Ask anyone how they are doing these days and a common response you’ll hear is, “Good…Busy!” as they run off to get to their next activity.
Busy. Everyone these days is busy. Busy with school, busy with work, busy with volunteering, busy with after-school practices and lessons, busy, busy, busy.
It’s an epidemic sweeping across our culture.
In a sense, productivity has become a god – a hidden idol. There is an overwhelming pressure in our culture to be all and do all as best and as fast and as much as we can.
From youth, we are encouraged to set goals and dream big in order to find self-fullfillment, gain wealth, and change the world.
Yet, do we ever stop to think about why we are busy? Why do we feel the need to make sure every part of our over-scheduled days is filled with some activity? Do we stay constantly busy to avoid what we know needs doing but would rather not? Are we hiding from something -- what? Maybe it’s out of a desire to feel important, efficient, useful? (Let's blame Sir Topham Hatt for that one, shall we?)
Certainly those things are valuable and important – to a point. Beyond that, we have to ask ourselves –
Is all our “busyness” fruitful? Or will our addiction to constant busyness produce anything short of anxiety-ridden and exhausted families?
A message I recently heard from a priest reminds us that –
If we busy ourselves with constant activities we, [unintentionally or not], close ourselves to the constant promptings of the Holy Spirit and His Grace.
Even if our intentions are good and God-serving, we must take time to evaluate our lives and look at our calendars with a fresh perspective. There are many demands on families these days and feeling overwhelmed and stressed-out is bound to happen at least a few times throughout the day. Staying active and busy is part of our journey, but busyness is not THE path to heaven. Still, even in our full days, we can find peace and not allow busyness to consumer and take over us.
Here are 7 Ways to Combat the Busyness Epidemic and Bring Peace Back into your Life – and your family’s:
1. Prepare Ahead to Save your Head
If you have a billion things you know are coming up, prepare ahead – don’t leave things to the last minute or you’ll find yourself running around like a stressed-out-mother who can’t find her keys when she’s already running late and hasn't eaten anything but sugar and crackers the past few days. Get up earlier and go to bed earlier, help your children and spouse prepare ahead so when it’s time for everyone to go their separate ways you won’t spend your precious little time together all stressed out and yelling at everyone to get ready. (This will probably still happen occasionally but at least you can lessen the chances by preparing as much as you can ahead of time.)
2. Don't Rush
S-L-O-W D-O-W-N. Arrive early for activities so you can walk in slowly, casually – take in the scene and maybe even breathe in some fresh air on your way in. It's amazing how much stress you can relieve by slowing things down and not rushing from one place to another all the time. Calm your nerves, slow that heart rate down, and reserve the adrenaline for the next road race or mad dash to the bathroom with a potty-training toddler. When you do run late, take a deep breathe and relax - you'll get there when you get there and no amount of huffing and puffing will get you there any faster. Remember, this time will pass by like a flash; soak in these moments so you'll have memories to keep you company when all you can do is sit or lie in your bed alone all day.
3. Say No to Say Yes
Say no to over-committing so you can say "yes" to your most important commitments - your spouse and your family. With every new school year comes a barrage of responsibilities, sign-ups, and volunteer opportunities. It's OK if you do not do everything. Your child will still love you and you'll still be a good mother even if getting everyone to school and back on time is all you can realistically - and sanely - manage at this time in your family's life. The PTA can handle itself without you but your family cannot.
4. Take an evening or early morning stroll
Get outside and enjoy a lovely stroll - not a high-powered walk or a marathon-training run. Just a nice, easy stroll. Take your children with you and allow them to explore, discover, and play along the way. And do not bring your phone! Just enjoy the moment and take pictures the old-fashioned way - with your eyes.
5. Take time to Read or Write a letter
Put all the gadgets and remotes down and grab a book - not a non-fiction or a work-related how-to. Get comfy and settle in with an exciting thriller, a juicy novel, or a soul-stirring masterpiece. Read with your children, let them turn the pages and take in the illustrations – no rushing. Get out a pen and paper and write a letter - not a quick email or text message. Send it to a dear friend, a family member, or even your spouse (like the good ol sappy love letter days). Take time to share what’s in your heart and thank them for their friendship, love, and presence in your life.
Take time for play – yes even grownups need play time. Play with your children, even if it’s only a few minutes of wrestling with daddy or make believe play with mommy. Get outside and throw a ball around, or play a board game. It’s amazing how a few minutes of “recess” can reenergize you and actually help you function at a higher level.
This is really the most important. Take time throughout the day to be still – and pray. No audible words necessary. Put down the phone, close the computer, and “go into your inner room [your heart], close the door…and pray...” Visit Jesus and spend time with Him in adoration. Pop in on your way to and back from work or picking up kids, linger in the church after Mass, and just be with Him. No books, no specific prayers – take time to stare into each other’s hearts and let His Love wash over you. And if you happen to doze off...that's OK - your body needs a little recharge in the day. Give Him your overwhelmed, stressed-out and exhausted heart. Give Him your busy.
Lastly remember, it's not what you do our how much you do but the way you do it and the amount of love you do it with that matters most.
Copyright 2014 Erika Marie