I’m talking about the hamster wheel again. That feeling of busy and overwhelm where you have to keep running to stay still. Stop and you go backwards. Or worse, you fall over.
I’m talking about the hamster wheel again because every day at least one client tells me that they feel like they are on one. It’s a problem.
When someone asks you how you are. Tell me honestly. Does your default response include ‘busy’ somewhere? It often feels like busy is the automatic response, the socially appropriate response, the expected response.
‘Busy’ encourages the other person to be ‘busy’ too and you mutually huff and roll your eyes reaffirming each other’s busyness.
Brigid Schulte, in her 2014 book, Overwhelmed, writes about this, ‘So much do we value busyness, researchers have found a human ‘aversion’ to idleness and need for ‘justifiable busyness.’’
Your job is busy, I’m not doubting that. There’s lots to do, different stakeholders to please and you’re often pulled in different directions and juggling conflicting deadlines. But there’s something important in your approach and mindset that can help manage the hamster wheel and feelings of overwhelm associated with busyness.
The stories we tell ourselves
Our perception of ourselves is shaped by the stories we tell ourselves. We all have an internal narrative that runs continuously in the background. Sometimes we’re aware of it, sometimes not. Sometimes it can be constructive and life-affirming, sometimes it can be negative and drains our resilience – like telling us how busy we are.
Thoughts influence how we feel. What we habitually think will affect how we habitually feel. We act out the behaviours that our inner dialogue tells us. If our inner dialogue tells us that we are so busy, then we will feel the anxiety and overwhelm that goes with that.
Our internal narrative is like a radio station. If you want to hear something different, you need to change the channel.
You can do this by having greater awareness of your inner dialogue. Start by noticing your thoughts and emotions that arise throughout your day. See if you can do this without labelling them good or bad, reacting, or engaging with them. Just notice them.
Pay particular attention to when your inner narrative is telling you how busy you are. And challenge it. Replace it with something more positive and affirming. Maybe something like ‘You’ve got this. Or you’re doing well. Or you’re working through your list. Enjoying your work. Relishing the challenge. You’re in control.’
Adopting a less busy narrative can help change your feelings of overwhelm and panic and replace them with feelings more associated with calm, control and even joy!
And when there’s joy in your work it feels different, more manageable, more fulfilling, and often less busy.
The next time someone asks you how you’re doing, refrain from telling them how busy you are.
Have a go. Tell yourself a different story. Let me know how you get on. Drop me a line or comment below.