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  • Heather Mistretta

5 Ways to Stop Being So Busy! Your mind is likely the culprit

The word, busy has meant many different things since its inception. Etymologists said it was a euphemism for "sexually active" in the 17th Century, telephone lines in the late-1880s and display work that was "excessively detailed, visually cluttered" at the start of the 20th Century.

Today, amid the flurry of technology muddled with a flood of social media and a disconnection that no longer exists, we are constantly telling everyone how busy we are.

Everyone and everything are accessible, and It seems as though the standard answer to how are you is no longer “fine, thanks,” but has evolved into a frantic “busy.” But why? You would think with all the innovation and technology that are supposed to streamline processes and shorten the duration it takes to accomplish things, that we would have all sorts of free time. After all, most of us are not plowing fields or spinning a wheel of wool.

But maybe it’s more of a mindset. Perhaps a slight tweak of how we look at life is all we need to untangle the tight web of obligations that clogs our minds, incites stress and deepens the pockets of pharmaceutical companies.

The synonymous term, rat race has been used for nearly a century. In fact, its origin dates back to about 1935 when America was caught in a flux of dichotomies. Although the United States was still reeling from the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression was crippling many, the decade also saw a proliferation of new technologies, especially in the fields of intercontinental aviation, radio and film. By the end of the decade the world was facing a second war.

As a result, Americans across every socioeconomic background were faced with a more urgent need to compete and survive. Analogous to a rat frenetically rushing through a maze to reach the cheese before the next one, a rat race as it pertains to humans is thought to be an endless, self-defeating or pointless pursuit.

Although it may have been viewed in a different way depending on the decade, a rat race always solicits stress and prompts people to think they are busy. The term was used in films, commercials and ads. John Steinbeck used it in his 1947 book "The Wayward Bus," when it was said that the father “was afraid of his friends and his friends were afraid of him. A rat race she thought." Even the mellow Bob Marley popularized the term when he performed "Rat Race" in 1976.

But how can we be less busy, or seemingly busy? Here’s my take:

  1. Stop telling people how busy you are! Try to avoid even using the word. The old term of self-fulfilling prophecy might very well apply here. Try going back to fine, thanks and see what happens. Many adages tell us that we get in return what we reflect, so why wouldn’t that work here?

  2. Embrace the freedoms you have and be grateful for them. Realize that unlike many other countries in this world, you’re not spending days hunting for food, carting cisterns down to the river for clean water or manually mining diamonds to support your family or tribe.

  3. Look forward, not behind….but take your sense of nostalgia along the way and all the lessons and sense of security that go along with it.

  4. Recognize the fact that as you’re busily racing like a rat through a maze of obligations, deadlines, accomplishments and purchases, you’re still a rat.

5. Breathe. It’s not the end of the world if every item on your list is not completed. Perhaps that delay will enable you to complete the task even better. The result will probably be more fulfilling.

So, I’m going to try to not be too busy to enjoy myself. I’m going to relish those moments when I’m doing nothing but thinking or listening to the chirps outside my window. Leave the being too busy to the bees.

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