How Pausing Can Help Overcome Your Busy Addiction

“Busy is a drug that a lot of people are addicted to.” – Unknown

While busy is not my drug of choice (that is probably sunshine or fresh air), it is a drug I struggle with mightily. In fact, I am concerned that I am among the throngs in today’s world who have developed an addiction to being busy.

What is addiction?

Addiction has a range of physical, psychological and social effects that drastically reduce an individual’s quality of living. Medical News Today lists the following as symptoms of addiction:

  • Appetite changes.
  • Sleeplessness.
  • Continued use despite health problems.
  • A readiness to make sacrifices of things or activities that previously brought joy.
  • Solitude.
  • Increased tolerance of the substance.
  • An inability to stop using.
  • Withdrawal symptoms.

Even a cursory scan of that list leaves me feeling confident (and concerned) that busy-ness is a drug and that the world I live in is experiencing an epidemic of addiction to it. Personally speaking, busy-ness changes the way my body and mind function. More critically, after a busy spell, I have a hard time living without it.

How busy-ness affects me

Busy-ness has an array of notable physical effects for me. My breathing is shallower. My heart beats faster. Some of my muscles (I store stress in my neck and shoulders) are tense and tight enough that they wake me up. My appetite changes – I’m either starving or I forget to eat. My digestion can be unsettled and sluggish when my life is spinning hazardously quickly. My sleep patterns change, too. Busy-ness can leave me feeling both exhausted and virtually sleepless.

My emotions, state of mind and behavior also change when I’m busy. I am less even-keeled. Something that would normally have been a mere annoyance can turn into a major upset. I have noticed that when I’m extremely busy I can feel either a little manic or a little depressed. When I am busy, I am (100% of the time) anxious. I over-think, over-worry and over-plan. I can be sharp-tongued when I’m dashing from task to task. Being busy can render me uber focused or nearly useless as I struggle to gather my thoughts. When I’m busy, I tend to “turtle” – withdrawing from my community into a shell of solitude.

Most frighteningly, I have a very hard time slowing down to embrace being less busy. As counterintuitive as it might seem, when my busy-ness diminishes or vanishes, I often feel my anxiety spike even higher. I can feel unsettled and aimless. I have a hard time remembering what I enjoy doing. It can be a challenge to re-connect with the world and people around me even though I have more time to do so. Slowing down can send me into what feels like a form of withdrawal from the adrenaline-infused state of being wildly busy.

Overcoming the busy-ness addiction

So, if you, like me, suspect you are addicted to being busy, what can you do?

Well, I have found that the first step is to openly acknowledge my addiction. While I don’t go to any addiction meetings, when I feel myself rev up, it helps to pause and say to myself, “Hello, my name is Amy and I am addicted to being busy.” Until we can recognize that busy-ness is a problem that is causing us to suffer, there is no way we will be able to – in a world that glorifies busy-ness – muster the strength to change that way we’re living.

I am also learning the magic of a higher-self-mandated “pause.” These breaks in the action do not have to be especially meaningful or even long. For instance, I go out back and sit in a sunbeam on the steps of my patio. Or I sit on the floor and pet a dog or a cat. Or I stand in the backyard and eat a handful of raspberries or crunch a carrot stick or two. As long as they don’t create more sensations of busy-ness, I have some longer “pauses” that I enjoy – walks with a friend, chats with my sister or the chance to curl up to read a little of my book.

The three rules of the “pause”

There are rules to these “pauses” of mine. First, there is no clicking or scrolling or even a phone involved (except when it is being used for its original purpose – to talk to someone who is not with you). As much as I love to play Words with Friends and Boggle on my phone, these minutes are not “pauses” for the simple reason that they do not leave me feeling rested or restored. They feel more like time-fillers between tasks.

Second, there is no productivity involved in a “pause.” In other words, I cannot be doing anything that I can check off my list afterwards. For example, as cathartic as pulling weeds in my garden is for me, that does not count as a pause. The same goes for what I choose to read. As much as I love reading about spirituality and yoga, those books and articles count as “work” and therefore not as “pauses.”

Lastly, there can be no pre-determined end time to my “pauses.” I find that if I’m watching a clock, I don’t fully surrender to my break in the action of my day. A “pause” for me lasts as long as it takes. Something shifts inside of me, I take a deep breath, smile and step back into my day.

Transforming your pace of life

If you, like me, settle very easily into being busy, or even derive a little pride from how very much you can accomplish in a single day, take another look at your relationship with busy-ness. Make sure you’re not hooked on being busy. If you are, do not despair. Perhaps adding some self-mandated “pauses” into your days can help you establish a healthier pace to your life. It sure helps me!


If you need to take time out from your busy addiction, why not come along to one of our classes, so you can strengthen and tone your body while you calm and quiet your mind.