State of Emergency
As I sit to write this blog post, I stare out at the blanket of snow still covering my yard shortly after our first real snow fall of the season. To some, its late arrival (mid-March) was met with angst as we have had several days of near summer temperatures to tease us of what lies ahead. I have heard others remark with delight to finally have a “snow day”. A Facebook post on my news feed reflected such joy as someone commented on Governor Wolf’s state of emergency declaration - “a real day off without guilt.”
I pondered this response for awhile. From a mental health lens, it saddens me that we live in a culture that is so caught up in “busyness” that it takes a state of emergency to remove the guilt that hovers like a dark cloud and whispers, “You are not worthy of a day off.”
Recently, I bumped in to a friend that I haven’t seen in awhile. I am sure you can relate to our conversation in the checkout line that included the authentic, “How have you been?”
I can’t recall a time that I have genuinely asked someone that question and “busy” has not been part of the response. I too frequently give this answer to those who ask me. While in graduate school, this became my standard mantra to almost everyone. Though it was an honest reply, I began to see how my own busyness was crippling my mental, physical, and spiritual wellness.
Our society has cultivated busyness as a cultural norm and an almost desired status. Though busyness is not a new phenomenon, our fast past society seems to glamorize this state of being. After all, when we are busy, we are not lazy. When we are involved in extra-curricular activities, clubs, and organizations, we are often contributing to our community by giving back and investing in others. When we are busy, we are often perceived as go-getters, achievers, contributors, advocates, business-savvy professionals and productive members of society. This all sounds good, right?
Well, to a point….. and in moderation. When there is no time for mindfulness, the effects can have detrimental consequences that many of us are all too familiar with. When our value and self-worth are tethered to our “to-do” lists we need to pause and examine our own busy life. Physically, busyness can contribute to fatigue and sleep deprivation, headaches, and digestive issues. Our emotional health suffers too and often a busy lifestyle can cause symptoms of depression and anxiety and a reliance on drugs and alcohol to relax and cope with the stresses that accompany such a life style.
It is important to also look at how being too busy can affect our relationships with those we love most. Are we so busy that we are not present? Are we too busy focusing our attention on the next item of our “to do” list that we lack mindfulness in the moment? Busyness does not allow enough time to be intentional. It is important to evaluate how your busy lifestyle may be positively or negatively impacting you and those you love. If your busyness is creating feelings of guilt, that can be a red flag that you may need to look at prioritizing your time and saying “no” to some commitments.
Don’t wait until your life is in a “state of emergency.” Being mindful doesn’t need to include carving out an hour of meditation each day, it can be harvested in small doses. Can you remember the last time you paused to notice the sunset? Mindfulness sounds so simple, yet it takes a conscious effort to practice. Small changes can make a big difference. I leave post-it notes of bible verses and framed quotes around my home and office as reminders to slow down. I will often turn off the music or podcast while in the car to meditate and pray. It takes effort, but it is beautiful work that can make all the difference.