How to Escape the Busy Trap
Do you ever (often?) feel like a slave to your calendar? Feel cornered by a schedule packed with appointments, projects, and social engagements? Do you find yourself saying—or at least thinking—”so busy” when people ask how you’re doing?
An overwhelming sense of busyness is one of the most common things patients talk to me about, and it’s one of their biggest sources of stress. As we close in on fall, the season of buckling down and getting back to business, the busy trap is about to kick into high gear.
Although many of us crave a break from the busy trap, it’s unlikely to release us from its grasp—the calendar alerts and text messages and Facebook posts won’t miraculously disappear.
So, in order to counteract the emotional and physical toll that perpetual busyness takes, we need to proactively build balance into our lives. Acupuncture can help.
Acupuncture Perspective on the Busy Trap
Balance is one of the cornerstones of acupuncture. And balance, from an acupuncture perspective, is best understood through the theory of Yin and Yang.
Yin and Yang describe the dual nature of things, the fact that something can only be understood in relation to the whole.
For example, light is a Yang quality while dark is considered Yin. Light and dark though, contrary to popular belief, are not opposites. They are complementary, interconnected qualities. Light gives rise to dark, and vice versa. You cannot have one without the other. Something can only be light in relation to something that is dark. It is not always light.
This concept—context determines reality—is vital to understanding how acupuncture differs from Western biomedicine, which is premised on the notion of absolutes and direct causation.
Acupuncturists are always thinking about how to balance out Yin and Yang in their patients. Certain acupuncture points are used to raise or lower Yin and Yang, depending on what a person needs. In Chinese dietary theory, different foods have Yin or Yang qualities. So do certain exercises and other lifestyle recommendations.
So, what does this have to do with our collective busy syndrome?
We can apply these principles to our daily calendars: Action and activity are considered Yang qualities. If we continue to fill our lives with things that make us busy, our Yang levels stay elevated while our Yin becomes deficient.
We need rest, quiet, and relaxation—all Yin activities—to create a healthy balance. When things are out of balance for too long, we start to experience symptoms of stress and illnesses.
Down time is not optional. We need it in order to replenish our minds and bodies so that we don’t get sick. Cultivating Yin is as necessary as our need for water, air, and movement. Think of down time as a daily supplement. You need to take it.
3 Tips for Cultivating Balance
There will always be times that are inherently more Yang than Yin. For example, back to school, starting a new job, holiday time, wedding planning, etc. Feeling extra busy during times like these is a normal part of the ebb and flow of Yin and Yang.
However, it is useful to remember that you are in control—you can choose balance over busyness. Here are three simple ways to help shift your life into a better state of balance:
Give yourself permission
Give yourself permission to not be busy. Many people actually feel guilty when they are not doing something. They feel uncomfortable when their time is not fully occupied. Clearing your schedule is not laziness. It is an investment in your health.
So many of us shift into autopilot during the day. Take the time to sit down when you eat, and chew your food instead of wolfing it down. Pay attention when you drive. Listen when people are talking to you. It’s amazing how much more you can enjoy things when you aren’t just going through the motions.
Schedule down time
Literally. Get out your calendar and create an event called “Down time,” or whatever you want to call it. It may feel counterintuitive, but when things get crazy, it’s especially important to carve out time for yourself. Even small blocks of time are beneficial. Whether it is reading a book, getting acupuncture, or just finding a quiet space to sit, make the Yin side of life a priority.
Wishing you a healthy and balanced fall season ahead!
Photo by Sara Calabro
Stephanie Worth is a licensed acupuncturist at Acupuncture Northwest in Portland, Oregon. Her goal in practice is to help patients improve their quality of life by getting lasting results, as well as teach patients the benefits of acupuncture and Chinese medicine in a way that is practical and applicable to their lives.
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