As a counselor, I believe that one of the most difficult problems to help clients with is anxiety. I believe we live in an anxious culture that justifies anxious behaviors, filled with people who have learned to suppress their true feelings and desires in favor of anxiety expressions like: Q)”Hey, how you doing?” A)”Oh, you know, busy…”
I encourage clients to understand that “busy” is not necessarily reality but instead a feeling. Having many things to do or expectations to meet is not the same thing as being “busy”. A sustained feeling of busy can lead to sleep problems, physical exhaustion, poor personal relationships, poor academic performance, lack of enjoyment in life, and depression.
We can spend our lives spinning, performing, doing and not actually experiencing life. To experience an authentic life we must be fully present, not just merely getting by. To be fully present we must stop busying ourselves and participate in living.
Stop and take a minute to dissect your busyness. It is helpful to examine some possible reasons why we feel a need to stay in a state of perpetual busyness. What purpose is it serving? Are you avoiding some problem in your relationships? Are you avoiding some traumatic experience from your past that has left you feeling vulnerable? Are you avoiding some problem you can’t seem to fix? Are you acting out a need to please others just to feel okay with yourself or acceptable to some other person?
Once you have answered some of these questions, spend some time comparing your responses to your personal value system. Are you living the life you want? Are you accomplishing the goals important to YOU? Do you feel like you are missing out? Do you feel like you are selling out by succumbing to busyness? Do you feel alone in all this stress?
If you come to the conclusion that you are not behaving and living a life today that you could live with to the end of your days, maybe it is time to make a change. “The future is no place to place our better days.” – Dave Matthews
Here are some helpful tips in managing feeling “busy”:
- Set healthy boundaries with friends and family members. Boundaries are rules we set to maintain the ability to protect and meet our own needs. They are clearly stated and express respect, self esteem, and personal responsibility. We cannot force others to abide by our rules, but we can choose who we will allow ourselves to be around. Nobody will meet your personal needs for you, it is your responsibility. Healthy and supportive relationships will respect your boundaries and support you in meeting your personal needs as well as help when you ask for help.
- Make a schedule. I’m not talking about scheduling up every aspect of your life, but instead find out how you have been spending your time. Most people express anxiety triggering thoughts like “I don’t have enough hours in the day to accomplish everything expected of me.” When I sit down with people and we take a realistic look at how they are spending their time, they are astonished by how much time they are wasting. They are usually spending between 2-4 hours per day worrying about everything they need to get done that day, rather than actually accomplishing tasks. We usually worry about fears that will never come to pass. Worrying is a fruitless and futile waste of time. Instead find your rhythm or groove. Set firm and flexible time frames for regular activities and tasks. Doing activities in a rhythm throughout the day helps to take the “thinking” out of daily or weekly tasks, freeing up your mind to tackle more lofty pursuits. You will also need to MAKE TIME to do self nurturing activities like taking a walk, hitting up that yoga class or having a cup of tea with your friend. Healthy people do at least 3-5 self nurturing activities every day. These types of opportunities will not be as frequent as is necessary for mental wellness unless you make it a priority.
- Cut out the Clutter. If you answered some of the above dissection questions with “I don’t really want or need to do _______. I just do it to please/avoid _______.” Don’t do it. This is your life, you will not regret all the ways you couldn’t please everyone around you or feel proud of solving every problem alone. You will regret not being the person you wanted to be and living the life you wanted live. Only you will ultimately suffer the consequences of living an inauthentic life.
Live differently, against the grain if necessary. We could use more people in the world who are truly and authentically living. These are the truly alive people who are empowered to live a full life. Take and make the time to accept and nurture your true self, personal passions, and heart’s desires. Prioritizing authenticity and fully accepting who you are will allow you the experience of personal empowerment through insight, inspiration, ingenuity, and integrity.
Here is a good video to hit this message home: