4 Signs Busyness Is Your Coping Mechanism and How to Slow Down

Man talking on the phone while cooking on a stove and holding a soccer ballBusyness may seem fairly harmless; after all, you are just filling your schedule and accomplishing tasks, and there is nothing inherently wrong with that. However, busyness can take over in ways that may be similar to how an addiction can and prevent you from being present in your own life with those around you.

Here are some signs you might be addicted to busyness and how to address it.

Signs You’re Using Busyness As a Coping Mechanism

1. Your calendar is cluttered or full

Someone who is addicted to being busy may feel a compulsive need to fill up their schedule. They may have difficulty spending time not “doing.” They may feel they are wasting time if they are not scheduling something or constantly have activities waiting in the wings. They may feel most satisfied when they see their calendar is completely full. In order to combat this mentality, it’s important to acknowledge this is a behavior you see in yourself.

Acknowledging the constant desire to fill up your calendar is a good place to start. It may be helpful to look at the function of that behavior. What does it offer you? How do you feel when you see that your schedule is full? What are you getting out of moving from task to task without slowing down? And on the contrary, how do you feel when your schedule is empty? What feelings arise for you when there isn’t another task to complete? Being able to say to yourself what the busyness offers you is a good first step.

2. You’re a social butterfly

Busyness can often cause people to become “social butterflies,” and they may feel a constant need to go from social What feelings arise for you when there isn’t another task to complete? Being able to say to yourself what the busyness offers you is a good first step.engagement to social engagement. These folks may say in passing, “I’m just social” or “I like to go out.” They may have difficulty being alone or spending time with themselves. If this sounds familiar, tune in to this feeling. What is it like to be alone? Connect with that. Does it bring up any other feelings or remind you of anything?

Often, loneliness can remind us of difficult times during our childhood when we felt alone and no one came to be with us, so we take a lot of measures to not have this feeling be present. We try and fill it up with activities. We have to remind ourselves that feeling lonely is okay. We can notice this feeling and let it be what it is. You can practice building up tolerance to being alone by spending larger and large increments of time by yourself and observing how it feels. You can utilize some self-talk and let your body know feeling lonely is normal and that it’s going to be okay.

3. Others mention how busy you seem

Often times, people will tell the busy person that it seems they are always busy or “on the go.” This may seem like an obvious indicator, but busy people may have difficulty recognizing this in themselves, so they need others to say something. If this is the case with you, it may help to ask the loved ones in your life about this. Be curious about what friends and family are telling you. Ask questions. “You say that I am often on the go, what do you mean by that?” “You often say that I am busy, does it feel like I’m present when I’m with you?” “Does it feel like I’m too busy for you?” This will give you a better sense of how your busyness is impacting others.

4. It’s difficult to slow down

That adage “stop and smell the roses” may seem cliché, but it can be hard to do for those who can’t stop being busy. If you find you have difficulty taking in the details of the day—the way your morning coffee tasted, the smile on your co-worker’s face, or the sounds of children playing in your front yard—because you feel like you must go onto the next item, you may be addicted to being busy.

A good next step for this is to slow down as much as possible. Take a deep breath, pause, and notice what’s going on. You can start with your body: what does it feel like inside? Do you observe any tension or tightness? Do you feel happy, sad, lonely, mad, or something else? Where do you feel that feeling in your body? Can you allow it to move through your body?

Next, see if you can move on to tuning in to the experience of others. Slow down and really listen to what they are saying instead of giving a rehearsed response. Can you tune in to what they might be feelings? Can you give yourself the space to really be present with others? Feel your way into what it’s like to be truly present with you family and friends.

Being busy can be a good thing. As humans, we may often have a desire to be productive and use our time well. It’s when the busyness takes over our lives and we stop enjoying living that it’s important to look more closely.

If you feel busyness has become a coping mechanism for you, therapy may help. A licensed mental health professional can show you strategies that allow you to tune in to your inner world, sit with your emotions, and learn healthy ways to cope.

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