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Common Issues Series – Being Busy

The most common response to the question ‘how are you’? is ‘fine, very busy’. If this sounds familiar, have you looked at the reasons why you are so busy?

Being busy is not necessarily a good thing. Being busy has become a badge of honour almost. As if we are missing out on life if our days are not filled up with things to do, people to see, places to visit, experiences to be had.

While ‘doing’ stuff can be fun, important, and healthy, being overly busy often has a more problematic root cause and it can be absolutely detrimental to our wellbeing. I see in many of my clients that their busy-ness is not really good for them and that they feel stuck in the cycle of ‘being busy’. It is always good to know where our need to be busy comes from, and if it really serves our wellbeing. Knowing why we feel so busy gives us information about the choices we make, this in turn, will allow us to see that there are more options than filling your day with things to do.

What is the problem with being busy?

The first problem with being busy is that often when we are busy all the time we are running away from ourselves and our emotions. When we are busy and have little time to sit still, we avoid having to feel how things really are for us. In the midst of all the distraction we simply do not have the time to feel our loneliness, our sadness, our anger, or any other emotion that we might find challenging. This is unsustainable in the long run. I see it time and time again. People who were so busy for so long, until their body stopped them.

The second problem is that being busy can give the impression that we are living a full life, but can hide the fact that we are doing lots of things, but not the things that we actually want to be doing. It can be that we are so caught up in all the things that ‘ I have to do’ – all things with our kids, with work, with partner, with friends, sport etc. etc – that we do not know where we can find the time to change course. Or indeed, that we feel we have no control over the course on which we find ourselves, that it is simply that all this needs to get done.

The last problem with being busy is that our minds and bodies need rest. It is winter now, lots of mammals go into hibernation. We do not, but we do need rest (and not just in winter…). We need time to sit, to not have any obligations to fulfil, to be free of meetings, of emails, of expectations of ‘getting stuff done’. Resting is much more difficult than it sounds, especially if we are running away from emotions or too caught up in all the ‘ I have to’s’; if this is the case resting can feel very uncomfortable. Simply taking more time to rest is a start, but not enough. We need to practice rest, we need to incorporate it into our normal lives (not just weekends and holidays) and we need to get real about the uncomfortableness we might feel when we break the cycle of being busy.

Is your ‘busy-ness’ good for you?

With the three problems mentioned above, can you ask yourself ‘why am I so busy’? Do any of the three ‘problems’ mentioned above strike a chord with you (either of recognition or of annoyance…). Red flags to look out for here are answers like:

I do not have a choice

I will let people down if I don’t do XYZ

Otherwise I miss out on stuff

If I do not do it, nobody will

Once you have asked the ‘why’ question, see if you can ask yourself how it feels for you to be so busy. Just see if you can ask this question to the whole you, not just the analytical you. What I mean with that is, ask your body. Sit for a minute, take a couple of deliberate breaths, and ask your body how it feels to be so busy. See what, if anything, comes up. Things to look out for here are:

exhausting

painful

stressful

but also – if nothing much comes up at all.

Another investigation that you can try is to see if you are not only busy in doing, but that you feel busy because you spend a lot of time worrying, ruminating, planning etc. I have recently noticed in myself that because of my ‘thinking about’ certain things I feel like I ‘have to do’, I feel like I am very busy. But am I really, or is it just that it takes up a lot of headspace? What are the red flags here?

Planning all the things you ‘have to do’ so everything goes according to (your) plan

Thinking about what other people might think/say/do if you didn’t get stuff done

Want to see a change in your busy-ness?

There are many things you can do to change. You can start to explore two different levels of change:

The practical: this means looking at your day and making the intention to find more time to ‘do nothing’. Cancelling certain obligations, saying no when you want to say no, setting boundaries at work etc. etc. Allowing yourself that time where you don’t ‘have to’ do anything. This can be really transformational, but also hard to implement by yourself. An accountability buddy might help.

The deep(er) dive: If you are finding it hard to change your ways and you feel that being busy really is not something you can change, you may need a bit more of a deep dive into the ‘why’. Nothing too serious, but just getting to the root of why you make the choices you make. This will allow you to shift your perspective, which in turn, gives you the opportunity to make different choices that do support your wellbeing and build a life that feels good for you.

If you feel you need a bit of support in choosing more wisely what you do with your time, book an introductory session with me!