Am I seriously chastizing myself right now for not being busy enough?

Covid has really forced me to “slow down” lately. It really doesn’t give you any choice. Until you progress pass the point of feeling out of breath just by moving, you really don’t have any other option but to slow down. I am just not used to it. I am used to being busy. I thrive on being a multitasker. I feel like my mind is always on the next thing. But, now that I have some time to ponder it, is that really healthy or ok? Why do I like being busy so much?

Even before the covid slow down, I really started to notice that I was not as busy when I would look at all the social posts from dance mom friends. The constant competitions, rehearsals, and travel used to fill my life too. It has been a hot 3 years since those items have been on my agenda that’s for sure. But, I did put in 10+ years so I guess I paid my dues. I guess I have to say that I don’t necessarily miss the 4 am mornings and trying to figure out all the schedules, but there is a part of me that misses it all the same. I seem to have filled up the gaps nicely with work, writing books, blogging, doing the household finances, running an office, etc.

So again, back to the original question, why do I crave being busy? There are many reasons. I think that one of the most important ones for me is that when I am busy, I feel like I am contributing. I feel useful. I feel like I am “pulling my weight.” I know that is something I need.

Some people say that being busy is like a coping/avoidance mechanism. It is a way to stay focused and push away the worries about something that is bothering you and keeping moving forward. This is both good and bad. It is good in that you are not allowing something that is worrying you to stop you. But, it is not so good if you rely on keeping busy to avoid dealing with anything. Keeping busy is all good until it overtakes you to the point that you forget how to enjoy life or take anything in.

Jamie Bloch, psychologist and clinical director of MindMovers Psychology says that some people are actually addicted to being busy. When these people complete tasks, their brains actually release dopamine, which makes them feel good. I am not sure that I am actually addicted to being busy, but it does make me feel good.

Sometimes people feel the need to be busy because they are seeking approval. The need to please everyone keeps them from saying no to any tasks and therefore they are always up to their ears in activity. In the end, all this does is run them ragged and they probably do not get much in return for their efforts.

I think society expects us to be busy and in motion all the time. It all goes back to the sense of worthiness that I mentioned in the beginning. We all feel like we are worth more if we are accomplishing something.

The desire to be busy sometimes sets us up for failure. We tend to set up these gigantic to do lists that are sometimes impossible to achieve, which leads to anxiety and a sense of letdown. This is not healthy.

I think the key is to strike a balance between our productive lives and our restorative lives. Yes, keep our productive lives to accomplish and achieve and feel worth. But, also keep our restorative lives in which we practice self-care (which isn’t selfish) and take a minute to breathe, reflect, and preserve and let go of the notion that we need to be in motion every minute. I think that the key to doing this is to let go of the nagging worry about what society expects of us in terms of activity level and get to know ourselves more and what we can handle. I think we will all be a little bit healthier in body and mind for it.

Dr. Katz

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