Do you notice how the phrase “I’m so busy” has become the norm for describing our lives today? We glorify the concept of busyness as if it were some badge of honor. We hide behind the concept of being busy as if we were terrified to be caught doing nothing. So many of us feel it is the “right” thing to say. So many people are proud that their “lives are so busy” but they are unable to see that busy is no measure of a meaningful, complete, or valuable life. The ability to have time to contemplate life and its many mysteries and to contemplate and reflect on our personal lives are nearly extinct concepts today. The best we have today are trendy bandwagons that try to get people to meditate and engage in some kind of stillness and relaxation sessions.
The concept of being busy has also been used and abused by us to excuse destructive lifestyles. Not eating right, not cooking or preparing our own food, and not getting enough sleep or movement are all blamed on the fact that we are “so busy.” The diseased state of busyness has also infiltrated our relationships where we claim we are too busy for our partners, our children, our friends, or just too busy to even socialize in any meaningful way. We are letting our lives literally pass us by due to busyness. Our lives are lacking wellbeing, health, joy, fulfillment, and meaning but we have no time we claim to remedy this because we are too busy.
Now, look at the consequences of this in our society. Aside from isolated cases, overall people worldwide are experiencing worse health and happiness levels than ever. So many people all over the world have their basic needs met and exceeded yet are living lives of a lower quality than those who often have much less. Unless you have a fulfilling life based on healthy lifestyle choices, creativity, work, and play that gives you (and hopefully our world) true value and wellbeing, most of us are simply running around from one task to the next and distracting ourselves with things that make us “feel” busy, while they suck and drain our time and energy. When we evaluate what we do with our time outside of real and necessary work, we find that most of the things we give our time to do not add any inherent value to our lives or to making our world a better place. Is this really how you want to spend this precious lifetime?
In our hectic everyday life, it is often so easy to lose sight of oneself and of the bigger picture of life. We run around from one task to another, from one place to another, from one thought to another in an ever-increasing chaotic manner. If you long for something different, something more wholesome and meaningful, I invite you to bring awareness to how you use the term “busy” in your life. Notice how often you use it, when, and where do you use it the most. Start by making an intention to using this term mindfully, in a way that is honest and authentic, and not just a catch-all-phrase that prevents you from truly living.
Have you seen the sky today? Have you enjoyed another person’s smile? Have felt your breath and heartbeat move through your body?
Even though many of us feel that our life pushes and pulls on us constantly, it is actually not life, but we who keep doing the pushing and pulling. It is all a combination of our choices and we also have the choice to change things when we become aware of how dysfunctional they have become. Give yourself permission to relax a little more and busy yourself a little less.
Balance Your “I have to-‘s” with “I choose to-‘s”
When we are not living mindfully, we do not realize that all of the things that we think we “must” do are actually things that we have added to our lives and choose to do. For example, must you really go shopping for a new outfit when you have a closet full of perfectly good outfits already? Or must you really enroll your child in 3 extracurricular activities when 1 would be more than sufficient? The examples are many. The solutions are many. The point is that no matter if we are single or managing a 5-person household, the choices we make lead to the outcomes we have in our lives. By trying to keep up with others, by trying to fit in, by trying to be accepted, and by being afraid of what others will think or do, we are constantly putting ourselves in situations and doing things that are not actually for our highest good or that of those in our care.
When we take an honest inventory of our lives, we began to realize that most of the “have-to’s” that we think we have are actually ones we created or brought into our lives. When you choose to have children or you choose to take a certain job, for example, you are choosing to take on all of the responsibilities also that come with such choices. This is why conscious life creation is the ultimate antidote to living in a chronic state of busyness. The good news is that if we created the problem, then we can also create the solutions. Again, it takes mindfulness to break out of routines that have us running around in constant states of “busy.”
Yes, there will be certain things that you must do each day, like eat or feed your children, if you want to stay alive or have happy and healthy kids. These things are not the problem. The problem is how we approach such tasks and what else we add to them. The solutions reside in structuring our lives in a way that we have a good balance between things that we actually have to do and things that we choose to do. We need to find a way to enjoy more of the tasks, activities, and functions, of everyday life. We also need to recognize that the busier we are, the more we need quiet time. Likewise, we need to stop doing so many things for the wrong reasons and approach tasks with deliberate action that enrich our life, rather than deplete it.
As you do an inventory and reflect more on your life, yes, there may be things that need to be released from the life that you chose for the wrong reasons. Perhaps you chose a partner to please your family or perhaps you chose a job to please your parents. Whatever it may be, always know that you are not stuck and that everything can be changed and remedied simply by having the courage to make new choices.
Bring Back Joy for the Sake of Joy
Do you remember when you were a little child the excitement you had when you looked at adults and the lives they lived? Most of us couldn’t wait to grow up and be independent. We couldn’t wait to have our own money and houses and relationships and what have you. These things excited us because we saw the potential of the creative process of life in action. Fast forward a few years and we lost sight of that creative process to the point that now things like a spouse, children, job, or house tire us and often leave us feeling resentful of our lives. Yet our lives are a reflection of our choices!
The answer, however, is not to abandon the life you created up to this point and start fresh. That would not be a very responsible or compassionate thing to do, especially if you have loved ones, like partners, kids, or pets that depend on you. The answer is simple to work with what you have but restructure it to allow for more time for joy, relaxation, and contemplation. And believe me, the time is there, it is just a matter of how you use it.
To bring more joy back into your life, start by acknowledging the amazing things you have created to date and being grateful for them. Give an extra hug and kiss to your loved ones. Make an extra effort at your workplace. Honor the body you have at this moment. Then, consider how you can invest more time into the things that you really care about by releasing so much time that is wasted on things that don’t matter at the end to the quality of our lives, like social media, shopping, gossiping, etc. The more you release the things that drain your time and energy, the more you have time for things that enrich who you are and how you feel.
5 Ways to Relax and Be Less Busy Today
If you keep being busy and continue to excuse such behavior, nothing good will come of it. Your resentment, frustration, cynicism, and unhappiness will only increase. By trying to do everything for your spouse or children, you are actually giving them less of yourself - less of the things that matter most. No one wants to be or live with a person who is chronically drained, grumpy, and burnt out. Hence, it is so important to take some time for yourself to just relax and connect with who you truly are and what you really want out of life. Consider how much more patient you would be with your loved ones if you were more satisfied with your life and how you spent your time.
Here are 5 ways to relax and unwind to enjoy life a little more:
1. Take a walk outdoors or engage in some other form of low-impact exercise.
Activities like this always get our endorphins flowing, release stress, energize us, and make us feel better. The last thing you want to do is tire yourself out more, so avoid high-impact activities when you are already burned out by being too busy. Nature is also a key factor in all this as our brain and nervous system are able to relax and re-balance in the midst of natural landscapes.
2. Do a mindfulness meditation.
Probably one of the best tools for truly relaxing and unwinding is just to sit in a comfortable place by yourself and observe your mind and body. This kind of meditation does not get you to do anything or force anything. You are essentially just being in the present moment and observing things just as they are, without any force or control. This is deeply healing and also provides incredible insight into who and how you are so that you can know what needs to change or improve.
3. Listen to pleasant music while you do things that you have to.
One of the most uplifting and relaxing things in the world is pleasant and structured music. It can make all the difference in how you feel while you are doing a hard or undesired task. So the next time you are doing the dishes or making food or driving to work or any other thing that may not be loving, add in some pleasant music in the background and allow your mind and body to relax. In time, you will find that you get into a rhythm where may actually start looking forward to some of these tasks because you have found a way to balance them with some joy and levity.
4. Engage in a relaxing body treatment that releases tension.
This can include things like getting a massage at a professional establishment, doing a self-massage on yourself while watching some TV, spending time in a hot jacuzzi with water jets that can relax your muscles, and even having sex with your partner. All of these are wonderful ways to reduce and release tension from our muscles and enjoy states of being, joy, and greater relaxation.
5. Breathe mindfully.
Anytime you can remember to do so, breathe mindfully where you slow down and deepen your breath on each inhale and exhale. It is one of the most valuable things to do and can be done almost anywhere and anytime. Such breathing provides a more calming and cleansing effect for the body and mind. It allows us to connect with the present moment and releases the tension that states of busyness create, which results in stressful, shallow breathing.
We have to be aware and acknowledge that if we don’t make different choices and prioritize a good personal balance of ‘busy doing’ with ‘relaxing being’, then we open ourselves up to all sorts of unwanted consequences from physical illness and burnout to overwhelming emotional reactivity and mental burnout. Gambling with our health and happiness is not a good idea, especially when we can ensure better results in our lives, simply by making different choices.
Say ‘yes’ to yourself and your self-care, and make time for your mind to rejuvenate by removing or minimizing things that drain and deplete it. And remember that you are a human being, not a human doing.