How are you?
- Things have been so busy, you?
How’s life been?
- You know how it is, busy!
How’s the family?
- Oh you know, busy, busy!
Do these brief conversation snippets sound familiar?
We live in a culture and time that seems to place value on productivity and outcomes more than values. Many industries even place productivity requirement and pay for performance mandates on their employees for “motivation”. We brag to one another about how much we have accomplished rather than sharing about our down time. When people ask how we are, the socially acceptable answer generally has something to do with how busy we are (as shown above). We over-enroll our children in extra curricular activities starting in preschool and we overbook ourselves at the same time. Gone are free weekends, gone are lazy Sundays, gone are snow days (hello virtual learning) and summer vacations.
I regularly see people wearing shirts that say things like:
“Hot mess express”, “I run on coffee, chaos, & curse words”, “But first, coffee”, “This is my circus, these are my monkeys”, “I can’t, busy doing mom things”, “my brain has too many tabs open”, “you must be exhausted by watching me do everything”
…and it seems that (while the shirts are good for a laugh) they tend to glamorize being overly busy and living a stressed out life. I am willing to be the bearer of bad news for you: it’s not cute. It’s not cute to overwhelm yourself, it’s not attractive to wear your physical and mental health into the ground, overbooking yourself and/or your family isn’t something to brag about, I don’t envy your lifestyle of being late and surviving on Chick-Fil-A and Starbucks.
Mindfulness is a key component to living a life that is more enjoyable and serenity; adopting a “busy” identity is not compatible with mindfulness. Being busy is the epitome of living on “auto-pilot” and living in a way that leaves you avoiding your emotions. When you are consistently running around and panicking about the logistics of your schedule, you don’t have any time for introspection or self-exploration. The result of this will likely be a very anxious baseline and perfectionistic tendencies. When you DO have free time, it will likely be uncomfortable and you will fill it with other task-oriented behaviors – rigid vacation itinerary, spring cleaning, taking on DIY home improvement project, etc. — and if you can’t do task-oriented behaviors, you will likely have an emotional breakdown of sorts because you don’t know how to handle down time.
Does this sound familiar? Do you want to live differently?
Task oriented behaviors live on one extreme —-Emotionally fueled behaviors are the other extreme. Noticing that they are two ends of a spectrum can help you see that there is a lot of grey zone in the middle! Just because you aren’t tackling things off of your to-do list doesn’t mean that you are an impulsive mess! Just because you feel overwhelmed, doesn’t mean you aren’t getting things done in your world. The grey zone is the goal. Finding ways to honor your emotional experience while also honoring your goals each week. Overly identifying with either extreme is dangerous and risky.
My challenge to you is to take a quite moment to think about how you have been living. How would you answer the first three questions in this post? What changes could you make to slow down and enjoy moments each day? Don’t start with a whole day yet, we don’t want any emotional breakdowns….you can work up to longer time frames. Some ideas might be:
- listen to calming music
- take a bath
- allow yourself to sit and read
- give yourself a manicure
- get a massage
- go for a walk
- sit outside in the morning and enjoy a mug of tea
- sit outside in the evening and enjoy a mug of tea