So often these days we use terms like ‘beyond busy’ and ‘at capacity’. It’s not always clear whether we have got busier or whether our rhetoric has just become more catastrophic. What is true is that it seems to be harder and harder to demonstrate our self worth unless we are busy, rushing, juggling and pressured. Whilst we get a lot done, there’s not much head space for us there.
I must admit to being sucked into this world very much. I work in the NHS, run a busy private practice, teach at the university and try to juggle family, friends and my own need to go running occasionally. And mostly, I thrive on this. I’m one of those people who loves being busy, detests having nothing to do and fills every minute with something. I am genuinely happier this way. But it certainly has its downsides.
As I wrote in a blog previous (see it here), no one says on their deathbed that they wished they’d spent more time at work. Now I draw a great deal of strength from my work, as I do something I genuinely love and in which I aim to improve things for others. I don’t want to be on my death bed thinking I could have done more to alleviate distress and suffering, but I do want to make sure that I’m not consumed by busy-ness and don’t make time for peace, reflection and thoughtfulness.
As a therapist I’m very aware of the value of silences. I know the power of thinking and of taking time and space to process. So, as I develop my own self-awareness I’ve had to find ways to build this kind of experience into my everyday practice. I’m working very hard on not planning activities for every minute. I try to take a lunch break when I can and sit for 20 minutes without resorting to my phone or switching on my computer. When I go to new places, and especially when I’m anxious, I’m working on not resorting to just getting out my phone and retreating away from the world. And when I run, I’m do at least half of them without headphones in, so I really can be with nature and I can sometimes get bored because through boredom comes creativity.
I read somewhere that in this digital age we process hundreds of times the amount of information each day compared to pre-mobile technology. It’s inevitable with busy family lives that we are sucked into a round of activities and work and scheduled family time. We can’t control everything and that includes how much information we must process. The emails still come in, and they still need answering. But sometimes, even if it’s just once a week, we can do something which lets peace and silence and space for reflection in. It might be on a walk between the car and the office or whilst waiting for the children to finish one of their many simulating and character-developing activities. Or first thing in the morning, or last thing at night, or whilst the kettle is boiling or sitting at traffic lights. But those little moments are helpful and over time we learn that silence and boredom and nothingness aren’t always scary or annoying, but can be a breather from the busy world we live in. As I so often do, I find myself at the end of this post, coming back to the idea that it starts with a breath and the result is a little bit of headspace. Just breathe, and then take another breath and go from there.