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Stressed & Burnt Out? Maybe you're saying 'Yes' too much...

One of my favourite quotes of all time is by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who is a world-renowned leader in mindfulness-based stress reduction treatment.

He writes,

'Saying "yes" to more things than we can actually manage to be present for with integrity and ease of being is in effect saying "no" to all those things and people and places we have already said "yes" to, including perhaps, our own well-being",
(J. Kabat-Zinn, Arriving at Your Own Door, 2005).

Kabat-Zinn refers to this as 'The Unfaithful Yes'. It can be very easy to find ourselves saying 'yes' to more than we can actually be present for. Haven't we all had the experience of returning from the holiday feeling we need time off just to recover from the busyness of it all?!

Why do we do this to ourselves, sometimes on a repeated and daily basis? In many instances, we may be motivated by the 'shoulds'- I 'should' catch up with those people/ take the kids to that event/ do more....(fill in the blank).

Sometimes we may also be motivated by the best of intentions- I really want to do that/ see that person/ get better at that hobby etc.. But what is the price we pay for all this busyness? And as Kabat-Zinn points out- what is the point if we are too busy to even be present and attentive to that which we do? If we are not able to pay attention to the present moment, doesn't that mean we've missed it anyway...

Giving ourselves permission to do less- to be less busy- can feel very uncomfortable. Perhaps we struggle with guilt if we say 'no' to others, or beliefs that we are 'lazy' if we don't fill our days with tasks. We can get so swept up in this busyness that we miss the signs that we are stressed out- emotionally and physically.

I often hear from clients that they feel confused as to why anxiety or panic attacks have arisen in their lives- they feel this has come out of the blue and their bodies are betraying them. They say, 'I don't feel that stressed', however they're having anxiety symptoms on a daily basis. When we look through all the things they are 'doing', and all the internal dialogue that says 'do more', we can see clearly why anxiety has arisen. In fact, it's usually been there for some time, but we've been too busy to notice!!

This would be fine if the body would cooperate and just ignore stress too- but the body often does not cooperate! Physical symptoms of anxiety will eventually become more pronounced the longer we ignore them- symptoms like poor sleep, changes in appetite and low energy can all indicate stress levels that are too high. These symptoms can escalate until we can no longer ignore them- and we find ourselves having to consider stopping the 'doing' and trying to 'be' for a change.

When was the last time you let yourself just have a day of doing nothing? Nothing productive- no plans- no pressure to 'achieve' something... Whilst that may seem very attractive to a lot of us, if we actually tried to do it perhaps it would feel less comfortable than we expect. Perhaps we would struggle with that internal voice that says, 'Do something useful!!!'.

What if we were to challenge ourselves to just do the minimum- no pressure to catch up with friends/ clean out the garage/ finally organise the linen closet/ get fit and adopt a clean eating plan. But instead to carve out time- intentionally- to simply 'be'- even just 5 minutes!. Spend time with our closest loved ones doing very little. Sit in the garden. Take a nap. Just be in the present moment.

Because the problem with busyness is that it's never, ever done. There's always something else that 'needs' doing. Perhaps if we could practice, with intention, not doing, we might increase our capacity to be present to that which really brings meaning to our lives.


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