Detox the Stress: Learning to cope without being busy


By AUDREY JENKINS – STAFF WRITER

You’re busy.

Don’t bother denying it, because we all know it’s true. I can taste it in the Cowan coffee you gulp down like water to stay awake during your afternoon classes.

I can see it in the bags under your eyes as you scribble yet another club meeting into your already full planner. I can smell it in the nervous air that surrounds you as you pull out a pencil to take the quiz you didn’t have time to study for yesterday.

I can feel it in the way you rush by me with little more than a half-smile and a “howareyoufinethankshaveaniceday.”

And of course, I can hear it in your voice when you tell me that you’d love to, but you’re too busy.

You’re not sleeping enough. You’re not exercising enough. You might be eating enough, but the jury is still out as to whether Taco Bell and Ramen should be counted as real food. You are stressed and haggard and tired. You are busy. Super freaking busy.

But do you want to know the sickest thing about all of this?

You kinda like it.

Have you ever heard a conversation that goes like this?

“Hey, how are you?” “Good! I only got three hours of sleep last night because I have three tests today and I had practice until eight, but it’s all good!” “OMG, I know! I only got 2.5 hours of sleep last night because I have three tests today and a presentation and I was in meetings until nine, but hey, sleep when you’re dead, ya know?”

This, my friends, is called the art of “out-busying.” As far as I can tell, out-busying is simply one-upping someone else when they tell you how busy they are.

You got three hours of sleep? I got two. You took three tests? I took three and a half. You haven’t showered in two days? Gurl, I haven’t showered all month.

Yes, it sounds a bit ridiculous, but we’ve all done it or at least seen someone else do it. Or maybe you never talk about your busy-ness, but deep inside, you are proud of your packed schedule. Either way, it’s time for this mentality to end.

Somewhere along the lines, our culture started glorifying busy-ness. If you’re not busy, you must be doing something wrong. If your planner isn’t full, you’re probably lazy, unintelligent, or pathetically under-ambitious.

Don’t you know how bad the job market is? Don’t you realize that we go to a small liberal arts school in Kentucky and that you best be filling up your resume or risk facing eternal unemployment and certain doom?

I’m not faulting you for wanting to work hard to achieve your goals. It’s true that the job market is not the best, especially for the liberal arts majors of the world.

Honestly, Centre students, I truly and deeply admire you for your work ethic and your ambitions. They set you apart from the apathetics, the complacents, and the “I just want to party and have funs” of this world.

But there is a difference between hard work and busy-ness. Hard work is when you devote yourself to those things that you are passionate about. Hard work is when you give yourself to the people and places and ideas and projects and things that you care truly and deeply for.

Busy-ness, on the other hand, is when you fill your planner because you think a full day will fill your empty soul. When you strip everything else away, we are all just pilgrims on this crazy, random, exciting, terrifying, beautiful journey called life.

We are the dreamers and the believers. We want to use our passions to change the world. We want to leave our mark on the people and places we encounter. We want to fall in love and find our niche and be happy and healthy and successful, whatever that means.

Yet we are scared that we won’t ever reach these goals. We are secretly terrified that maybe we aren’t talented or intelligent enough to be the people we want to be or do the things we want to do. We are scared that we aren’t doing enough and that maybe our entire existence is in some way worthless.

So instead of just giving up and flopping around on the floor (we’re too young and idealistic to do that yet), we fill our days with stuff. Surely if my entire day is booked from 8 a.m to 8 p.m. I can’t be worthless?

Surely if I have enough internships and club memberships and team captainships under my belt I must be doing something right? Wrong. Dead wrong.

Please don’t think that I’m accusing you of anything right now. We are all victims to this mentality. We weren’t born with a planner and pen in our hands, scheduling meetings and trying to find a way to intravenously inject caffeine into our systems. It’s a culturally circulated idea that we have fallen prey to, but I think we can fight it.

So I know this is going to sound cheesy, but take some time off. Stop glorifying busy-ness. Stop trying to out-busy others.

I understand that it feels good to be busy sometimes. You feel important when you’re busy and that feels good. But it doesn’t feel good when you’re pulling consecutive all-nighters or waking up to 60 emails or falling asleep at your desk.

It doesn’t feel good to be too busy to call mom or have life chats with your roommate.

Take time to be with your friends. Some of the best people I have ever met go to this school and I can’t imagine better people to become lifelong friends with. Take time to be by yourself. The best ideas I have ever had have come to me while I was running, playing the piano, or in the shower — all solitary activities for me. Sometimes you just need to take time to reflect. To be present in the moment. To be inspired.

I’m not saying that you should become a sloth. Or even an inspired sloth.

Centre students work hard and do awesome things. You are the present and the future of our world and that’s not a task to be taken lightly. But if you’re ever feeling empty or lost or confused or alone, please don’t fill that void with more work just because you’re seeking fulfillment.

Work hard, but do it because you want to, not because you feel like you have to in order to be “successful.” The future can be scary, but you are capable and it’s time to start believing it.

If the world was your oyster and your possibilities were infinite and limitless and you could have it all, what would you choose to do with your time? Would you be a singer? Play soccer? Blow glass? Go fishing? Hang out with your best friends? Read about neuroscience? Watch documentaries? Knit in an armchair?

Whatever those things are for you, do them. Even as you are working hard in school or at your job, make time for the things that you love, because they will keep you sane. Even better, they will make you happy — far happier than just being busy will.

And if none has convinced you yet, just think of it this way: no one ever laid on their deathbed and said, “I wish I’d been busier.”


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