Friday, January 10, 2014

getting back to "fine"

It was sometime in college that I began to notice that when you asked someone how they were doing that the reply from them was almost always “fine” whether they actually were fine or not. Over the past couple of years though I’ve noticed a definite shift. Instead of “fine” I usually hear “busy.” The sad thing is that I think that they really are busy. Too busy.

People are working harder than ever, more hours than ever, scheduling themselves to the point that there’s no time for rest, and they’re filling in what should be quiet moments with e-mail, social networking, pinning, texting and more. The result is that our kids aren’t getting the time they need with us, we’re not getting the time to truly connect with our spouses each day, our parents aren’t hearing from us as much, and we’re living in a constant state of stress. We need to rethink this way of life because it doesn’t have to be this way.
 
Over a year ago my own daily schedule took a big turn as I made the choice to leave a job that was eating away at me and the external pressures became a lot more than I could allow. My own stress was spilling over onto my husband. My health and well-being were on their way to being compromised and I needed to do something about that.  It was a job that followed me home every evening and required my attention 6-7 days a week, and it was a really stressful job. I loved the actual good works of the job and didn’t intend to leave until I grew old, but the plans we make don’t always work out. So rather suddenly, I went from being too busy, over-committed, my personal and family resources stressed and being over-exposed to having all the time in the world. Honestly, it was a shock. It was too quiet and at first, it was really lonely. The financial impact of that change is something we still are working on. As the painful emotional toll of this decision began to pass I realized that I now had the unique opportunity to completely rebuild, from the ground up, how I spend my time and what the focus of my life will now be. Talk about your wide open spaces!
 
Is the default state of being busy really a good thing? Many physicians report that 75% or more of the patients that walk through their doors each day are there because of stress. The number of prescriptions being written for anti-anxiety medication, anti-depressants and sleep aids is sky-rocketing. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Realize that “busy” shouldn’t be your goal and isn’t an achievement to be flaunted. It’s not the big prize. Really, honestly, take a look at the focus of your days and decide what really is important. In the long run, at the end of your life, what is it that you did that really mattered and importantly…did you spend enough time in that pursuit?

You don’t have to stay busy. It’s important to build periods of rest and quiet into your daily routine and at the very least, into your weekly schedule. You can make the conscious decision to be unbusy for a little while. Oh, and during this time, disconnect from the internet and the TV. Most of us don’t even realize what a distraction, what a time thief and how much of an ambient stressor these are.
 
Think about decluttering your home. The fewer “things” you have sitting around the house, the less time and money you’ll need to spend on maintenance, not to mention that the added visual space in your surroundings will help to declutter your busy mind.
 
On the inevitable busy days, make sure to take breaks and make sure you’re eating well. Eating your sandwich while working at your computer or munching on fast food while you’re driving to your next destination is not good for you. Build in down-time and guard it…no excuses.
 
Learn to say “no.” People will likely try to spill some of their “busy” on to you, getting you to take on some of their own obligations. Just say “no.” That doesn’t make you a bad person. It means you are taking care of yourself and that’s a good thing.
 
Start your day quietly. Don’t pick up the newspaper, don’t flip on the TV news. Just sit quietly, take a long shower or take a slow walk and gently begin your day.
 
Busy does not have to be your normal state. Hopefully we can get back to the days when we’ll ask someone how they’re doing and their response will once again be “fine.”

6 comments:

Deanna said...

Very interesting piece of writing. I hope you find your right level of busyness. Sometimes when I am over-committed, I just stop and back away, I need that quiet, down time to keep me sane...but too much down-time drives me nuts too.

Susan said...

You always have such good advice! I'm not particularly busy, but I do have to much stress in my life. I am changing that slowly for myself, I have too!

Thanks Bev, you are awesome!

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Good advice for all of us Bev. Most of it I've taken (because I'm old and retired ;>)) but can always use a reminder. (I retired early ...long time ago now though ... because of similar circumstances to yours, so I know exactly what you mean..

Heidi Fuqua said...

Life does get too busy. And I love how you point out that being busy is a choice. Hope you have a great day!

Hannah@HomeBaked said...

A very wise post!
These are all things I know but haven't worked out quite how not to be swept back into busyness yet. Every path seems to lead to something new and exciting and I think I have the hardest time with saying no to myself than anyone else!

live and learn said...

I'm going to pay attention now to what answer I get when I ask how someone is. We go through different phases in our life and some of them are just naturally more busy that others. However, we have ultimate control of most of what we engage with. We all need to be reminded of that from time to time.