When busy becomes burnout
‘Sorry I’ve not responded; I’ve been really busy’.
‘Let me check my diary and get back to you, as I know the next couple of weeks are really jammed.’
It’s not uncommon for these phrases to be uttered repeatedly during the course of a week or month. We can often find that lives are busy and full, where free time feels like a luxury and something we almost don’t quite know what to do with when we get it.
We seek to fill the time we have, with ‘doing’ as much as we possibly can, for it is only when we are ‘doing’ do we feel like we are achieving something.
Achieving is the goal, the priority and when we achieve, we can tell people how well we are doing, how far we have come and how successful we are at living.
Yet, is being busy all it is cracked up to be? Is there happiness and contentment to be found in the constant pursuit of doing more and more? And at what point does being busy become an avoidance technique to listening to our larger needs?
Often times we can realise that by doing more, we may have full schedules, but remarkably, we feel a deep sense of emptiness. We may also have an inexplicable need to fill time because we have learned, that is what other people expect from us. We build businesses, relationships, raise children, participate in careers, have several full-time expensive hobbies and we keep going with it all, until the moment we realise that the amount we are doing is simply not sustainable. We may feel depressed, anxious and day-dream of a life where we are 'free' from all the burdens and demands of the day-to-day.
Something within us tells us that we are unable to keep operating at this pace, the satisfaction that we derived from our busyness fades and 'doing' starts to feel more and more like a chore and as if we have lost sight of something important.
If this is the case, leaning away from our tendency to do more may feel deeply threatening as without the reassurance it can give us, we could feel scared, adrift and self-critical, especially when we compare ourselves to others. It is after all, commonplace in society to be consumed with one thing after the next. One may say, that to do less, is countercultural and an act of rebellion against the larger condition of society in which you are seen in higher positive regard if you do more than you can manage.
However, if we can create more space for ourselves within our own lives, we may see that this inner warning to slow down, may be pointing us towards aspects of ourselves which we need to attend to. Feelings, experiences and a clearer sense of who we are may appear, as we realise that sometimes what we thought was something which brought us closer to ourselves, was in fact a process which kept us away from who we really are and need to become.
This calling from ourselves to ourselves is not a requirement to stop, do nothing and live without ambition, quite the contrary. It is instead a reminder that ‘to be’ is as important a way of being as ‘doing’ and that by combining them both we can live with balance, continue to strive towards self-betterment and become freed from the confused expectations we put on ourselves.