Do you wear ‘busy’ like a badge of honour? Feel guilty for taking the time to switch off and do something just for you – worrying it might be seen as self-indulgent, or lazy even?
If the answer is yes, you’re not alone. But why do some of us feel like this? Why is busy so often used as a marker for success or self-worth? And why do we find it so difficult to shift down a gear and look after number 1?
“Being busy can be a positive”, explains Dr Mark Winwood, director of psychological services at AXA PPP healthcare. “It allows us to get things done, to maintain our momentum and stay motivated. The old saying ‘if you want something doing, ask a busy person’ rings very true. Often, the less we do, the less we want to do, so really we just need to find the right balance for ourselves.
“Problems can arise, however, when we’re not given, or don’t give ourselves the opportunity to be less busy and have some down time in our lives. The distracting beeps on our smartphones, endless to-do lists, caring for dependents – these things can eventually take their toll on our mental and physical wellbeing if we don’t allow ourselves to hit the reset button now and again.
“That’s not to say being busy is a bad thing, but it depends what we’re busy with and why. Some of us fear boredom and like to be occupied – and that’s fine! Sometimes we like to take our mind off something that’s worrying us. That's fine, too, as long as we’re not using our busyness as a tactic to avoid something in our life we would benefit from facing up to instead.”
Taking a step back to look at why we’re busy, what we could do less of, accept help with, or simply omit from our lives is an important step in self-care – the very definition of which will be as individual as we are. Whatever you choose to do to help you take time for yourself, it's your choice to make.
“While some pressure can be good, it’s less so if you’ve no time or thinking space to develop, be creative or just feel like you’re on top of things. It’s one thing to be firing on all cylinders but quite another to be constantly firefighting – ask yourself which camp you fall into.”