I’ve been aware of a trend both in my own life and in the lives of those I see in the clinic; when asking how a client is doing, it’s the breathless “Ahhhh, busy!” as they collapse onto the table with an exasperated sigh. Then, inquiring about diet, another dramatic exhale precedes the “Well, it’s just been SO crazy,” followed by a hasty rundown of all of the scheduled obligations and excuses for eating improperly, not having time to grocery shop, lacking energy to prepare fresh, whole foods, being “forced” to eat out, and so forth. Then comes the report of symptoms: depression, anxiety, inability to lose weight, moodiness, fitful sleep, etc. Looking back in my notes, I find that the same record has been played for the last three, four, maybe seven years!
The unfortunate thing is, for some, this monologue repeats itself almost every visit!
Everyone is SO busy that it just “makes sense” that we eat rushed meals out, skip the workout, snap at our spouses, and skimp on sleep, right? Many of us appease ourselves with the reasons, apologetically explaining how we are just so swamped — which (allegedly) makes it legitimate. We want to believe that our crazy is inevitable and that we are the victims of unavoidable importance. (If we are being truly honest, it’s really a false sense of adulation; for the more discerning, it may even be identified as low self-worth/esteem clothed in righteous obligation.) We should be ashamed for not respecting and loving ourselves enough to slow down and take care of the beautiful bodies and lives we have been given.
Let’s stop drugging and supplementing and address the problem: It’s not a Prozac deficiency!
“Stop the Glorification of Busy”
This is one of my favorite quotes. When did busy become vogue? We wear it like a badge of honor. We are mastering the art, painting ourselves into a corner that looks good, sounds impressive, and leaves us feeling harried, breathless, exhausted — and cool. But it’s not cool. And it’s not healthy! It’s committing a crime against our health!
Unfortunately my tendency has been to sympathize — well, no, actually to empathize with it; I, too, was making unwise, overcommitted lifestyle choices. I remember when I was managing the Wausau clinic and opening a new one in Minnesota, driving back and forth between states each week through snow storms, rarely sleeping, hardly exercising, eating on the road, and working myself ragged. At the point of highest pressure, I was booked out four months for New Patient Consults at the home clinic. I recall thinking that, no matter what, I could NOT get sick or let anything happen that would take me out of commission for (even) a day because I could never catch up again. I felt a burden like never before to keep pushing harder, to show up and perform at the highest output. Providentially, in that timeframe I met the guy who would be my future husband, and God used that point in time to hit me over the head with a good ol’ fashioned reality check that:
A) I’m not that important.
B) It’s ok to say no!
In order to transform and create a beautiful new life with meaning and fulfillment beyond career, I soon learned to choose between things that mattered and things that mattered more. I began to see glimpses of the value of less. It meant letting some important and special people down and feeling awful about it. And that was a necessary lesson for me to master in those ambitious years!
My husband, Steve, has been an inspiration to me in underscoring the fallacies of the “busy” movement. In medicine, he sees the same tendency in his patients: chronically-diseased bodies that are a result of severed relationships, broken homes, anger, toxic diets, harmful lifestyles, and people who do not take good care of themselves but who also do not correlate it with the reason for their illnesses. Oftentimes they desperately seek a quick-fix pill. Steve calls it “fake urgency” or “fake
emergency.” (He, thankfully, takes a holistic, whole-person approach, as well!)
Back to busy. One morning I was rushing around, explaining the tasks and deadlines I “needed” to conquer that week. He calmly said, “Honey, just remember that every single item that is managing your schedule is a choice that you have made.” That stopped me in my tracks. You mean my rushed, chaotic lifestyle is a result of my own doing? And my bloated, pressurized schedule and the wake of smoke behind me isn’t crucial, necessary, or life- giving?
In fact, it may be a symptom of a deeper emotional/spiritual issue. More on that later.
So here we are, you and me, patting each other on the back for eating ketogenically, taking the best supplements, fitting in the workouts and furthering education, working dawn to dusk, getting sleep before midnight, unplugging from technology — checking all the right boxes on paper — while living a lifestyle eternally detrimental to health! Over-scheduling and over-committing is as addicting as a drug and just as injurious as eating solid sugar! We do this in the name of progress, achievement, success, and “dreams.”
I am done respecting that, and I urge you to consider doing the same!
Our lifestyles are the results of our own choices! We do not need to say “yes” to all the sports and clients any more than an alcoholic needs to say “yes” to the next drink or a shopaholic needs to say “yes” to the next pair of shoes, or a social media junkie needs to say “yes” to the next hour of Facebook scrolling. These addictions are similar in that they begin with the person saying yes. So the first step is to own up to the problem and ask yourself Why am I doing this? What is motivating me?
You know what? Oftentimes the answer is that we are actually striving so hard in an attempt to prove to others, or to ourselves, that we are “good enough,” loved, “the best,” the “most intelligent,” etc. We often strive high and push so hard because we are simultaneously running away from pain and emptiness.
Ask yourself, am I trying to fulfill a longing for love, acceptance, or affirmation? Is this why I feel the need to post all of my accomplishments on Facebook, to get that touch and fuzzy feeling that says I am good enough? The love is awesome; the physical toll it takes on your body to accomplish and perform and achieve more, more, more is not.
Exceptions to the Rule
There are exceptions — patients who come in joyful, calm, put together, and present. And guess what I have noticed? They are also the ones who are wonderfully healthy. They need minimal nutritional support, and they also have few symptoms. This has been a consistent and remarkable observation, one that I only recently tuned into. They are not calm and joyful because they are symptom-free. They are symptom-free because they are calm and joyful! They respect themselves enough to honor their health needs, taking time for self care, rejuvenation, and making time to serve others. Distilling it down, healthy people consistently are wise enough to simplify!
My goal for this year ...
Take on less. Say “no.” Take time off. Be present.
As you can see, I am not writing as an expert on this subject. I struggle with it. But the awareness has hit me, and I need to share: this is of equal importance to my health as diet, exercise, sleep, and supplements. I must conquer! It is not an option. It is necessary and permanent.
To actually shift something, we first must reflect. What isn’t working and why? Then we must intentionally change, take an action step.
So I am sharing a few shifts that I have made in the hope that it might inspire you to make adjustments in your lifestyle too!
1) Deleted the Facebook app from my phone
For years I was under the delusion that having a business meant that I needed to be accessible 24/7 “just in case.” On a Saturday, I would feel a twinge of resentment as inbox messages loaded. But it was my fault for not providing the opportunity to unplug and recharge over the weekend. If you feel a pang of bitterness or anger when people “impose” upon your time, it is likely an indication that you are not setting proper boundaries for yourself. In other words, you have said yes too often. If you have a business, hire some admins to work your Facebook page. If it is a personal Facebook account, think twice before you comment or enter into a debate, not because you don’t have excellent points or fabulous knowledge on the subject, but because you can get sucked into a second full-time job that doesn’t pay and robs you of something much more important than money ... your time! If someone wants to rant and rave about politics, or even HEALTH topics, that is their decision and I respect their ability to choose how they spend their own time. Personally, it is a higher priority to me to be LIVING and enjoying special moments of my life than advertising it all on Facebook. Of course there are exceptions, and I am just pointing out that we have the power to make wise decisions and encouraging mental accountability so that health can thrive!
2) Scheduled white space
I am scheduling occasional hours without patients, just to catch up! Amazing!
3) Cancelled conferences
I am more often opting for in-home, distance-study. This saves money, hassle, time, sleep, and travel!
4) Traded gym shoes for snowshoes
Why breathe in stale sweat clouds in the gym? Think about indoor air pollution, especially in the gym and especially in the winter! Get outside in nature and inhale pure oxygen, positive ions, and get hit with free electrons and beneficial solar radiation — nature’s bountiful recharge treatment!
5) Said no to lecturing opportunities and holiday parties
It can be gratifying to receive an invitation to speak, to attend a party, or host an event, and you may think that is it is always your obligation to show up. Educating is one of the greatest fulfilling experiences and components of my career, and I am an advocate for community involvement. But there is also a time and place to hit the brakes. You have control over your schedule, and health and family is, ideally, your top priority.
6) Switched out an entrepreneur guide for a minimalism book
“You are what you eat,” whether physical or thought food. That is why it is important to fill the body, mind, and soul with the things that we want to become. High achievement is great, but it does not always render high quality of life. Consider how much of your energy may be taken up by things that do not mean the most to you. Gradually diminish the minutia, which creates space to honor the things that you esteem more highly.
7) Cancelled a business trip
Exchanged the event for a personal recharge trip with my husband in the mountains. No cell phones, computers, Internet, or other people. It was the most amazing week of my life because I was fully present and quiet enough to experience it. And guess what? When your marriage and your close relationships are thriving, your health, family, and your career thrive too!
8) Taking a Sabbath
The spiritual concept of a “Sabbath” is not only an ancient religious custom, but, as with the other principles that Jesus advocated for our own good, it is the most superior mental, spiritual, and physical prototype for healing which trumps every other alternative treatment I have ever seen (besides maybe fasting!). It’s ok ... no, it is crucial, to take time away from “real life” to recharge your battery. We often “justify” a day off only if we are using it for something equally “productive.” If you don’t take time away to just “be,” you may one day find that the battery is too far drained to bring it back. It is detrimental to not allot appropriate time for rest.
9) Put my phone on silent during the weekend
You can set your device to allow messages from certain people, which may be necessary in case of an emergency. Keeping the silent mode on blocks the fake sense of urgency you feel when you hear the ding or beep. Let your friends and family know that your weekends are your sacred rejuvenation time and that you will likely not respond for a few days. In your situation, this may be your nights, or days, or whatever time you have “off.” Because technology is addicting, you may, at first, feel lost and agitated without it. But, as with other toxic substances, post-detox you can feel like a brand new, vibrant person without the “hit”!
10) “Flush” the patient
This is the final, and most important point! It may sound harsh, but I am going to share one of my best secrets because it may be the most brilliant, valuable principle I have learned throughout my career. It was originally wisdom from an aged, experienced doctor. He said that his best advice regarding career burnout was to identify the “flusher” and let them flush themselves. In other words, identify the type of patient who is always negative, always finds the bad in the good, sports the “victim” mentality, is unwilling to change unhealthy habits, who always finds a problem for every solution. “Those are the patients that drain the life out of you. Spot them early and flush them!” he said. I had no idea how powerful and wonderful that concept would become for me. This was a defining turning point in my career a number of years ago. My personal action step was to identify those in this category and recommended they switch to another practitioner or provider. It was absolutely true! I could see five people who WANTED to heal for the same energy output that I could see one that didn’t. Immediately, I had more room for those who were on board and ready to fight and win. The strain on my health was lifted when I stopped “accommodating” negativity. Now I automatically screen the personality type I will accept onto my team. It is for their benefit as well as my own. When I encounter the “type,” I say “Let’s divorce before we’re married,” and I refer to another provider who I feel may have a better chance of success with the personality. It is about being true to yourself, respecting your own boundaries, and giving your own health highest priority. It is infinitely empowering to purposefully shift the climate around you to one of positivity. It is not refusing to care. It is caring for YOU as well as for them. I am not sure how this relates to your work environment, your circle of friends, and your personal climate, but I highly recommend you tailor this concept to the way it applies to you. The things that drain you — consider them as opportunities to draw boundaries, say no, and let go. Flush! It is worth it!
“But I won’t make as much money.”
“I may not be able to afford the new car.”
“I may lose clients.”
“I wouldn’t be able to pay the mortgage.”
Yes! You will say YES to SO much more that is SO much better! Letting go of busy, creating fulfilling peace-filled space to smell the roses, releasing toxic people ... sometimes means downsizing, letting go of friends or clients, living with less, or cutting back on spending so that you are free to enjoy simple (more fulfilling) things. What’s more important: enjoying your life, being present, feeling excited and joyful to enter each day, or managing a bunch of stuff that you do not have time to enjoy anyway? My advice is to jump off the chaos bus, get rid of stuff, and make space for life.
Maybe some of the changes I have made will resonate with you; your list may look completely different. But if you find yourself frequently tired or sick, I encourage you to consider making a plan that spells “replenishment” for your body and soul.
Whatever you decide to do, be, or schedule, just remember ... it IS your decision!
Recommended reading & listening:
Simon Sinek on the Millennial Generation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hER0Qp6QJNU “The More of Less” ~ Joshua Becker