Socrates said “Beware the barrenness of a busy life”. Imagine that.
We tend to think unhealthy levels of busyness are a modern phenomenon, but apparently not. That said, I think we are taking busyness to a whole new level of dysfunction.
The Busy Fetish
We are worshiping busy…we wear our inability to stop for a second like a badge of honour. If you are the primary carer for children, you probably do significantly more active parenting, than your stay at home mum or grandmother did. Then there are our professions and organisations, which fetishize busy. If your workload doesn’t have you on your knees, if the rest of your team are not off on long term sick, and if you have had lunch in the last five weeks and a wee in the last three, are you even really a social worker / nurse / solicitor?
I am not here to make wellbeing a stick to beat yourself with. I am not suggesting that on top of all you already have to do, you add a punishing regime of self-care activities. But I am suggesting you slow it all down. Mentally, initially, and the rest will come.
I know it can feel like catastrophe will hit if you let go of even one little bit of what you are doing. That is natural. That is the anxiety response – your brain seeing danger everywhere and trying to head it off by doing / managing / controlling. The irony is, danger isn’t everywhere, but in over-working, over-thinking and more doing than being, we do put ourselves at risk, physically and emotionally.
It literally felt impossible to stop
Now, if you are anything like me, slowing it all down will not come naturally. Before I became a psychotherapist, I was so wedded to busy that I developed an over-active thyroid. I lost so much weight I became skeletal, my body was in a constant state of fight or flight, my heart rate pounding, unable to eat or digest food, my body so tense and ready for action that my bones hurt constantly. I was running on fuel. Had I experienced a thyroid storm, I could have died, but despite my very patient doctor explaining this to me and telling me to do less, it literally felt impossible to stop.
The Power of Mindfulness
Then I attended a mindfulness -based stress reduction (MBSR) course, a token gesture for the doctor (and another task to add to my to-do list). I spent 5 of the 6 weeks of the course feeling sceptical, my busy brain thinking how I could run it better. Around week 6, something shifted. My brain stopped racing and for the first time in decades, I was still. Physically and emotionally.
This state became more and more accessible to me as I continued to practice and I was able to make better decisions, say no more, slow down. This led to me nudging my career in a different direction, building on my therapeutic qualifications, the area of my practice I have always loved most, and making it my mission to work with individuals and organisations to improve wellbeing.
Now if all this sounds sensible but you’re thinking there’s no way on earth you have time to slow down, here’s a little taster – a 3 step breathing space. It’s literally that, it can be done in three steps that are as long or short a time as you have available. Practice here and use it the next time you feel your stress levels rising. It can be done sitting, standing, in company or alone, I had one client who perfected doing it whilst prosecuting cases in court! Enjoy.
Until next time friends