Today’s society is fast-paced and often full of expectations and pressures whether it be work, home or social pressures, and riddled with people telling each other how busy they are! So, what is driving your busyness?
It has become commonplace for us to wear our busyness like a badge of honour. We have been taught that being busy = efficient and hardworking, right? If we’re super busy and always doing things, we must care more about our job, the presentation of our home, we must care more about our kids, our partner, our friends, that random neighbour you said yes to when she invited you to her dinner party (that we both know you didn’t have time for!) Our to-do-list is forever full and when it’s not we are endlessly finding other “significant” and “necessary” events and tasks to add to it.
More times than I’d like to admit, my partner tells me that a) I sometimes can’t stay still for more than five minutes, b) that I make him nervous because I’m always doing something and c) that the world will not end if I stopped for a moment. Hopefully he doesn’t read this because then I’d have to admit that he’s probably right! If you’re anything like me, you may often keep busy without even realising it. Some might call it being efficient or having good work ethic and sometimes this might be true; however, I do know that for me, my tendency to be a “busy bee” often gets in my way and distract me from the things I should be spending more time on.
So, what about you?
I was reading an insightful article the other day and in it I stumbled across Clinical Psychologist, Dr Andrea Bonior who noted three important questions to ask yourself if you found yourself stuck in the vicious cycle of busyness:
• Does your busyness feel like you’re running away from something (versus turning toward it)?
• Do you feel anxious or uncomfortable when there isn’t a task in front of you?
• When you have a few moments of alone time, do you automatically try to fill it with distractions? …My personal favourites include; scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, emails and whatever else I can get my busy little hands on, cleaning, list-making, doing tasks that I tell myself are incredibly important at the time. I think I’ve made my point?
How about you? Do you feel like you’re always “on” or sometimes run yourself into states of fatigue? Do you sometimes find yourself filling in the spare gaps of your day because doing nothing makes you feel uncomfortable? If this is you, chances are that you might be avoiding or turning away from something in your life. Uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, fears and memories often feel unbearable and therefore, we might find ourselves turning to our work or another avenue of life to distract ourselves from the real issue.
So, what are you avoiding?
Here comes the hard part. Admitting our darkest thoughts and feelings to ourselves can be confronting, let alone admitting them to anyone else. It takes courage, time and sometimes a trusted and supportive listening ear to help. Also, because we are often so skilled at avoiding this stuff, consciously knowing what we are avoiding can sometimes be difficult to identify. Difficult thoughts and feelings don’t particularly feel good; therefore, they are often placed in the “not now” box or the “too hard” basket.
So, let’s walk through this together and see if we can discover what might be behind your “busy bee”. We all struggle from time to time and therefore, many of us are guilty of turning away from difficulty rather than facing it. What are you avoiding?
• confrontation or arguments at home or at work
• your struggle with keeping on top of your finances
• the overwhelming fear that you’re not good enough
• the death or loss of a loved one that you miss dearly
• feelings of loneliness
• the pain of a relationship breakup
• the fear that you will lose those closest to you
• the anxiety that shows up when you realise you are not where you thought you’d be in life
• the struggle with your ability to accept yourself
• worries about a close friend or family member’s health
• your struggle to cope with a massive change in life or a difficult transition
• a failing marriage or relationship
• a traumatic incident that still has a place in your memory and rears its head at unexpected times
• worries that you chose the wrong career path
• your struggle with your mental health or physical health
We’re all human and unfortunately that means that we tend to experience a lot of pain and hurt in life. However, if we continue to keep busy as a way of distracting ourselves from our real issues, we will never truly learn how to work through such difficulties.
So, how do we start?
1. Acknowledge your inner “busy bee”.
Like I always say, knowledge is power. To be able to work through something we firstly need to acknowledge it exists.
2. Identify what you are avoiding or moving away from.
In the spirit of not being a hypocrite, I recently sat down with my thoughts and feelings (eek!) and spent some time reflecting on my own “busy bee” and the difficult stuff that might be driving it. I’d be lying if I said this task was easy and sometimes it’s useful to talk it out with a trusted person. Spend some time getting to know what might be driving your “busy bee”.
3. Is being busy always productive?
Think back to a time where you felt incredibly busy – did you feel productive and accomplished like you had achieved something, or did you just automatically move on to the next “necessary” task and therefore, never truly felt accomplishment. Slow down and reconsider that to-do-list. Are all upcoming tasks incredibly important or could you re-prioritise some? (Do you really need to attend that random neighbour’s dinner party?!)
4. How does your “busy bee” get in the way of the important stuff in your life?
When you are busy do you find that you might neglect important areas of your life? Working an hour later because it feels “necessary” might be taking away from you spending valuable time with your family. Maybe you work later so you can avoid fixing the cracks in your relationship with your family? Consider your values which are the most important aspects of your life – the stuff you wouldn’t want to live without. Now, does being busy help you move toward these values or help you move away from them?
5. Talk to someone you trust to help you process difficult thoughts and feelings.
Opening up to someone you trust can help you work through and process difficult thoughts, feelings and experiences. This could be a trusted friend, family member or someone else you trust. Psychologists can also be useful to turn to in order to help you work through difficulty and to support you to identify the driving force behind your need to keep busy.
If you can relate to this or you know someone who might need some extra support, please contact Attuned Psychology to book an appointment with one of our experienced psychologists today.
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