Flourishing with Sensory Processing Sensitivity
The Disease of Being Busy
By: Omid Safi
I saw a dear friend a few days ago. I stopped by to ask her how she was doing, how her family was. She looked up, voice lowered, and just whimpered: “I’m so busy… I am so busy… have so much going on.”
Almost immediately after, I ran into another friend and asked him how he was. Again, same tone, same response: “I’m just so busy… got so much to do.”
The tone was exacerbated, tired, even overwhelmed.
And it’s not just adults. When we moved to North Carolina about ten years ago, we were thrilled to be moving to a city with a great school system. We found a diverse neighborhood, filled with families. Everything felt good, felt right.
After we settled in, we went to one of the friendly neighbors, asking if their daughter and our daughter could get together and play. The mother, a really lovely person, reached for her phone and pulled out the calendar function. She scrolled… and scrolled… and scrolled. She finally said: “She has a 45-minute opening two and half weeks from now. The rest of the time it’s gymnastics, piano, and voice lessons. She’s just…. so busy.”
Horribly destructive habits start early, really early.
How did we end up living like this? Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we do this to our children? When did we forget that we are human beings, not human doings?
Whatever happened to a world in which kids get muddy, get dirty, get messy, and heavens, get bored? Do we have to love our children so much that we overschedule them, making them stressed and busy — just like us?
What happened to a world in which we can sit with the people we love so much and have slow conversations about the state of our heart and soul, conversations that slowly unfold, conversations with pregnant pauses and silences that we are in no rush to fill?
How did we create a world in which we have more and more and more to do with less time for leisure, less time for reflection, less time for community, less time to just… be?
Somewhere we read, “The unexamined life is not worth living… for a human.” How are we supposed to live, to examine, to be, to become, to be fully human when we are so busy?
This disease of being “busy” (and let’s call it what it is, the dis-ease of being busy, when we are never at ease) is spiritually destructive to our health and wellbeing. It saps our ability to be fully present with those we love the most in our families, and keeps us from forming the kind of community that we all so desperately crave.
Since the 1950s, we have had so many new technological innovations that we thought (or were promised) would make our lives easier, faster, simpler. Yet, we have no more “free” or leisurely time today than we did decades ago.
For some of us, the “privileged” ones, the lines between work and home have become blurred. We are on our devices. All. The. Freaking. Time.
Smart phones and laptops mean that there is no division between the office and home. When the kids are in bed, we are back online.
One of my own daily struggles is the avalanche of email. I often refer to it as my jihad against email. I am constantly buried under hundreds and hundreds of emails, and I have absolutely no idea how to make it stop. I’ve tried different techniques: only responding in the evenings, not responding over weekends, asking people to schedule more face-to-face time. They keep on coming, in volumes that are unfathomable: personal emails, business emails, hybrid emails. And people expect a response — right now. I, too, it turns out… am so busy.
The reality looks very different for others. For many, working two jobs in low-paying sectors is the only way to keep the family afloat. Twenty percent of our children are living in poverty, and too many of our parents are working minimum wage jobs just to put a roof over their head and something resembling food on the table. We are so busy.
The old models, including that of a nuclear family with one parent working outside the home (if it ever existed), have passed away for most of us. We now have a majority of families being single families, or where both parents are working outside the home. It is not working.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
In many Muslim cultures, when you want to ask them how they’re doing, you ask: in Arabic, Kayf haal-ik? or, in Persian, Haal-e shomaa chetoreh? How is your haal?
What is this haal that you inquire about? It is the transient state of one’s heart. In reality, we ask, “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?” When I ask, “How are you?” that is really what I want to know.
I am not asking how many items are on your to-do list, nor asking how many items are in your inbox. I want to know how your heart is doing, at this very moment. Tell me. Tell me your heart is joyous, tell me your heart is aching, tell me your heart is sad, tell me your heart craves a human touch. Examine your own heart, explore your soul, and then tell me something about your heart and your soul.
Tell me you remember you are still a human being, not just a human doing. Tell me you’re more than just a machine, checking off items from your to-do list. Have that conversation, that glance, that touch. Be a healing conversation, one filled with grace and presence.
Put your hand on my arm, look me in the eye, and connect with me for one second. Tell me something about your heart, and awaken my heart. Help me remember that I too am a full and complete human being, a human being who also craves a human touch.
I teach at a university where many students pride themselves on the “study hard, party hard” lifestyle. This might be a reflection of many of our lifestyles and our busy-ness — that even our means of relaxation is itself a reflection of that same world of overstimulation. Our relaxation often takes the form of action-filled (yet mindless) films, or violent and fast-paced sports.
I don’t have any magical solutions. All I know is that we are losing the ability to live a truly human life.
We need a different relationship to work, to technology. We know what we want: a meaningful life, a sense of community, a balanced existence. It’s not just about “leaning in” or faster iPhones. We want to be truly human.
“It takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your own soul than it does for a soldier to fight on a battlefield.”
How exactly are we supposed to examine the dark corners of our soul when we are so busy? How are we supposed to live the examined life?
I am always a prisoner of hope, but I wonder if we are willing to have the structural conversation necessary about how to do that, how to live like that. Somehow we need a different model of organizing our lives, our societies, our families, our communities.
I want my kids to be dirty, messy, even bored — learning to become human. I want us to have a kind of existence where we can pause, look each other in the eye, touch one another, and inquire together: Here is how my heart is doing? I am taking the time to reflect on my own existence; I am in touch enough with my own heart and soul to know how I fare, and I know how to express the state of my heart.
How is the state of your heart today?
Let us insist on a type of human-to-human connection where when one of us responds by saying, “I am just so busy,” we can follow up by saying, “I know, love. We all are. But I want to know how your heart is doing.”
Why Canceling Plans Is So Satisfying
By: Maggie Puniewska
If you’ve lived and breathed and owned a phone in the 21st century, chances are high that you’ve participated in what I like to call cancel-reschedule ping-pong: You make plans but somebody has to bail, so you move the date; sometimes it only takes one reschedule to pin things down, but some encounters stretch into full-on tournament mode, each of you lobbing proposed times at each other until you’re both fatigued by the whole thing. Things go one of two ways: Either you eventually abandon the meetup, or you let it sink further and further into the future, hoping that one day, by some astrological miracle, your calendars will finally align. (For reference, The New Yorker’s “Let’s Get Drinks” nails this phenomenon pretty well.)
It’s annoying, sure, but if you’re being honest with yourself, doesn’t it also feel at least a little good to bail? Comedian John Mulaney once quipped: “In terms of instant relief, canceling plans is like heroin … such instant joy.” I can’t disagree. As a reformed former chronic canceler, I knew that feeling all too well — the relief that would flood me like an endorphin rush after I flaked on brunches, after-work drinks, Tinder dates (a specialty), yoga classes, and networking events.
And I never had to search too hard for justification, either. The internet is rife with guides on how to reschedule (like an adult, gracefully, professionally, without feeling guilty), explainers on why people are flaky, and articles proclaiming that making plans is too hard because we’re all busy and stressed. But eventually, I began to wonder why I enjoyed it so much. These are my friends, and these are activities I supposedly want to do; why, then, did I feel at more at ease than sorry when I bailed?
Let’s get one thing out of the way: Social anxiety can play a role, but just because you choose canceling more than going out doesn’t necessarily mean you have a sign of the condition. “With social anxiety, you have a fear of being judged or rejected in social situations,” says Simon Rego, chief of psychology at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. “A lot of people with anxiety disorders manage their triggers with avoidance, and feel relieved when they don’t have to enter a situation that’s challenging for them.”
But neurobiologist Amy Banks, a therapist specializing in relational disconnection and the author of Wired to Connect, explains that it’s perfectly normal to feel a little bit of dread before social functions. People with social anxiety may continue to feel distressed throughout; for most people, though, those worries typically to dissipate once they’re there and in the groove. The challenge is in getting to that point.
According to Banks, one explanation for the joy of canceling is pretty straightforward: Some people’s schedules really are just that demanding, and flaking on plans is the easiest path to some much-needed downtime. “A lot of people underestimate how much they can take on, so canceling feels good because they just have too much going on and actually really need a night off,” she says.
It’s also possible that the joy you find in canceling is more a reflection of how you feel about the person you’re canceling on. “We might have relationships that don’t really feel mutual or equal, like when someone constantly hijacks the conversation or is condescending,” Banks explains. “Meeting up with those people might be stressful or draining, so we might experience relief when canceling because we don’t feel great about seeing them.” If that’s the case, she adds, you should spend some time figuring out if this is a connection that you want to work on improving or one that it’s okay to let go of, even temporarily.
And when the person in question is someone you rarely see face-to-face, it can feel like a monumental effort to make the leap from keeping tabs over social media to real-life interactions — compared to the ease of sending an occasional text or scrolling through an Instagram feed, in-person meetups can feel messy and inconvenient. “People feel that their needs for contact are met by keeping up with their [phone] so, being with people [in person] becomes burdensome,” says Sherry Turkle, director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self and the author of Reclaiming Conversation. “Meeting up can be stressful, but online or via text, our relationships are tidy: We can hide what we want to hide and evade people when things get uncomfortable.”
The flip side of this, of course, is that if a friendship exists primarily in the digital world, ditching your in-person plans can feel like an inconsequential act. “When we cancel plans online, we don’t have to see or hear the other’s disappointment or sadness,” Rego says. “When you have to encounter that person and their emotional reaction face-to-face, it becomes harder to bail, because you really have to process that you’re making someone potentially feel bad.”
But here’s what I wish I knew during my own stint as a chronic flake: The best way to break the habit is to just make fewer plans. If you’re really busy — and I mean truly engulfed in obligations, not just pretending to be busy— then don’t commit to things you won’t have the energy to follow through on. And either way, as Banks puts it, “Don’t make plans with people you feel ambivalent about.” It robs you of that sweet sensation of relief that comes from sending a “something came up” text, but it’s also much kinder — to the other person, yes, but also to your future self. Eventually, rescheduling ping-pong just gets exhausting.
25 Ways To Hack Your Holidays
By: Mike from List25
One of the most compelling talks on holiday stress and management I have ever heard by the brilliant Dr. Shefali
Conscious Holiday Detox Webinar
By: Dr. Shefali Tsabary
In this together,