Our love affair with busyness is having an adverse effect on our success and ultimately our happiness. But how do we kick the obsession, particularly when it feels like busyness is happening to us?
Today, the standard response to the universal question, “How are you?” is typically, “I’m really busy” or “I am hectic, flat out, running like crazy” or something similar. It seems to have become our societal catchphrase and sometimes, it may be used, often unconsciously, to communicate our worth or value. I am busy, ergo I am successful (at my work, my family caregiving, my sport, my hobbies etc).
Don’t misunderstand me, this is not a judgement. It is an observation of our society’s state of mind and a reflection of the fast paced 24/7 everyday world that we now contend with and within which we choose to function. My primary role is Meditation Teacher and Coach, but I am also a Leadership and Wellbeing Consultant and thus run two business and all the processes and challenges that exist with running two businesses. This can leave me at times feeling, time crunched, deadlined and on occasion, overwhelmed. So, do I get it!
So, what can we do? How do we slow down to speed up?
When the workloads are intense it can feel counterintuitive to slow down, pause and reflect. Yet this is what we need to do to be most effective.
Cramming in multiple tasks and elongating our hours consistently leaves us potentially ineffective, less strategic and lacking creativity and often leads us to a point where we can’t see the forest for the trees; and is the sure path to burn out.
Here is a story you may relate to. A client of mine, let’s call him Pete, sat in front of me, a bundle of nervous energy and anxiety, given away by his fast pace of speaking, his constant need to move (so fired up, he was unable to sit still) and his slight twitch of his left eye. He said to me:
“I’ve realised that even if I worked all weekend, got up at 4am to start work and worked 16-hour-plus days, there was absolutely no way I was going to be able to get through the work to which I had committed or that I needed to do to deliver effectively by my deadline.”
- I’m busy has become our new catchphrase
- Slow down to speed up is uncomfortable and counterintuitive but is necessary
- Deep slow breaths can be helpful in the moment of overload and anxiety
- Meditation gives you a superpower. An even more powerful antidote to the “I’m too busy – I can’t possibly fit this all in” situation is a consistent meditation practice, allowing you to gain perspective, access to new ideas and focus
- Prioritising reflection and thinking time allows us to stay out of flight / fight mode
Harness the power of the breath
The best thing I could do to support Pete, in that moment, was to encourage him to stop and breathe. I saw him struggle with this suggestion and then, the act of doing so. His breath was initially short and shallow, and it took a few minutes for Pete to calm and slow his breathing allowing him to take deeper breaths into his lungs and slow exhalations out.
This focused breathing had the effect of grounding and calming Pete. It took Pete out of the flight, fight mode (activation of the sympathetic nervous system) and allowed him to connect into his parasympathetic nervous system. This gave Pete increased access to his sophisticated prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain which provides for greater creativity, less reactivity and the ability to view his situation more holistically (allowing him to get his head above the trees). He now had capability to come up with different approaches and new ideas and action these options with increased clarity and focus.
Meditation – gives you a superpower!
Focusing on the breath is a great emergency tactic. A powerful, preventative strategy and antidote to the “I’m too busy – I can’t possibly fit this all in” situation, is meditation. An effective, consistent Meditation practice will allow the body to tap into the calm, strategic, focused parasympathetic nervous system more consistently and more readily during particularly intense times.
Meditation induces a host of biochemical and physical changes in the body. This includes changes in metabolism, heart rate, respiration, blood pressure and brain chemistry.
The power of the brain is amazing if we can harness it! Below are some of the documented benefits of meditation.
- Lower blood pressure
- Increased focus and clarity
- Decrease anxiety
- Lower blood cortisol levels
- More feelings of well-being
- Decrease stress
- Deeper relaxation and improved sleep quality
When busy, we often fall into the trap of assuming that doing is better than stopping to take time out to reflect or to just be; that thinking and reflecting (or just being) is a luxury or a lazy, unnecessary option. Yet this reflection time is essential to allow new ideas and approaches to emerge and to remind ourselves of where we are heading and what is most important.
How are you creating time, and space for reflection and growth? How do you proactively manage your fight / flight response?
Find out about the powerful meditation technique that I teach here