Busy Is The New Black

Addicted to being busy in Venice Beach

How We Got Addicted to Busy-ness and Lost Our Balance.

Imagine this scenario:

cleaning closets in Marina del Rey

You’ve just gotten back to work on Monday, and your work buddy asks you, “How was your weekend?” You respond, “Oh, man, I was so busy! I finished that proposal for work, went to a barbeque, and cleaned out my closets. I’m exhausted!”

What if instead of that, you responded, “Oh, man, it was great! I did absolutely nothing. Never even left my place. The weather was good so I just sat outside most of the weekend and read a book I’ve been wanting to read.”

Which scenario do you feel more comfortable sharing with your colleagues? Which scenario makes you feel powerful, and which makes you feel weak?

relaxing in Playa Vista

If you’re like most of my clients (and, truth be told, this is an issue I struggle with too) you feel a bit proud of being so busy. Being busy makes us feel powerful. I’m in high demand! I’m the one who gets shit done! I always have something to do! I’m tired, because I’m so important.

 Take Time for Self-Care.

I love the phrase, “self-care” (insert ironic smile). Since when did we stop saying “having fun”, or “being healthy”, or even, “getting enough sleep”. Instead of saying, “I need to have some fun this weekend” we say, “I need to take time for some self-care”.

“Self-care” sounds like something we do only because we should do it, even though we actually want to keep working or taking care of others. I’m not actually self-indulgent, I just need to be stopped from spending all my time on productive and altruistic endeavors. Okay, so I’m exaggerating, but you get my point. Why is “self-care” a thing? And what does that say about the values promoted in our society?

Our country was founded on the Puritan value of hard work. Comfort? Who cares. Four hundred years later our culture still reflects the Puritan sensibility.

I’m as guilty as anyone else in this arena. For years I had a hard time taking a break. Being a single parent to four little kids meant I didn’t have to even try to be busy, but it got to where I couldn’t feel justified taking any time for myself. Time for myself could only occur when no one else needed me, and only at the expense of sleep.

It’s hard to feel like you are doing anything important when you spend the day changing diapers, making cheese sandwiches, and picking up ten million tiny Legos. But at least being busy feels important.

In a time when many people feel so powerless over so much, being busy is easily seen as a panacea.

We Have Become Addicted to Our Busy-ness.

My clients know that one of my favorite sayings is paraphrased from Dr. Vincent Felitti, one of the co-authors of the massive Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE):

“It’s hard to get enough of something that almost works.”

Think about that for a minute. We keep busy in search of a feeling of usefulness, or meaning. But it doesn’t quite work, so we try harder, get busier. That still doesn’t work, so we try even harder. It’s no coincidence that this quote is from a study of addiction behavior. We get addicted to our busy-ness.

Being busy in order to feel more power over our lives actually has the opposite effect, because it distracts us from clarifying what truly does have meaning in our lives.

Keeping busy in order to feel important and happy keeps us from figuring out what will actually make us feel important and happy.

But it gets much worse than that.

Our societal mandate to keep busy is one of the factors leading to skyrocketing rates of anxiety in our country today. More than 75% of adults are more anxious this year than they were last year, and 40 million adults (18.1% of the population) suffer from enough anxiety that it qualifies as an anxiety disorder.

Our addiction to busy-ness has lead us to unprecedented levels of anxiety.

exhausted at work in Playa Vista

I know that when I have explored this concept with my clients they have been surprised to realize that they often feel they have to justify making enough time even to sleep!

Showing up at work with dark circles under your eyes isn’t optimal, but at least it’s evidence of how hard you are working—that’s a good thing, right? After all, how many people have a boss who tells them to be sure to leave their work at the office, and enjoy their friends and family when they are at home? That’s practically un-American. On the contrary, my new clients request later and later time-slots because they want to be able to stay at work until 7 or 8pm.

We Need More Balance in Our Lives

We don’t need self-care so much as we need balance. Personal life, work life, family life, spiritual life, social life. Our lives need to reflect the values we have in order for us to feel healthy and fulfilled. It’s not about being busy, it’s about spending time in activities that have meaning for you—and hopefully one of those activities is rest and relaxation! As the Thrive Therapy motto says:

Get Unstuck. Find Your Balance. Thrive.

Thriving in the Santa Monica Mountains

Are you Addicted to Busy-ness?

Therapy can help you find your calm. Give me a call at 323-999-1537 or shoot me an email at amy@thrivetherapyla.com for your free 20 minute phone or in-office consultation. I want you to Thrive!