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! 😀 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 🙂
12 comments ... Read or JOIN THE DISCUSSION
and part of having me time is being disconnected from all things online. i try to do that during weekends and holidays, otherwise I’d suffer from burnout and anxiety ady from constant work calls n msgs
i kinda miss the no handphone no internet days… cuz u really leave work in the office when ur done for the day
Beauty Bee says
Totally agree Plue – disconnecting from the ‘online world’ when possible is a big one for me too.
Gosh, I can’t imagine what the working week or working life would have been like without mobiles and the internet! It’s before my time. I think it actually sounds like bliss…. Isn’t it ironic that technology makes everything ‘easier’, however, we just end up doing more as a result and all around the clock?! Sometimes I crave a ‘simple’ life as a result. Whatever that means, ha!
Paris B says
To be honest Sylvia, the working world pre-mobile phones wasn’t exactly bliss. Sometimes, there was also that stress of not being able to contact someone important, when you need to haha! So, yeah, technology does makes things easier. We just have to know how to switch off and switch on.
Paris B says
Yes, being disconnected from online distractions is really the best way to get some me-time. When I take the dogs out to the jungle, there’s no signal, so that’s one of the best times I can have away from everything! 😀
Beauty Bee says
“When you get older however, you find yourself valuing time a little more.” Hear, hear Paris!
I really resonate with a lot of what you experienced, learnt and your current mindset. It’s so hard when things do get out of control busy (thanks to ‘life’ throwing things at you) and my life has been a little bit like this for the past 2-3 months. It is slowing down now and I couldn’t imagine going back to that self imposed hamster wheel that you mention… The one thing I struggle with is taking off days from work when Im sick. I feel SO guilty for doing so, it’s crazy. I keep trying to remind myself that we need to enforce workers rights more and it’s not logical to feel guilty when you are in fact sick and have sick leave saved up.
I’ve also come to realise how lucky I am that Saturdays are ‘rest days’ for me. For me it’s part of my faith that we rest from Friday sunset to Saturday sundown. I never realised what a blessing it was until a few years ago. It’s essentially a day off from work, chores (things that can easily be done on other days) and all those distracting ‘noises’ we usually surround ourselves with (anything you deem it to be – but usually shopping, running errands, tv etc.). Mentally switching off is a whole other challenge. Obviously it’s not going to be something everyone does, but it’s certainly a blessing even if it is very counter-culture (just like the art of doing ‘nothing’ is!).
Paris B says
Taking that one day off a week is a great way to reset, and maybe that’s what your faith is teaching you too Sylvia 🙂 Life is very noisy otherwise, especially in this day and age, with us being online all the time. Sometimes, it’s hard to even get someone to TALK to you, and that’s often very frustrating!
Beautiful post Paris ! Hopefully your message reaches more folks to realize this earlier than later. It takes a heaps of self worth/assurance to achieve this doing nothing state. My past life before turning full time mother was financial markets trading. An ex-boss used to say “having zero position (doing nothing) is absolutely fine if you are clear of the reason for taking that position”. I find doing nothing is one of the hardest in trading and in life as its purpose is difficult (or rather, impossible) to explain. I did have my 16-hour work-days till my body forced me to shut down (acute eczema where I couldn’t bend my limbs).
Paris B says
You know Adrienne, doing nothing can feel like such a waste of time, but if it’s to help us reset ourselves, I don’t think it ever is. I’m so sorry to hear that you had such a stressful time that led to you having health issues! I can’t say I have, but I’ve pulled my long hours at work, and I swore back then, I’d never do it again. At the end of the day, our health is what’s most important!
I like doing nothing idea but I just can’t sit down and stare into the tv…yes, I don’t watch tv as my turn will never materialize (two boys hogged the tv and we have one tv policy at home).
Picking up watercolour painting is the best thing I’ve done, it calms me down tremendously and I enjoy that process of completing an artwork. That’s my best therapy of doing nothing but expensive hobby (paint, brushes and good paper is costly!)
Everyone should find time to do nothing periodically. Sometimes I refuse to bring along my mobile phone when I’m out on weekends and it feels really really good, back to the good old school days, gosh that’s decades ago. The only people who will be stressed out are the ones with the phone as they can’t contact me. LOL.
Paris B says
Oh to have the talent to paint! haha! I find my comfort in cooking, if TV isn’t available. I suppose we just have to work with what interests us and I’m sure you churn out some nice paintings that can serve as house decoration too 😀 I take the dogs hiking now and then, and there’s no cell coverage in the jungle. One of the best times I have! 😀
Haha glad to see my post on Instagram inspired this blog post!
After working from home for so long, it’s sad that I’ve forgotten what it was like to just take days off and do nothing. The guilt of not doing something when I thought I should be working eats at me. And because I’ve done this for so long – being busy for the sake of being busy and not seem like I’m a lazy bum doing nothing – today’s a Saturday and I’m doing laundry and working. It’s now almost 4pm and I’m only just sitting down on the couch doing nothing. It’s like I’ve forgotten how to do nothing. 🙁
Paris B says
Absolutely feel you Tine! I’ve just started a new thing that will be done from home and online, and boy, do I feel useless when I’m sitting around doing nothing! I keep feeling like I should be doing something to work on whatever I need for the new site and venture etc. So, this was also a timely reminder to myself to take a break, and often! 😀