Last week we talked about being mindful with mealtime in the blog Digestion Starts in the Brain. That got me thinking about our insatiable need to be busy and how we can learn to be more mindful in all areas of our life. That maybe it’s time for a good old-fashioned life edit. You know, where we analyze, assess and restructure a more fulfilling life. Who’s with me?
We all know people that are simply too busy. Maybe you’re that person or you live with that person. If you’re too busy to have time to yourself, eat at the dinner table, play with your kids or see your friends regularly, you’re too damn busy. And it’s an epidemic in our culture. I’ve been there. I used to think being busy all the time equated to being a better mom, a more productive employee, an all-around better person. What it actually boiled down to was being a pretty lousy friend, a stressed employee and a mom too distracted to really listen to her kids.
“If you don’t have time for things that matter, stop doing things that don’t.
– Courtney Carver
The Busy Epidemic
Have you noticed we seem to be addicted to being busy? It makes us feel needed, capable, and even proud. We have a culture that expects 40+ hours a week and availability on the weekends and evenings. We are constantly thinking about the next thing, the next to-do item we can cram into our day. Not to mention, we have incredibly charming sayings that promote this unhealthy behavior. Have you heard any of these gems?
“I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”
“Idol hands are the devil’s playthings.”
“I’ve got no time to bleed.”
“No rest for the wicked.”
The truth is the stress from being busy all the time has a negative effect on several functions of the body, including (but not limited to):
- Blood sugar regulation
- Fatty acid sufficiency
- Mineral balance (stress is ‘minerally expensive’)
- Mental cognition
And don’t get me started on sleep issues. We’ll cover that in-depth in a future post, but as a teaser consider this: approximately 30% to 40% of US adults report symptoms of insomnia at some point in a given year and the numbers appear to be rising.
Friendships, Partners & Kids
When you slow down and think about the most important things in your life, is it your job? Is it how you (or your family) are perceived by others? Or is it your partner, family and friends? Life has priorities and while getting a paycheck is certainly a priority, our relationships with one another are the key to our well-being. Not staying busy from dawn to dusk, having the perfect house or having kids who play the piano, dance, and play eight different sports.
When is the last time you spent quality time with your partner? If you have young kids this can be tough, I know. But once a week you need to carve out time for a date. Even if it’s movie night at home sans kids. If you can hire a sitter and go out for a bit, even better! You chose to be in the trenches together and you need to remind them they are still your person.
“It’s easy to grow apart from the people we love when we are too busy to make them a priority.”
Now, think back to the summers or weekends when you were a kid. I remember being bored a lot during the summer and having to come up with ingenious ways to get through the day, like exploring the neighborhood on my bike or making a micro pond in my grandma’s yard. On weekends I typically had 1 game during the season, maybe some homework and that was it. Most kids are so over scheduled these days and have become dependent on others, not themselves. They may not even know what to do if they had some down time. There’s nothing wrong with activities, but several studies show over-scheduling can lead to anxiety, depression, and exhaustion. Not to mention it stresses the parent(s) out. How is that good for anyone?
Time for a Life Edit
When you’re too busy, you’re not processing the world around you. In other words, you aren’t living in the moment. You’re thinking ahead, sprinting towards a phantom finish line and not giving your full attention to what is happening right now. In my humble opinion, life is too short for that.
Between the fear of missing out (FOMO) and the fear of looking bitchy for saying no, it’s hard to opt out. I get that. I’m a people pleaser and it’s very hard for me to say no. So start small. Do a life edit by taking a moment to look at everything you have going on right now and reduce your schedule by one thing. Just pick one thing and see how that goes. A few options could be:
- Once a week, go on a walk instead of hitting the gym.
- Opt out of the webinar you don’t really need to watch.
- Instead of staying late for the optics, leave work at 5pm to enjoy dinner with the family.
- Skip the next volunteer opportunity at school. No one will care if you give ample notice.
- Don’t offer to host the next big family event. Instead, make everyone’s favorite dish and enjoy the event for once! No cleaning required.
Here’s the honest-to-God truth: you simply don’t have to do it all. No one expects it but you. Your health and your relationships are what truly matters, so put your energy into those and let the other stuff go. The result? A happier and healthier you.