Society values busy. So often, we ask someone what's new in their life they say, "busy, really busy." We stay busy because this makes us seem more productive or more successful. We often feel like we never get enough work done or the work isn't good enough. We don't spend enough time with our kids, or exercising, or meditating. We stay up too late to get that one more thing done and don't get enough sleep. We are exhausted and frustrated with our partners for not helping enough. We take anxiety meds to help ease the tension. Is a better, less harried life possible?
What would happen if you let go of being busy? What is being busy getting you? What are you avoiding by moving from one thing to the next without pausing?
Living in doing-mode keeps us from existing in being-mode which is how we experience human emotional context - fear, sadness, anger, even joy and happiness. Without a felt sense of our life experience, we are living a shallow and meaningless existence.
With smart phones and email, we are spending more time in doing-related activities than ever before. We try to multi-task which is really just a myth. When the brain assigns equal importance to several things at once, a bottleneck occurs which causes anxiety. As the anxiety increases, it literally overwhelms the brain by affecting neurotransmitters and hormones. This causes the brain to shut down which causes paralysis. Overwhelm paralysis.
If you're like me, you refer to a To Do list each day. Likely there are more things on the list than is humanly possible to accomplish in one day. In order to ease overwhelm and create space around your anxiety, the first step is to identify what you value most in life. Seems simple right? Take a moment with this though - what brings you a felt sense of joy in your body? Your WHY. This felt sense of what inspires you is the light that brings clarity to what is most important to you and your happiness. Your why is the road sign that will help you assess where you want to focus your energy. So, what is your WHY? What is the unique driving force that inspires and energizes you? What do you feel most passionate about?
Once you have a handle on your why, then you can assess each item on your To Do list by asking these questions -
1. Do I HAVE to do this item? Question any assumption that starts with "I have to...." Most likely there is a belief hidden behind this assumption. You have to do it because if you don't you won't be... the perfect wife, perfect mother, perfect cook, perfect boss, perfect employee, perfect neighbor, perfect homeowner, perfect parent.... Do you feel you have to do this thing because of how you want someone else to view you? Continuing on this track only leads to exhaustion and sadness - because you aren't living your life, you are living according to what you think someone else expects of you. Most likely these very same people don't expect what you think they do! You are only believing the thought that they do.
2. Am I the only person who can do this task? Is there someone I can hire and train and delegate this task to? Really stop and think about this one. We often believe that we are the only person who can do something the way we want it done. The old adage "If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself." In reality, the task can most likely be given to someone who has more time than you do and would enjoy doing the task more than you would. Sure, they might not do it in exactly the same way that you would and the outcome might not meet your ideal expectation. That's ok! Why do you have this ideal anyway? (This brings us right back to the same inquiry about why you have this standard of perfection in the first place.) Who will judge you if it isn't perfect? Or rather, who do you think will judge you? What would be so bad about it being done differently than you think it should be?
3. Is this in alignment with what is most important to me? (Remember your WHY.) Once you are aligned with what your true priorities are, then you can question all the ways that you are spending time and energy that isn't supporting your WHY. You can start saying "no!" to any commitment that doesn't feel congruent with your passions, goals and visions. When questioning a commitment, stop, get still and check in with your inner wisdom, your body compass, and see whether it feels like a "yes" or a "no." Trust that. Chances are when you tune into what it feels like in your body, and follow that guidance, you will be making the best choice for you and your right life. This will lead you towards what you really want instead of just living a busy life trying to be something you think someone else wants you to be. Follow what feels like joy in your body.
4. Am I doing this because when I take on more and more, I get something for it? Many people stay busy because they are in the habit of being a helpless, angry, complaining victim. Don't let this be you. Stand up for your joy, your peace, and your health. You're the only one who can! If being busy gets you sympathy, think again about whether you would rather have sympathy or happiness. So much of our overwhelm can be attributed to a shared social acceptance in which we are constantly in frenzy, and talking about that frenzy which elevates our feeling of being overwhelmed. How much of your overwhelm is just the reality that you are doing everything you are doing because of choices that you have made?
Stay conscious. How many of your leisure hours are you using up with miscellaneous and mindless activities that don't support your mental, physical, or emotional health? Or support the things that you are truly passionate about? Research has shown that living a life of passion and purpose leads to inner peace, and ultimately a joyful existence. Aside from actual time spent at work and in sleep, how much of the rest of your time are you filling with activities that keep you busy but not enriched or enlivened?
Staying busy keeps us from feeling emotional pain. What might you be trying to avoid by keeping busy? On days where I feel uncertain or insecure unless I have my security blanket, my To Do List, this is when I know it's time to do my inner work - stop, get still and feel whatever emotion is showing up. Notice if I'm feeling fear. Allowing the fear to just be there. "I'm just feeling fear and that's ok."
Try just sitting, closing your eyes and taking a few deep, slow breaths. Notice if you feel any tension, fear, or anxiety. Maybe even terror. Just keep breathing through it, allowing it to be there without fighting it or avoiding it. Allow it to move through you. The next time you notice you're looking for the next thing to do, stop and just sit, even for just a few minutes and allow whatever feelings that are there to move, surface, expand and dissipate. They will move through you if you allow them to.
"The best way out is always though." Robert Frost
We humans are given the gift of free will in this beautiful life. Like everything else, overwhelm is a choice. Choose YOU, your own unique way to love, your passion, and your genius, and don't settle for anything less than living the joy of your WHY!
For more information on transforming your overwhelm, join us for a 4-week telecourse, starting October 22, 2015.