The last few weeks I’ve been ‘too busy’ and, as a result, I’m feeling exhausted, frazzled, fuzzy and disconnected from myself and others.
We live in a world where everything has to be done NOW. Where we not only have stacks of emails to deal with in our work lives, but also voicemails, Facebook messenger messages, social media queries, What’s App messages and text messages all demanding stuff. All demanding it now. All marked URGENT.
This time of year is always hectic for me work wise, and I tend to just see this period as something I ‘have to get through’ before I can get my life back. But there’s become a problem with this way of thinking.
Over the last few years I’ve begun to reassess what is important to me and try to live my life in a more mindful way. So, when I recognise myself getting stuck in the same old negative patterns and behaviours that no longer serve me, I know I have a choice – stay doing what I’m doing and keep getting the same results, or change.
The busyness disease and its links to stress
Busyness has been described as a ‘disease’, a ‘drug’, just another thing we are addicted to in order to numb ourselves to life, not leaving room in our brains to deal with our emotional reality.
Stress is one of the biggest contributors to mental and physical illness and being ‘too busy’ with things that are not making you happy is a one way ticket to feeling overwhelmed and stressed.
We create these super busy lives and in doing so create a lot of our own stress and make ourselves unwell.
A year ago I recognised that I had too much on my plate and that this was having a negative impact on my health. And I ignored it. I ignored my body telling me it had had enough, that it was tired and burnt out and needed a rest. I didn’t want to ask for help or admit I couldn’t do it all on my own, so I just kept pushing on.
On top of this I also became ‘too busy’ for all the things I usually do on a daily basis to safeguard my mental health and wellbeing. I didn’t meditate, I didn’t exercise, I didn’t look after myself with food, I didn’t sleep properly, I didn’t make time for people, I didn’t make time for myself. The result was that when the ‘busyness’ was over, I collapsed unconscious and woke up on the floor.
My body had been tapping me on the shoulder warning me for weeks that something was wrong but ignoring it meant it had to literally knock me off my feet for me to listen.
I’d never passed out before so it was a shock. I was 39 years old and otherwise fit and healthy. The hospital said it was emotional stress. I was expecting to just get straight back to normal after a few days rest but I didn’t. Suddenly I couldn’t function properly. I couldn’t cope. I kept crying. I felt dizzy and unbalanced and generally really unwell on both a physical and mental level. All the plates I’d been spinning came crashing down and no amount of superglue was going to put them back together. The rug had well and truly been pulled out from underneath me.
I’m a perfectionist and set myself ridiculously high standards and goals so the one area in my life I felt I had always had my shit together in was my career. So it was a shock to the system to not only have to admit that I didn’t have my shit together at all, but that now I was awake to it there was no going back to sleep. No going back to the way things were.
While it is painful at the time, reaching your lowest ebb is usually a catalyst for positive change, because there really is nowhere else to go but up. And one thing I do believe today is that, however futile things may seem, out of the darkness always comes light.
Awareness opens the door for change
I have done a lot of work on myself over the last few years but that doesn’t mean I’m immune from making the same old mistakes again.
What it does mean is that I’m aware of where I’m going wrong (eventually) and that I no longer think that ignorance is bliss. I also believe wholeheartedly in taking responsibility for myself.
The other morning after suffering from a particularly nasty bout of the busyness disease, I woke up and (not for the first time) said: “I. DONT. WANT. TO. DO. THIS. ANYMORE”. Capital letters. Period. Then I buried my head into the pillow and sobbed (for about three minutes) before picking myself up, dusting myself off and saying to myself “well don’t do it then”.
What being aware of my shortcomings gives me is the opportunity to change. The opportunity not to just keep going round in the same old loop.
Never be too busy to show up for yourself and for people who love you
For me there are three things I now try never to be too busy for: people I love, self care and spiritual practice.
I used to think that putting myself and my wellbeing first was selfish, but it’s not. If you don’t take care of yourself you won’t have a lot left in the tank to offer others.
For me basic self care includes getting enough quality sleep, exercising and moving my body, getting fresh air and looking after myself in terms of what I put into and feed my body.
Practising mindfulness and meditation is also a hugely important part of my self care routine as is making time for relaxation, such as taking a bath, reading a book, listening to chill out music or doing some painting or drawing.
These are the things that stop me becoming too hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. I need to show up for myself to allow me to also show up for others, which is such an important part of living a meaningful and fulfilling life.
We’ve all done it, been “too busy” to take the call of someone we love or to reply to a message or make time to see them, but what is more important than people we love?
I love this quote:
I need to start looking after the diamonds (and that includes myself) and stop stressing myself out over the stones.
So next time I hear the words “I’m too busy” come out of my mouth or see someone calling who I love and think “I’m too busy to take this right now”. I’m going to stop and breath and remind myself that busyness is not the key to happiness. Connection, peace of mind and balance are.