I was browsing Instagram a few days ago, when a comment by my friend Christine (@closetplanneraddict) on one of her posts made me pause.
SEE HERE: See Christine’s Instagram post and follow her sticker store if you love stickers! READ HERE
In a nutshell, she made a statement about how she felt the need to pad her week so she stays “busy doing stuff” instead of just not doing anything; the latter, as a form of self-care.
I thought it interesting, because in some ways, I’ve been there, done that and bought the T-shirt haha! :D So I do know a little about staying busy, or rather, forcing yourself to stay busy. And that isn’t the best thing for your mental state.
Are you really busy or just trying to stay busy?
If you find yourself pausing, and asking yourself the question Christine did – am I really busy doing stuff, or just trying to stay busy? – that’s a sign that something is ready to give.
I went through a very stressful period about 5-6 years ago. Some regulars might remember it, because I would disappear from my blog for weeks on end.
It was quite an emotional time for me, and I sought refuge in keeping busy. Days pass more quickly when you have things to do, places to go, and people to see. I found myself filling up my days with things to do, so I’d always be busy doing stuff.
To a large extent, I wasn’t really busy. There wasn’t anything pressing that needed my time or attention. But, I’d fill all my waking hours with projects and meetings, and it kept me on the go.
I felt the need to stay busy all the time, and I’d plug any hole I saw in my daily calendar with things to do. It felt like it gave my life purpose.
But I’d burn out. A Lot. There’s only so much you can fill your days with, before something breaks down. It could be your health, or your mental state, or just simply feeling defeated and overwhelmed.
Why do you feel the need to stay busy all the time?
The key question I soon realized that I had to ask myself was this – Why did I feel the need to stay busy all the time?
Why could I not allow for empty slots in a day, when I’d have time to just reflect on my day, my life or the direction in which I was going? Time when I could just pause.
For me, it came down to, I suppose, fear.
I was afraid of confronting whatever issues or problems I faced. By keeping busy, I could push the issues to the back of my mind, thinking I could deal with them later. But that later never comes, because you keep staying busy.
The upshot of this is that I end up not dealing with my problems, and allowed it to drag me down into a swirling abyss of despair and self-loathing.
The need to stay busy all the time also gave me some form of purpose, at the time when I felt directionless. When you have had your life working around a certain schedule for a while, losing that is like breaking off the rudder on your boat. You find yourself drifting, and keeping yourself busy gives you the impression that you are staying on track.
This is more so if you work at your own business or work from home. It is harder to draw a line between work and play, when your physical boundaries are blurred. It’s easy to just pop into your home office to finish off some “quick work” or to work on an idea that pops into your head. But if you were working an office job, you’d find it easier to switch off, and make that mental transition from office to home.
I experienced that too. I found myself feeling the need to overcompensate for not being in an office. So, I’d work harder and longer than I ever used to.
Find the balance
Ultimately however, staying busy and finding things to keep yourself busy, for the sake of it, isn’t healthy. It’s hard on your body, and on your mental state of mind.
In the intervening years since, I’ve learnt to find a balance. It took me about 3 years to figure myself out, and then to take stock of my life, and how I wanted to live it.
I realized that I did not want to be on this self-imposed hamster wheel anymore. I did not want to be busy for the sake of being busy, or to pad all my days with things to do. I wanted balance and to be able to have time to myself.
There are days and weeks when I am busy. But, I don’t intentionally pad my days anymore. If there are meetings to be held, assignments to complete, or just things to do, I do them. I try to keep my “Things To Do” together, so I get them all done at one go, instead of spreading them out, so I’d feel and look busier than I am.
However, I also ensure that I have my days when I have nothing on, or nothing planned. These are days I use to catch up on things that might otherwise slip through the cracks – connecting with others or connecting with myself.
No guilt in doing nothing
Sometimes, when I really have nothing to do, that’s what I do – Nothing.
It gives me the time and space to sift through my thoughts, to clear my space and to clear my mind.
I think that in some ways, I used to feel guilty to do nothing in the past. When you’re younger, there is a lot of score placed on keeping busy be it at work, or in your social life.
When you get older however, you find yourself valuing time a little more. Instead of filling it up with inconsequential things to do, just for the sake of having something to do, consider instead doing nothing.
It helps you slow down, take stock of things around you, and reconnect with yourself. Ultimately, it makes for a happier, healthier you :)
Are you guilty of always busy doing things? Do you take time out for yourself?
I recommend making some time for yourself each week. It is a luxury, I know. But it will do wonders for your state of mind, and maybe even change your outlook on life :)