Busy, Busy, Busy

Timelapse photo of lines of busy night time road traffic
Image credit: photo by Caleb George on Unsplash.

In today’s hectic world, when we ask how someone is doing, we often hear the refrain, “Oh, I’m busy.” For most of us, staying busy is a badge of honor. We want to have our schedules full. However, ...

... staying busy often disguises other emotions, and can be an avoidance of feeling what we don’t want to feel. For example, we might not want to feel:

  • Sad because our oldest child is off to college, or ...
  • Grief because a relationship has ended, or ...
  • Angry because our partner is doing the same thing over and over again.

In addition, staying busy:

  • Might also help us to delay an important decision, whether that’s a career decision or relationship decision, because it’s too painful for us to face. Or it ...
  • May simply be a way to avoid being alone with our own thoughts and feelings.

We tend to rationalize the busyness, too, believing that it’s absolutely necessary that we fulfill certain obligations, perhaps because we feel that no else has the skills necessary, or because we feel obligated to friends or family.

We may also be getting acknowledgment or gratitude for doing these things, and this can give us further emotional incentive.

We tend to admire people who are busy and this may further justify our own need to stay busy, confirming that our own level of busyness is “normal”.

Busy, Full, Exhausting?

It might also seem in our career or job situation that being perpetually busy is a good thing, as if we are more worthy of respect and higher earnings the more we produce and show that we are doing something, regardless of quality or outcome.

Often a busy life is considered a full life, when in reality it may just be an exhausting life, one that is emotionally, physically, and spiritually depleted.

Less Is More, Perhaps

Sometimes we believe that adding more activities will enhance our lives, while in reality, if we remove some of the activities, we may have a richer life.

We may be rushing from social activity to social activity, doing fun things. However, under these circumstances it’s even harder to know whether we are simply enjoying ourselves or even in the fun arena are too busy.

Making Sense Of Busy-Ness Confusion

So how do we know if we have become too overscheduled, and are not taking enough time for ourselves?

  • Do you find yourself second-guessing a plan that you made with a friend? Are there times you say “yes” to things because you’re afraid of missing out, however you’re secretly wishing that you could just stay home?
  • Do you feel physically, spiritually, or emotionally worn out with all of the plans that you’ve made?
  • Are you trying keep up with all of your friends?
  • Do you feel as if you don’t have a lot of energy? Are the things that you’re doing still enjoyable or do they deplete you?
  • Do you find yourself snapping at your partner, children, or colleagues, and feeling as if everyone around you needs to give you some space?
  • Do you often feel bored or disgruntled by the day to day monotony of the tasks that you are doing (including housework)?
  • Do you find yourself daydreaming about trips to be taken or otherwise escaping from your obligations?

While none of these in and of themselves necessarily means that you have overscheduled your life, a few yes’es probably indicate that a closer look at the schedule of your life is needed. One important question to ask about activities – whether they be social, work, or other obligations– is whether that something brings you joy or not.

Selfish versus Self Caring:

When we keep going and going, even if it is for a good cause or for the people whom we care about, we tend to leave ourselves behind. We de-prioritize us.

If we do choose to do something for ourselves, like meditating, relaxing, or working out, we worry that we will be seen as selfish by others or even by ourselves.

However, there is a huge difference between selfish and self caring. Taking the time to do the things that we enjoy doing – whether that be a hobby, reflecting, reading, writing, a workout, coloring, or even just staring into space, is important not only to our overall well-being, but also to the others around us.

When we care deeply for ourselves, we naturally begin to care for others – our families, our friends, our greater global community, and the environment – in a healthier and more effective way… [then] We make choices from love instead of guilt and obligation.

Cheryl Richardson, world-renowned coach, author, and speaker.

Here’s another way to recognize the difference between selfish and self caring:

  • Selfish is thinking: “I am more important than you and I really don’t care about your emotions.”
  • Self caring, however, means acknowledging that “you are important to me and what you feel is important, however I too am important and I need to take some time to take care of myself.

Caring for ourselves equates to better care for others:

It helps to realize that you can be a better parent, mom, dad, partner, friend, employee, boss, etc., if you have truly filled yourself up first. If we are emotionally and spiritually depleted (even if we don’t necessarily recognize it), then we are not giving our best to the people that we care about.

Taking time for ourselves is indeed not selfish, but an act of giving to others – we are taking the time to make ourselves into the best possible version of ourselves, so that our interactions with others come from a place of being truly whole and fulfilled.

Leaving the guilt behind:

When we begin to change our pattern from doing for others and start to look at our own needs, we usually experience significant guilt. And the guilt often stands in the way of us changing the pattern. In taking care of ourselves first, the guilt is usually the last to go.

However, once we start shifting the pattern and reaping some of the benefits, feeling more relaxed, feeling more grounded and centered in our bodies, letting ourselves know that were important, then the guilt will slowly start to dissipate.

The easiest way to begin taking care of yourself is to schedule time in your calendar for your own self-renewal, and then to guard that time as if it were a doctor’s appointment or other important appointment (as it is!). Many people find that just one or two weekly sessions of a couple of hours each can be deeply renewing and helpful.

Deeper Reflection:

A lot of times we allow ourselves to feel as if we absolutely need to be doing a certain thing (for instance, happy hours with clients, or piano lessons for Bobby, or the tutor for Sally, or volunteering with the school).

However when we look deeply into it, we may start to realize that these things are not necessary for our true happiness, and may even be disguising some of our deeper issues, such as:

  • A need to be seen as successful, or ...
  • For our kids to be seen as successful, or ...
  • To be seen as having “Something” to do with our lives.

But when we really take a look at the things that we are doing, we might find that they are reflections of other people’s “should’s” and ideas for our lives, and not even what we truly want to be doing.

These are the things that we can slowly begin to say “no” to (as detailed in my article on saying no ), and begin to leave the space open for things that truly fulfill us and bring us joy.

Getting Help:

If you find it hard to allow time for yourself, but yet know that you desperately need that time, it may help to speak with a trusted therapist in order to work through the possible guilt or other stumbling blocks.

Nassau Guidance & Counseling’s caring and licensed psychotherapists work with people in all stages of life, helping each person to find their unique path to more joy and fulfillment in their lives.

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