Quite often keeping ourselves busy can feel like a great coping strategy. After all, if we aren’t focusing on our past abuse and the feelings we carry with us as a result, it just doesn’t seem to hurt as much.
There’s nothing wrong with keeping busy, but we need to be mindful that keeping busy should not keep us from working through our trauma; we can’t keep pushing aside anxiety and stress indefinitely.
Eventually it come at us, stronger than we ever realized. So why not be proactive and use busyness and mindfulness to our advantage, rather than focusing on just one?
So if we are someone who tends to keep busy, is that helping at all?
How has it worked out so far for us? If we are truthful with ourselves, we will likely answer with “not so well”. We’re still fighting through low self-esteem, poor self-confidence, and still dissociating among many other trauma characteristics.
So if we focus on just staying busy, we’re robbing ourselves of healing or at the very least slowing it down drastically.
Which brings me to a closer look at the difference between busyness and mindfulness. Even in the midst of focusing on particular task, our mind still wanders.
How is that even possible?
This was yet another lightbulb moment for me recently and I totally wanted to share it with you. Here’s my real world example, based on experience, of why just keeping busy isn’t enough.
I sit at desk for 8 hours a day at work. I’m in an office, in the same cube that’s been my work home for years and years.
I have two monitors in front of me and chair that is quite comfortable to slouch in and just work on spreadsheet after spreadsheet. Yes I know I shouldn’t slouch, it’s a bad habit that I’ve had pretty much forever.
So I’m at work 5 days a week, and seemingly laser focused on a project, just sitting there typing away, thinking about what I need to do, taking phone calls, and listening to my music.
Every single day, and I mean every day, I catch myself dissociating. Staring out into space and then snapping back to the present and wondering what in the world I was just doing those last 10 minutes.
I’m using my mind, yes, but I’m putting my effort into an inanimate object. The computer is not going to interact back with me on a conversational level, so it’s basically a one way street of sorts.
The key is to be mindful, be fully present and engaged. By doing that, we’ll increase our attention span, and be more efficient on the task at hand. I’ll get to a few steps we can use to help bring us back to the present, in a just a minute.
Mindfulness also helps us in healing from abuse, because if we are fully present and focused, we’ll dissociate less. Since dissociating is common among survivors of abuse, doing it less means we are more focused on not only healing but also other aspects of our life.
There’s less wasted time dissociating and more time spent efficiently focused on our job, focused on our family, and our recovery.
So how do we stop that seemingly unending cycle of busy–>zone out–>busy–>zone out?
Try these easy steps the minute you catch yourself not being fully present and wandering off.
- Tap your left shoulder, and then tap your right shoulder.
- Smile and say to yourself, or out loud, “CANCEL”.
- Smile again.
By doing these simple things we immediately bring ourselves back to the present.
You can’t tap your shoulders, tell your brain to CANCEL the zoning out, smile, and still find yourself not fully present.
The same can also work if you find yourself in a potentially stressful situation. Rather than flying off the handle, losing your cool, and spinning out, just does those same 3 steps.
Once you tell your mind to CANCEL and then begin to smile, you can begin to release the negative energy and stress. It’s easier to let the situation go and walk away without going down a path that will only invalidate you.
I actually just did those 3 steps as I’m writing and I’m affirming to you again that it does work.
Even with all the effort that I put into my writing, I dissociate regularly when making new posts for this blog. Again, it’s just par for the course with survivors. I have to be mindful to be fully present so I don’t ramble off topic
So by utilizing this simple plan; over time we can find it easier to stay on task.
I hope this helps you, and I would very much enjoy reading your thoughts in the comments.
busy image courtesy of successreboot.com & main courtesy of wallpaperfreebies.com
Thanks for this tutorial Smiles. One thing I try to do to bring myself into the present is focus on my senses. What I’m smelling, hearing, feeling, etc.
Thank you so much for sharing this. I have done this and it truly helps relieve anxiety or negative thinking. By doing this and mindful breathing it allows me to clear my head and relax.