This past couple of weeks have verged on a little out of control around here. I knew February and March were going to be full on – birthdays, a wedding, lots of travel for conferences and presentations, an event and a wedding anniversary. Add in some work as well, somewhere in there, and the usual run of kids commitments and feeding people!
I knew self-care would be simultaneously important and hard to come by. So far I think I’ve managed pretty well – I’ve practiced gentle respect for myself, and tuned in to when things felt like they were teetering on too much.
Because when it’s too much, when my busyness becomes a burden and my life tilts too far out of balance, here’s what happens…
… I get cranky. Angry at little things. Less patient. Lacking in grace.
…or teary. Overhwelmed. Feeling useless and it’s all too much.
…fatigued. I don’t eat well, don’t move. I self-sabotage and make excuses that I don’t have time. I put everything else first.
…bloated. My tummy plays up.
…I become anxious. Too many things going on, worried about failing at them, forgetting things.
Can you see the patterns? How one thing leads to another and then the next? That’s the burden of busyness if you don’t manage it.
You can be busy and not burdened though. I’ve been mindful of the days I feel depleted and need to recover. Instead of spinning my wheels ever-faster in order to achieve more, keep up and tick off another box, I stop. I do the bare minimum and practice extreme self-care.
The world doesn’t end. The house may look a little out of control and dinner may be a shared platter, but I’m not spinning out of control and everyone is happy about that.
When busyness is a burden, it puts our body under stress. You may not think you’re stressed (or maybe you do!) simply because you’re rushing or busy, but your cortisol levels will be surging as you bounce from one commitment to the next, always with your mind on the next dozen things on your list, which tells your body you are stressed.
Even as you drive at full speed to drop the kids off, make it in time, or reach the next destination, your stress levels are on the up.
Check in right now: when you think about racing to meet your deadlines, how do you feel? When you think about what you have left to do today or tomorrow, do you feel any tension in your body? Does your heart race? Do negative thoughts or emotions crop up?
Mostly we don’t pay attention to the signals our body is sending us but you can feel cortisol (just like the other stress hormone adrenalin) when you go looking for it.
Cortisol puts your body on high alert – the fight or flight mode – which when you’re in danger, is extrememly useful, but when it’s generated out of busyness, and a busyness that never ends, it starts to wreak havoc on your body.
It disrupts your other hormones – the sex hormones that regulate your period and fertility. It disrupts your digestion which leads to all sorts of tummy issues. It changes the way your body uses it’s energy stores, and stops it from burning fat. It disrupts your sleep.
And when all those boxes are ticked – hormonal, bloated, fat, tired – you feel down on yourself, sad and uninspired.
You don’t want your busyness to be a burden. You can still be busy, but not have it affect you in such a profound and negative way.
Bringing your lifestyle under control is the key, as is improving your diet.
Here are some simple tips to start:
- Every time you feel rushed, slow your pace. Even if you’re driving, slow down. It will change your perception of your situation and it will be enough to calm your body.
- Practice deep breathing. It’s physically impossible for your body to feel stressed when you breathe deeply. We shallow breathe when we are stressed, and a deep breath signals to our body that all is well. Breathe in all the way to your tummy, hold for at least four seconds, breathe out through the mouth. You can do this anywhere – try it now and feel the difference in your body.
- Allocate even a few minutes in between your chores/commitments/deadlines to stop, pause and stretch, breathe or walk.
- Avoid caffeine and sugar – they stimulate your body, when what you need is calm.
I can highly recommend Dr Libby Weaver’s book Rushing Women’s Syndrome to fully explain in greater depth how busyness affects you.
Busyness and the stress it causes is a critical issue facing our generation, and also our kids. Bringing it under control does make a profound and amazing difference to how you feel about yourself and your life.