if you find it’s become a pattern that’s interfering with your mood or daily responsibilities, it may be time to check in with a mental health professional. If you experience symptoms like “high amounts of anxiety, not being able to get out of bed, sleeping too much or too little, and not really wanting to engage with other people,” according to Hendel, they could be signs of depression. 

If you suspect that you’re dealing with depression or mental health issues, it’s important to get help. “Reaching out is an act of self-care and shows self-love,” says Nazari. 


If you or someone you know is dealing with depression and needs help, visit one of the following websites or call one of their helplines: