Is being too busy stopping you from appreciating the good things in life?
Editor's note: This is a re-post of the very first blog we shared on August 13th.
The other day I was walking out of one of the local markets and I ran into a mom friend of mine. For those of you without kids, “mom friend” indicates that I see this gal around at our kid’s functions from time-to-time but I wouldn’t normally hang out with her. If I hung out with her, she’d be an actual “friend”.
Now that we have the terminology out of the way, this gal happened to catch me on a really great day when I was feeling quite peaceful and happy.
She asked me how I was doing.
I replied, “You know, I’m doing great. Everything’s going great - I’m feeling relaxed and happy, and things are really falling into place today.”
That woman looked at me as if the top of my head had just popped off.
“Really?? I wish I felt the same way! Must be nice - I’m running around like a chicken with its head cut off! I've got the PTA this afternoon; my son has basketball practice; I'm hosting my girlfriends this Friday; I have to go school shopping for Hannah....”
Yep, I get it. She was busy. We all have things to do, right?
Sometimes it feels like our lives are out of control and just sort of happening to us instead of purposeful lives that we have carefully cultivated in order to spark joy and peace.
Stop Feeling Obligated to be Busy
When people ask you how you’re doing, do you usually respond with “busy”? And if so, do you respond that way because you actually are extremely busy, or because you’re afraid of the embarrassment it would bring for people to think that you weren’t?
How would your friends respond if you answered as I had in the situation above?
The culture of busyness has become so prominent that it makes us think that if we are not busy than we are not producing. If we’re not super busy, we’re not living up to our full potential or putting in enough effort.
But honestly, I think that allowing ourselves to become overly busy is just a new way for us to not live our lives. It’s a distraction from our lives.
It has become an addiction to pack our lives so full of “stuff” that we feel like we’re going to snap!
Everybody has responsibilities, right? We have our jobs, our kid, our friends, activities, clubs, groups, extended family…this is just a start to the list!
We have reached the time in our society when people don’t say “no” to anything because for some reason it indicates weakness and slacking.
Completely, 100% Unnecessary
How about the people that “should” on you?
“You should be doing this … you should be doing that … you should sign up for this thing ...” We’re sort of programmed now to roll with busyness as part of our identity and who we are within our communities.
But the truth is, it’s actually the greatest distraction from living our lives. The overloading of our schedules is completely, 100% unnecessary!
And, this overloading of our schedules doesn’t just have to mean physically going places and running around like a lunatic. For instance, being on your phone is a form of busyness that allows us to escape from our lives for hours at a time.
We slip into some sort of alternate reality when we engage with Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, Snapchat, Twitter… these things that take up so much of our time.
If you don’t believe me, go into your iPhone (under Settings | Battery) and look at how much time you’ve spent on social media and games. Seriously. Do it right now. It will be mind-blowing.
Back in My Day … (Old Lady Voice)
When I was a kid – I was born in 1980 - people couldn’t get a hold of us if we weren’t home by our phones or at work with our office phones.
We didn’t have the technology available that now has us tied down to everyone 24/7. And it’s not just the office emails! It’s the alerts from social media, text messages from friends, cell phone calls from family. We are available to people ALL DAY AND NIGHT!
It has sort of become this thing where we feel obligated to respond.
Get this – we do not have to respond. Especially when we’re under a lot of pressure. How about just having a day to veg out?
I tend to fall into this trap where laying around on a Sunday makes me feel lazy and unproductive. I actually can get quite a lot of anxiety from it.
Why are we not allowed to relax for a day and give ourselves the time that our bodies and minds need to chill out and re-charge?
7 Steps to Slowing Down
So how do we stop becoming a culture of busy and begin to slow things down?
1. Monitoring social media use.
I wasn’t kidding. Check it now. Then, get that shit under control.
2. Establish boundaries.
Learn some boundary techniques and the art of saying “no”. If you find yourself saying “yes” to every request or favor, and it causes feelings of anxiety and being overwhelmed, you would probably benefit from setting a boundary or two. They are so important for our mental health. I blogged on setting boundaries last week.
3. Ditch the idea of perfectionism.
Everything doesn’t have to be perfect. Is anyone actually monitoring this besides yourself? Is there a committee somewhere holding up numbers one through ten like in the Olympics? I have to check myself on this with the blogs that I write. Blogs do not have to be perfect. They are just expressions of what I am thinking in the moment and not published prose that I'm submitting for my doctorate. Listen, if a misspelled word gets through every once in a while I've decided to be ok with it.
Take a bath, go to yoga, watch a show, pretend to hurt somebody during kickboxing – whatever you need to do to relax – do it. And remember to ditch the thought in the back of your mind that’s making you think you’re not doing enough because you are taking an hour to two for yourself!
5. Hold up a minute, dude.
We can’t say “no” to everything, but before saying “yes” to everything take a moment to think about what it will mean to your schedule and mental health. I always have a “no” answer in my back pocket. A canned response like “Oh my gosh, thank you so much for asking but I just can’t right now. I’m already loaded up with and I can’t take it on. Thanks, though. I appreciate you asking.” I also blogged on the slow yes method in my blog about learning to say no.
6. Check yourself before you wreck yourself.
Try to check in on yourself everyday and question which of your commitments absolutely must get done and which are just needlessly filling your time without benefiting anyone. Understand that you don’t have to do busy work. There are certain things that need to get done, and other things that we just take on – maybe as a distraction from doing the important tasks that are boring, tedious or even strenuous.
Perhaps you are even distracting yourself from a stressful situation or issue that is in the back of your mind. Something troublesome. When I'm having a difficult time sitting quiet and still without any busywork to keep my mind occupied, I know it's time to figure out what's bothering me. In these instances I start journaling for 20 minutes a day until it comes out. Eventually it does.
7. Creating a gratitude habit
I live with an attitude of gratitude and it has changed everything in my world for the better! I write down 3 things that I am grateful for every single day and it helps me focus on what is going right for me. It also encourages me to be appreciative for the things that I have.
Friends, let’s stop the culture of busyness! We need to start unplugging our devices and plugging in to people, nature, relationships and families.
I’m sure that taking these small steps to ward off the busyness will have your life soaring as a byproduct.
Make an effort to reduce 10 hours of busy time this week, and let me know how it feels! I’d love to hear from you!
How can a Wellness Coach help you?
If you've ever wondered what a Health and Wellness Coach does, all you have to do is ask! I offer a free consultation called the Breakthrough Session. Before our conversation I’ll send you some paperwork to fill out which will include a questionnaire that will help me assess where you are at in your personal and professional life. We will discuss the following topics during our initial 45-minute free consultation:
Career and Mission
Fun and Excitement
Family and Friends