Busyness has become an epidemic. But what is the effect? In the lives of the midlife professionals I work with, many feel like they’re on a hamster wheel they can’t get off. There’s a constant underlying feeling of playing catch up. Quality family time suffers, and many are facing relationship breakdown.
Yes, we know we can pull out the cape every now and again. But should busy be the new yardstick for success?
Brene Brown, TED speaker, researcher and author offers this take on the busyness phenomenon;
“Crazy-busy is a great armor, it’s a great way for numbing. What a lot of us do is that we stay so busy, and so out in front of our life, that the truth of how we’re feeling and what we really need can’t catch up with us.”
The pace of life has increased with the use of mobile devices. How often do you use the quiet time just before the lights go out to check your emails or plan your schedule for the next day? Where’s the room for your partner? Slowly, but surely you start to disconnect from them. This is dangerous territory.
I recently spoke with a friend who’s just been offered promotion. He said his biggest challenge about whether to accept it was the fact he would be given a laptop so that he can work whenever they need him to, sometimes at the drop of a hat.
“It means I’ll never get away from work. I’m worried about my relationship with my family. If I’m always available for work, there’s no room for them. I can’t be fully present for both”.
His stress was palpable.
He is right to be concerned. The New Zealand Ministry of Social Development led a study in 2006 http://bit.ly/1dNXNCn.
They wanted to understand what impact working long hours had on family life. People they interviewed said they experienced:
Less time for health and fitness
Less energy for parenting
Strain on couple relationships
Tackling Relationship Pain
Personally, work is my busyness, and my refuge from difficult conversations and the ‘day to day grind of life’. In a way it makes sense.
Work is where I get praise, recognition and gratitude. No-one even notices if I’ve tidied up at home, cleaned the floor in every room and done 3 loads of washing.
I’ve learned too that this is one of the signs that things are slipping and I’m not feeling the connection I desire with my husband. In the past, this has brought us close to relationship meltdown because he has the same tendency. We got to the stage where we were ships in the night. We never had a proper conversation. This led to a feeling of separation and a sense that neither was important to the other. Thankfully, we were able to catch ourselves, and repair the damage before it completely destroyed our relationship.
Repairing the damage isn’t easy. If this is where you’re at, hold on to your hat, this is brave territory. If you’re thinking of future relationships, these three steps could be the key to avoiding relationship breakdown once the honeymoon period has worn off. I’m not a relationship coach, but I’m happy to share worked for us.
3 Steps to Repairing the damage
Step One: You need to dig deep and find bucket loads of courage, because it means opening up and being vulnerable with your partner. But being vulnerable is the last thing you want, right? You’re feeling so closed off, and as a result you’ve built a thick shell around the part of you that craves connection and solace in their arms, and is hurting so badly. It’s a natural instinct. You’re protecting that hurting part of you from any more pain. In our experience the next two steps are great ways to release that pain.
Step Two: Open up and talk. I suggest you work with a skilled facilitator for this, because for all the good will in the world, when you’re that closed off from yourself and each other, it’s going to take a skilled person to get in there, gain your trust and prize you open. The good news is that your pain is where the healing lies. Trust me, I’ve been there.
If you’re in the UK, you might find a local Wellbeing Service run by your council who can refer you to Relate quickly, and free of charge. Even your GP can do this for you if you’re health is being affected.
Step Three: Look each other in the eye. I don’t just mean while you’re talking, though that’s a start. Take a few moments to sit with each other and look the other in the eyes for about 30 seconds or so. That might feel like a long time to start with. They say the eyes are the windows to your soul, so what you are doing is looking beyond their eyes. No words are necessary. To be seen in this way is deeply connecting. Try it. It really works.
The Busyness Cure
Recognising how you busy yourself is the first step to becoming more aware. Once you’re aware, you can more easily decide what to do about it. I suggest you write down all the things you’re busy with. Before you do, have a think about the criteria you’re going to use. Here are some suggestions:
a) is this essential to my health & wellbeing?
b) essential to my family’s health & wellbeing?
c) does it give me energy?
d) does it drain my energy?
e) can I share the responsibility with someone else?
f) can I do it differently?
Now you can create your busy list and answer each of the above questions about each item on your list. You’ll need a big piece of paper, or a spreadsheet! You can devise a scoring system if you wish, or you can simply let your insights speak for themselves.
“First we have to seek peace within our bodies, and within our souls. We each have to find a balance, an inner peace if we are to affect the world.”
A Muslim Imam
In my blog ‘How to Achieve Balance When Busyness is King’, I share how you can achieve balance. If overwhelm is where you’re at then you might take some comfort in my blog ‘Overwhelm. You are not alone’ which also offers some tips about managing busyness.
Alternatively, in September, I am delivering a short online interactive course, Freedom From Overwhelm. There are genuinely few places, so book before Friday 17th July to receive a massive 25% early bird discount and a guaranteed place!
If you would like to know how I can help you achieve more balance, or help you work out your personal solution to busyness, contact me and I’ll be delighted to have a conversation.