Relieve Your Anxiety with Less Doing

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How would you feel if I asked you to schedule time in a coffee shop or in front of the fireplace with a cup of tea for 15-20 minutes with no book, companion, or technology?

The thought of this makes most of us shift in our seat, fidget, or wonder why we’d want to do that instead of going out with our friends or tackling that one last email - which points to us being more anxious than we originally thought...

But what if I told you that scheduling these 15 minutes could make you a more calm/zen/stress-free person?

Time starved

When I worked in corporate, I had very little free time during the work day. Working in advertising and marketing the term “lunch break” basically meant scarf down your food at your desk while on the phone and responding to emails.

I did this for years, but it did not work for me! So eventually on those days where leaving the office didn’t feel like an option, I would book a conference room, or find a space I could be alone.

I would set an alarm on my phone for 15 minutes, look away from my computer and just sit with myself. At first, this was hard! I would fidget, I desperately wanted my phone as if a part of me was missing, and I felt nervous just being with myself.

Even though it wasn’t always easy, at the end of the 15 minutes I always felt more zen and capable of tackling the day!

How often is it today that we just sit without distraction?

Rare. As a society, we are busier than ever and constantly over scheduling ourselves.

The problem is that we have forgotten how to just be with ourselves!

When we do finally sit down without distraction, we feel naked, vulnerable, and unsure of what to do with ourselves. And most of us can only think of the running to do list of things we need to accomplish once we get up.

Ultimately, we are no longer present. Rather than sitting and enjoying this moment, we are living our entire lives in the future state, nervous about every outcome that has not even happened yet! This is anxiety.

Society has programmed us to emphasize DOING

  • If you are not doing then you are lazy.

  • If you are not doing then you are not successful

  • If you are not doing then you are not moving towards your dreams.

In fact, one of the first questions we ask someone when we meet them is, “so, what do you do?” We don’t say, “who are you?” or “tell me about yourself?” or “what is your purpose?” We use the word DO. Again, placing more emphasis on doing.

We promote Doing over resting

My first years out of college I soon realized that not taking a lunch break meant that you were “busy and important”.

I remember even on the days I had time to take a break, I felt sheepish leaving my desk. Coworkers would say as a badge of honor, “oh, I never take a lunch break” or “ha, who has time to grab lunch?”

Today when I have a lot on my to-do list, I catch myself saying things like, “I spent too much time resting today. I should have done more”, implying that rest is less important or valuable than doing.

And even when we do give ourselves that relaxation time, we are often not even able to enjoy it. We constantly check what time it is and feel like we must get back to doing.

The problem is that when we are doing all the time, we shut off our basic human needs (sleep, eating, resting).

Our minds and stamina (thanks to caffeine) are pushing our bodies through space and we have become detached. So detached in fact, that many of us don’t even know what to listen for when our bodies need something.

The simple truth is that we can’t do all the things all the time.

That leads to burn out, getting sick, and diseases. I should know, I used to be one of these people.

I planned my day out so intensely, that I barely had any time to myself until I hit the pillow. You know what would happen? All the thoughts in my head and ideas that I ignored the entire day would come swarming in at night and I couldn’t sleep and would frequently feel anxious.

Did you know that an estimated 68% of Americans (164 million) struggle with sleep at least once a week (Consumer Reports)? I would love a stat on how many people with insomnia can’t sleep because of racing thoughts about the future (my guess is the number would be high).

less emphasis on rest

With every generation there is less and less of an emphasis on rest.

I think of my grandparents. My grandma and grandpa would sit on their little porch in Brooklyn and look out at the street in front of them for hours.

Sometimes they would talk or my Grandma would knit, but they would just sit there contently. My grandma also loved to take the bus. While on the bus she wouldn’t read or listen to music or even talk. She would sit there with her hands over her pocketbook, and look out the window. Although my grandma was a nervous woman, I always thought she looked so calm and peaceful doing nothing.

If you are someone who schedules your day down to the minute, try adding “rest time” into your schedule!

When we give ourselves adequate rest, we are better able to handle all of the stressors that life throws at us. It could be as simple as sitting for 5 to 15 minutes a few times a day and just being present with yourself!

Some people call this meditation, but if that feels intimidating, think of it as being present. Focus on your breath, look at the world around you, and listen to what your body is telling you (is your belly gurgling for food, is your mouth dry, are you feeling cranky or tired).

The more we begin checking in with ourselves, the more connected we feel. Also, the more present we are with ourselves during our day, the less time we spend worrying about the future.

Break the doing cycle

It is hard to break out of the DOING cycle, but trust me, when you can allow yourself to fully relax and be present, it is such a beautiful feeling.

If this is something you would like to work on, let me be your guide! Click the button below to schedule your free initial consult. In this session we will discuss some of what you have going on, I’ll lead you in a guided meditation, and I will give you some easy tools to use in your day-to-day.

Becca Wiseman