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Busy, Busy, Busy

The day after I read an article on “busyness,” a client happened to share an epiphany she’d had: Tired of hearing herself say how busy she is as if it would earn her a gold star on her forehead, she decided that putting herself under the gun 24/7 wasn’t such a hot idea and that she’d have a better chance of relaxing, caring for herself, and eating “normally” if she slowed down the pace of her life. I couldn’t have agreed more.

The article, “Are we really as busy as we think we are?” by Hanna Rosin (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 4/15/14, page18E), drives home this point: “The art of busyness is to convey genuine alarm at the pace of your life and a helpless resignation, as if someone else is setting the clock, and yet make it clear that you are on top of your game.” I used to be guilty of this paradoxical thinking, complaining about having too much to do when I had arranged my life to be going non-stop. Moreover, there’s an unattractive smugness from running around feeling burdened that smacks of self-importance and martyrdom.

We should not fool ourselves into believing that our lives must be harried. Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, has a name for our contrived, frantic lives: “the overwhelm.” She wisely asks, “If the time squeeze is so miserable, why do people brag about it?” If you’ve been reading my blogs, you know how I feel about the word “overwhelmed” which we use constantly to complain about the state of our self-induced busy lives. The problem, according to experts is just that: If we would just stop saying we’re overwhelmed, we’d feel less of it.

The article goes on to say that it’s culturally popular nowadays to fashion our lives as overflowing. What are we afraid of if we slack off? Are we reacting to messages we learned in childhood about not wasting time, the need to be productive, and connections between the devil and idle hands? Do we fear that if we don’t sound as busy as everyone else does we’re somehow less than they are or are doing something wrong?

I can tell you that I’ve never had clients tell me that when they slowed down, cut back activities, and took time to care for themselves their relationship with food grew unhealthier. In fact, I hear the opposite. Busyness does not make us more mindful around food, but less mindful. Busyness does not add to our self-care, but detracts from it. Busyness is not a state we are forced into, but make ourselves slaves unto. So how about taking a minute right now—if you’re not too busy, that is—to think about how to de-busy your life as one sure fire way of improving your eating