Is ‘Staying Busy’ Your Coping Mechanism?
“I wanted to figure out why I was so busy, but I couldn’t find the time to do it.” – Todd Stocker
The art of staying busy all the time looks like hard work, doesn’t it? In truth, many people use the excuse of ‘busyness’ as a coping mechanism and to avoid dealing with their feelings. This could turn into an obsession that can cause more harm than help to your life and health.
Keeping busy at all times could also affect your self-esteem and self-worth. The more you stay busy the more you try to avoid your present. It is said that when a person isn’t happy or satisfied with how their life is turning, the more they stay busy. While staying busy can help keep our minds off of things, it can also increase our stress, anxiety, and mental strain.
“We use busyness as a distraction from painful feelings. When your to-do list is constantly throwing appointments after appointments at you, you don’t have the space to catch your breath much less reflect on seriously painful lingering emotions.” – Nick Wignall, psychologist
Many people have been using ‘busyness’ as a coping mechanism for years. The constant need to stay busy keeps them away from feeling, thinking, and acting on the negative emotions. This ‘busyness’, in turn, increases anxiety, stress, and fatigue causing a person to feel burned out.
Signs You’re Staying Busy To Avoid Feeling Emotions
1. Your Calendar Is Always Full
Your calendar is always cluttered and full. If you’re staying busy to avoid confronting your feelings, you might face difficulty in not doing anything. The need to have a full schedule might overpower your need to be doing something non-meaningful.
2. You Like Being Socially Connected
You like being socially connected at all times. You have a constant desire to go from one social activity to another and have difficulty staying alone and spending time with yourself. This need to be around others might stem from a lonely childhood where we would try to keep ourselves busy to avoid feeling lonely.
3. You Can’t Seem To Slow Down
You are constantly “on the go” and don’t often notice the small things around you. You can’t remember what your morning tea tasted like, the smile your partner gave you before you left for work, or the sounds of the morning traffic. These little things are easily forgotten and you can’t seem to slow down enough to savor the moments.
What To Do?
1. Acknowledge & Accept
Accepting your ‘busyness’ as a coping mechanism is the first step. Recognizing and admitting your need to stay busy to avoid your feelings is the best way to help yourself fix this issue. Ask yourself; what is the activity offering you? How do you feel with a full schedule? How do you feel with an empty schedule?
2. Opt For “Me Time”
Taking some time off for and with yourself is also a good way to begin fixing your need to stay busy. Loneliness can be harmful but having a “me time” every now and then can help you understand what you’re feeling and what you need to do to help change whatever is the reason you’re using ‘busyness’ as an excuse.
3. Understand Your Need
Ask yourself why do you need to stay busy? What is it that you’re avoiding? Why do you need to numb yourself from feeling emotions? Understanding this need can really help you solve your addiction to staying busy all the time.
If you need, you can also talk to a professional to get the proper guidance and support to help you understand your feelings and the causes of your busyness.
4. Slow Down
If you feel like you don’t have much time to spare and if you realize that you’re using ‘busyness’ as a coping mechanism – take a deep breath, take a break, pause, and notice the small things around you. Whenever the need arises to do something just to stay busy, slow down, and listen to yourself. Ask yourself the reason you are escaping.
In our society, staying busy means being productive and working hard to achieve our goals and dreams. But staying busy or using ‘busyness’ as an excuse to avoid confrontation with your emotions and feelings can be harmful and unhealthy.
I’m not saying that staying busy is a bad thing. It can be a good thing under the right circumstances but it is unhealthy when keeping busy all the time interferes with your lives and makes you not enjoy the small yet important things in your life.
Slow down, pause, and breathe. If you feel like the need to stay busy is harming your relationship with yourself and with those around you, talk to a professional mental healthcare provider. Seeking help and changing your coping strategy from ‘busyness’ to something more healthy could be helpful.
“One of the most universal numbing strategies is what I call crazy-busy. I often say that when they start having 12-step meetings for busy-aholics, they’ll need to rent out football stadiums. We are a culture of people who’ve bought into the idea that if we stay busy enough, the truth of our lives won’t catch up with us.” – Brené Brown