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'Busy Thoughts': You Need To Do Nothing

I’m a very driven individual, and when people ask: ‘do you work yourself to the bone?’ I respond boldly – ‘No, I work myself to my last nerve’. I take on too many projects, I say yes to virtually everything and even when I am unwell – I am a bed-bound bonfire. I work vigorously on my laptop with my fingers creating small fires from the friction on the keyboard. I am unquestionably… a liability.

I wasn’t always a self-proclaimed workaholic. In fact, quite contrary – I was often found lying in bed with a boyfriend eating ice cream and practicing my own niche of being a professional nap artist. Now, I can see the link. When I am very content, I can become quite complacent and I slow down to enjoy my life – which realistically, everyone should. Although, when I am lacking something, I work myself into a bottomless exhaustion.

I discovered that when you are busy, all you can think about is being busy; you never need to observe what’s really going on with yourself and your life. You know that feeling when you’re ready for bed at night, but having a bit of trouble getting to sleep, so you think about everything? I had become so scared of those moments of being alone with my thoughts that I drowned by brain out with a tidal wave of – not always meaningful - productivity. My logic was: if I have one thousand things on, I can avoid anything undesirable in my life because my brain will be saturated with ‘busy thoughts’.

'Busy thoughts', are both a dream and detrimental. Busy thoughts are great when you are perhaps having a bit of a rough patch, you have a bit of grief or you are just a bit bored; they keep you going and motivate you to channel your energy into something important. Busy thoughts, however, can also serve as a blinding distraction. Addressing how you are feeling and reflecting on what is going on in your life may sound like a simplistic and natural notion, but it doesn’t come easily to all of us. I know that I enjoy ignoring what’s going on in my mind and subdue myself with busy thoughts, until my unrealised issues manifest as a hideous, unavoidable monster. I habitually become so distracted that I forget to really take care of myself by just setting aside the time to do nothing.

I was horribly sick with the flu recently, and whilst I was bed ridden, bingeing episodes of Black Mirror like no tomorrow, I could not switch off my brain and rest. I was plagued with the thoughts of all the things I had to do, all the things I wanted to do and I thus - I kept subconsciously working. I was unwell for sixteen days, and I suppose the reason it took so long to feel better is because mentally, I was exhausted and it cried out from my body. I realised I had run myself into the ground, because my body was wishing for help and rest. I don’t always get that physical warning, which is scary as I am just poising myself for a breakdown.

Having bipolar disorder, I have experienced the red-bullish, sleepless nightmare that is mania and the ‘busy thoughts’ really do not compare. However, running yourself into exhaustion is always bad news – you create the perfect breeding ground for your unattended problems, and your once small issues will surface like vermin when you are drained. I know my illness well enough now to realise that if I take on too much and become stressed, I am tempting a bipolar episode, so realistically – with my recent bout of flu – I have to thank my body for reminding me of the importance of rest.

After taking some time off over Christmas, I feel energised and ready to conquer the world again. Nonetheless, this time – I’m going to reawaken my professional nap artist alter ego from time to time, because it really is exhausting work being exhausted.

Don’t be afraid to take a break to recharge your batteries, it doesn’t mean you’re lazy or wasting time – it honestly just shows that you’re mature enough to seek out balance in your life, giving both your mind and body a little TLC. Set aside a moment, even a day in your calendar, to have no plans and just rest. It’s small, but it’s life changing.