Although people tell me all the time they like feeling busy—perhaps because it makes them feel important and significant—I’m not buying it. Would you ever choose busyness over a more relaxed form of productivity? When life starts to feel hectic, here are a few ways to dial back the overwhelm.
1. Give Yourself a Shot of Awe
When researchers induced feelings of awe in people—by showing them video clips of people next to vast things like whales or waterfalls—it altered their perception of time such that the people felt like they had more time on their hands. They also report fewer feelings of impatience.
Not sure where to find yourself some awe? Look no farther than YouTube. Try searching “awe” and “whales,” or something else that seems amazing to you. If the concept of “awe” feels too abstract, try thinking about things that amaze you. What makes you feel a childlike sense of wonder?
2. Create An Anti-Busyness Ritual
Researchers believe that the brains in both humans and animals evolved to feel calmed by repetitive behavior, and that our daily rituals are a primary way to manage stress. This is especially true in unpredictable environments or situations where we feel pressured, a lack of control, or threatened in some way.
When the pace of life seems to be taking off without you, create a ritual to help you feel more in control. What counts as a ritual? Something you do repetitively in certain situations—usually a series of behaviors done in the same order. Think of your favorite ball player’s pregame ritual.
3. Find “Flow”
Dropping into “the zone” or finding flow is the opposite of feeling busy. Time seems to stand still—if we are aware of time at all. Flow isn’t as elusive a state as you might think, but it does require that we stop multi-tasking, and that we build a fortress against interruption around ourselves.
I know, I know. You don’t have time to foster awe, or create an anti-busyness ritual, or stop multi-tasking. You’re too busy!
Listen: You don’t have time NOT to do these things. Busyness is a mark of what neuroscientists call “cognitive overload.” This state impairs our ability to think creatively, to plan, organize, innovate, solve problems, make decisions, resist temptations, learn new things easily, speak fluently, remember important social information, and control our emotions. In other words, it impairs basically everything we need to do in a given day. So if you have important work to do, please: Take five minutes to dial back your busyness.
By Christine Carter, adapted from: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/3_surprising_ways_to_feel_less_busy