Busy, Overwhelmed, and Bored

It’s Holiday Season. It can be ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ or it can be stressful, disappointing and overwhelming. For most of us, it’s likely something in between. I have been doing some reading and reflecting about these three related topics : Busy, Overwhelmed and Bored.

One thing I found very interesting, that was a perspective shift for me, is ‘overwhelm’. One of my mentors, Brooke Castillo is also a life coach. She talks about overwhelm as a shift in focus: ‘overwhelm is not doing too much, it is accomplishing too little’. I had to stop and consider this statement and then I realized how true it is, at least in my own life. If I find myself with lots of tasks (type up client notes; create new content for my SELF course; upload my podcast) if I don’t plan or organize I might end up swirling around tasks but never accomplishing them, or accomplishing very little – this is exactly what ‘overwhelm’ feels like to me. I have SO much to do and cannot figure out where to start. The possible (probable ?) solution to overwhelm is focus and planning. Try it out the next time you find yourself saying “this is overwhelming” or “I’m so overwhelmed”. Where can you slow down to speed up? Will making a plan (first this, then that) help? I often use the ‘Pomodoro Method’ which simply involves setting a timer for 25 minutes and working on your first task that entire time. It’s amazing how effective it can be!

Busy – busy is interesting because as a culture we have elevated ‘busy’ to a status symbol. There are actually lots of reasons why; it makes us feel important; it elevates our worth to others; it gives our days structure; it allows us to distract ourselves from real life or a painful circumstance. See if you can notice how often the word ‘busy’ comes up in conversation this week. Is someone using it as an excuse or to elevate their worth? How do you and others react when someone talks about how busy they are? Do you use ‘busy’ in your day to day life? What do you really mean when you tell others how busy you have been? Finally, if you look at staying busy, what is behind it? Is it to avoid real life? Or create meaning in your life? What would it look like to try another word, such as ‘full’ or ‘balanced’ or ‘enjoy’? Imagine what might change if, instead of saying, “I’ve been so busy” you said “I have really been enjoying life”.

Bored – where ‘busy’ gets us social credit, admitting we are bored can often have the opposite affect. People often judge boredom as ‘bad’ and busy as ‘good’. What if we reframe boredom as ‘awareness’ and ‘presence’? We can have an entirely different perspective. Allowing ourselves to be bored requires us to allow ourselves to stop being busy, to stop embracing chaos and overwhelm and to simplify our lives. We tend to think of boredom as the exact opposite of productivity, but research now shows that boredom can lead to increased creativity. When you are bored, your brain frees up space that it can use for creative projects. When we think about the benefits of unplugging from technology and allow our minds to wander or daydream, it’s possible that boredom might be the newest form of self-care.

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