This is Part 3 in a four part series about why the **** we are so stressed. Part 1 was about how worrying about things we can’t control causes our stress levels to escalate (and some simple solutions to help us manage this stress). Part 2 was all about how staying connected all the time can amp up our stress. This week we’re moving on to the next reason…
So moving on to the third reason why we are so stressed: We pride ourselves on being busy…
Now, I know that we are legitimately busy but I would venture to guess that many of us overload our schedules with less important tasks, leaving us with an even smaller amount of time for the things that really matter. By juggling so many different responsibilities, we are often left in a continual state of anxiety, only to collapse at the end of the day.
Now, you may have noticed that I didn’t say our stress is caused by being too busy, I said our stress is caused by priding ourselves on being busy. So here’s the distinction…yes many of us have a lot to do but we all have choices. What are those things we are doing that take our time but aren’t necessary? Are there things, tasks, responsibilities that we can let go of so that we don’t have to say, “I’d love to, but I’m too busy”?
Why does priding ourselves on being busy cause stress?
What I’m getting at is that often our incessant busyness or staying busy is a coping mechanism. Sometimes we may feel like if we’re not always busy we are being lazy. Let me ease your mind…the opposite of busy isn’t lazy. The opposite of busy is equanimity. Equanimity is mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation. When we get out of our busy state, rushing around mindlessly doing instead of being with the present moment, we don’t automatically stop doing everything and turn into a couch potato. No, instead, we can leave some space and time to just be with whatever is presenting itself to us at that moment. Our stress is lessened because we are able to give our full attention to whatever we are doing instead of running from task to task.
So what’s the solution? How do we stop the roller coaster of busy and start making time for the things that matter?
Well to stop the wearing the busy badge of honor and get off the roller coaster, you are going to have to make some choices. I’m not going to sugar coat it and say this is going to be easy. How many years have you been running yourself ragged? How long have you been exhausted and stressed? This cycle of self-imposed busyness did not just happen overnight, so it may take a little time. You may relapse and begin over-committing. You may wake up and look at your calendar and wonder what happened to the person who was adamant on over-committing. If (or when) this happens know that you are not alone and we are looking for progress not perfection.
The easiest way to start making choices is to take an honest account about how you are spending your time and then decide if the way you are spending your time is helping you reach your goals or is hindering you from them.
#1 Keep Track of How You Spend Your Time
So for a few days, keep track of how you are spending time….write it down and be honest. It’s the same concept as keeping a food log if you are trying to take an honest look at what you are eating. Don’t make any changes, just write down how you spend your time. After three days start to analyze your use of time. How much time are you spending on social media? How much time are you checking your email? How much time are you watching TV? How much time are you spending volunteering your time on a project that you are not as passionate about as you used to be? How much time are you spending on things that make you happy?
#2 Analyze Your Findings
Now this is a judgement free zone….you are just honestly looking at how you are using your time. But are there things that you could cut out or cut back on that would make your day less busy? Are there things that are filling your schedule that aren’t necessary? Are there tasks that you can delegate? Could you designate a few times/day to check in on social media, instead of doing it throughout your day and run the risk of getting sucked in?
#3 Make Some Choices Based on Your Goals
So now you need to decide what needs to go and what needs to stay based on what you want. So if you want to have more time for daily exercise, then what can you shift around or eliminate or do differently that will help you free up that extra 45 minutes? Maybe you need to have a plan to leave work on time a few days a week, instead of staying extra every day. Whether your goal is exercising more regularly, spending more time with family, taking time for a hobby, eating more meals at home, by eliminating some of the extra stuff that keeps us busy and planning our schedules around a goal, we will start to be less stressed because we are letting ourselves be in charge of our choices again.
If you are having problems with trying to figure out what to let go of and how to define what’s important to your life, try reading Greg McKeown’s Essentialism. It is chock full of great ways to simplify your schedule and make time for what really matters!
So I hope that you now know that there is no shame in giving up some of your busyness and stress and trading it in for some openness and peace. We can stop wearing the badge of busy and allow ourselves to create a daily schedule that’s more aligned with our goals. We of course can’t give up all of our responsibilities, but maybe we can reevaluate what really matters and leave some space for the things that bring us joy. I wish you the best as you explore your own schedule and make some of these choices for a more joyful life!
Stay tuned for Part 4 of the series “Why the **** are we we Stressed” coming next week. In the meantime, please consider signing up for the Teaching Well Newsletter. By subscribing, you will receive the free gift “Twenty Minutes to Wellness” which is a great scheduling tool designed to help you frame your day with your wellness as a top priority.