Are you crazy-busy? Of course! Who isn’t? These days, having a crammed work, kids and activities schedule has almost become a status symbol. Why, just look at all the women who post Facebook updates of everything they’ve accomplished during the day!
But being super-busy isn’t always a sign of a fulfilling life, according to Dr. Jaime Kulaga, who holds a doctorate in mental health counseling, and is the author of Type ‘S’uperWoman -- Finding the Work-Life Balance: A Self-Searching Book for Women. It actually can become a bad habit -- and a stressful sense that you need to stay busy in order to be a good wife, mom or worker.
Where does this pressure come from? Fear! “Fear is false evidence appearing real,” says Kulaga. “It can be the fear of guilt, such as, ‘I have to write long notes in the Christmas cards I send to 45 friends because I haven’t talked to them in so long.’ Or it can be fear of loss, such as, ‘I have to respond to a client’s email at 11 p.m. when I’d rather be reading a book because if I don’t, she might not give me a referral.’”
Here’s how to rid yourself of that fear and kick the busy addiction.
Ban the “Musts”
“We use the words should, must, ought and have to all the time, and psychologically speaking, they are words that will fill you with anxiety,” says Kulaga. “80 percent of our thoughts are ‘habit’ thoughts. If you say, ‘I must drop that off’ or ‘I must clean that closet,’ you’re keeping yourself in the habit of staying busy and expanding your to-do list, even if it’s not essential for you to do those things right away.” By taking the “shoulds” out of your vocabulary, you will tell your brain that it’s okay to be a human being, not a human doing.
Become a Delegator
Think you’re the only one in the house who can make the bed and fold clean clothes the “right way”? Accept the idea that there’s more than one way to get the job done -- and then assign those tasks to the rest of your family so your day isn’t totally taken up by housework. “Your husband might not do the grocery shopping perfectly, but get over it -- nothing is perfect,” says Kulaga.
Stop Being a “Yes” Woman
If you’re asked to lead a project at school or chair a committee at church, don’t cave in to pressure to make a quick decision. Instead, take a time-out with this standard answer: “I’ll need to think about this and get back to you.” As Kulaga points out, “When you say ‘yes’ immediately, you’re rewarded with a warm and fuzzy feeling, but you may come to regret it if you’ve got a full plate. Saying ‘no’ pays off later, when you actually have more free time.”
Dump the Drama Queens
Surrounded by peeps who expect you to be available 24/7 so they can vent about bad bosses and homework wars? Or pals who constantly ask you to drive the carpool and watch their kids? “Needy people will suck the last two drops of energy out of you if you let them,” warns Kulaga. “They deplete you emotionally, so you don’t have the energy to take care of yourself.” The solution: If you can’t avoid the drama queens completely, set tighter boundaries. For instance, you could agree to carpool just once a week instead of four days, or let the voicemail answer your cell phone after 7 p.m. so you can enjoy a quiet evening with your family.
Schedule “Me” Time
Make a daily appointment to do something fun that’s totally unrelated to your family or job -- and stick to it. Go to the gym, catch up on “Downton Abbey,” read a book, meditate or phone a friend. It doesn’t matter what the activity is or how long it lasts, as long as it brings you pleasure and lets you step off the “too busy” treadmill.