I am incredibly busy right now. I know everyone loves to “complain” about how busy they are, and how problematic our culture of constant busyness is (Susan wrote about this a while ago, and it still stands). But the fact of the matter is, for me, things are busier at the moment than they have been in the past. I think this will subside again, or I’ll get used to the new amount of stuff I have to do, but right now, I get to the end of a workday and I feel like I’m ready to crawl into a corner and sleep.
Others on the blog have written about self-care quite a lot, and why it’s problematic and a privilege and also about what it means for different people, or at different moments. So, acknowledging all that, and wondering (as I often do) whether I actually have anything new to contribute to this conversation, it’s something that’s been on my mind for the past couple of weeks since this hell-storm of busyness has broken loose. So let me say that I feel extremely lucky to have the privilege of being able to enjoy self-care during this busy period. But what does that mean to me?
When things get too busy, I tend to have problems switching my brain off. I spend a lot of the day troubleshooting. It’s part of my job and I enjoy it, but when the proverbial shit hits the fan, I tend to be in troubleshooting mode and thinking about work (and non-work) problems 24/7, trying to figure out a good way to solve them.
So when I notice my mind is spinning at the end of a work-day, I normally know it’s time to get moving. Swimming is best. The repetitiveness of the motions, trying to swim more effectively and efficiently, drowning out the outside world… it always works. I have never once emerged from a pool session and not felt much calmer and more clear-headed. Running is good too, in a different way. My mind wanders more, and I sometimes think about new angles to an issue, or – even better! – find myself lost in deep thoughts about something completely different than what was preoccupying me before. And then there’s bouldering, where you just need to concentrate so hard while you’re on the wall, and think about how to tackle a problem before you start, there’s no room to ruminate about other things while you’re at it. So yes, when things get too busy, doing some sort of exercise usually helps.
But then there are the days when I’m just too tired. Last Tuesday, I didn’t have swim practice (the school pool we train at was closed due to holidays), so I’d originally planned to go for a swim at a public pool instead. Well, it turned out those were closed too – apparently my hometown takes carnival more seriously than I had thought, and things close on Shrove Tuesday. I was also exhausted. So what did I do instead? I thought for a moment about doing something else – TRX or yoga at home -, but then I decided to sit on the couch and allow myself a rest day. Would I have normally taken my exhausted self to the pool? Probably. And would it have been worth it? Almost certainly. But I was pleased with my unplanned rest day, too.
And then, on Wednesday, I resumed my run commutes. It’s finally light early enough in the mornings and late enough in the evenings to do that again – and it felt fantastic. It’s a great way of getting a workout in when I’m really busy: right before and right after work, on my way there and home, a trip that I’d have to do anyway. Also a plus in the self-care department: it forced me to leave the office at 5:30pm, before it got too dark (that will go away soon as the days get longer, but it was perfect this week).
When things get too busy, I’m finding that different things can help, that I need to listen to what my body is asking for, and that I have to strike a good balance between movement and stillness. Not exactly a groundbreaking finding, but an important one nevertheless.
Dear readers, how do you unwind? Do you have secret tips for taking care of yourselves during busy periods?
3 thoughts on “When things get too busy”
I often think about my friends who say they’d like to be more active but they’re too busy. In contrast, I, like you, find that doing something active often makes the “busy” more tolerable. It clears my head and helps me find my calm. I don’t know if we each need different amounts of “busy calm” and “quiet calm” or if it’s more about what feels normal and routine to us. Certainly keeping to my routines, even when I’m busy, seems to help me cope with new challenges.
Just this week (probably ushered in both by the time change and my spring break), I’m making a bigger effort to fit in activity BECAUSE I’m busy. You’re so right– it clears the head, and for me, lightens my mood. And for both of those reasons I sleep better. Thanks for reminding us to fit in rest and relaxation times, too.
Yes, so true! Better sleep is definitely one of the positive side effects!
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