Here’s why you feel slightly anxious or tired all the time.
I’m a coach, and I’ve found that so many people who work with me are low-level anxious or tired almost all the time. Here are six things that I’ve come to deeply believe:
1. The opposite of being busy or having “too much” to do isn’t having the “right amount” to do.
The opposite of being busy is having too little to do. The opposite is boredom. Allow me to illustrate:
On the right side of the spectrum, you’re busy and have too much to do. You’ve overstimulated — there’s so much going on! On the left side of the spectrum, there is too little going on. You’re bored. You could go for some more stimulation.
And of course, in the middle of the spectrum, you’re just right — just the right amount of stimulation + activity.
2. You can’t be truly bored if you are on the internet.
There’s just too much to do there. The internet is inherently stimulating. Even if you aren’t actually interested in what you’re looking at, you aren’t on the left side of the spectrum because there’s always more things to click on and explore. Your mind is still moving quickly, transitioning from one thing to another.
Don’t believe me? Think of a time when you were super bored and found yourself clicking from thing to thing: skimming an article, then quickly looking something up on wikipedia, then quickly checking social media or your email. Sure, you might have found all of it uninteresting, but you were doing lots of stuff.
3. If you haven’t felt it lately, boredom can feel very, very uncomfortable.
If we’re used to always being on the go, when we slow down it can feel excruciating. Don’t believe me? Try to spend an afternoon in your home, neither reading nor going on a screen.
As a result…
4. A majority of adults feel bored rarely, or never.
There’s either always “too much” to do, or “just the right amount.” Remember that spectrum I mentioned? Here it is, again:
We’re existing on either the middle or the right end of that spectrum. We’re never, or hardly ever, on the left side. So our average is somewhere closer to the right side of the spectrum. We’re chronically somewhere on the “having too much to do” side.
5. As a result, most of us are chronically stressed, anxious, or tired.
Because we’re chronically busy and overstimulated, we are also chronically stressed, anxious, or tired (emotionally or physically).
And, of course, there are many good reasons for this. Many of us are working long hours, we’re encountering pressure at work, we have significant personal responsibilities, and the state of the world or politics may be stressful.
But many of us don’t realize how we are contributing to our chronic stress, anxiety, or fatigue. Remember #2? We think that after a long day of working or wrangling our children watching something on Netflix, or reading articles online, will make us feel better. And the truth is that it does make us feel better, at least in the short term. However…
6. There’s a certain kind of emotional and physical recovery that can only happen when we have too little to do.
When we get bored and under stimulated, our bodies and our minds relax deeply, allowing for a profound level of emotional and energetic recovery. (Of course, if we’re not used to doing so little, some uncomfortable feelings or thoughts might come up at first, before that relaxation happens).
And then, eventually, doing anything can start to feel interesting.
This happened to me recently — one Sunday night when I truly had nothing to do, after being bored for about an hour, I found myself ironing my sheets, which had never, ever happened before. It ended up being relaxing and weirdly fun and satisfying (not to mention how amazing it was to have ironed sheets!)
And the next morning, I was excited to start working again, because I had been so pleasantly bored, calm, and under stimulated the night before.
I want to be clear: I’m not trying to say that many of us aren’t genuinely way too busy. Many of us are! We have way too much to do! All the time! There’s a wide range of things that we can do to target those issues.
And yet, I also know that most of us are also spending a lot of time engaging with technology — about four hours on our phones according to one study, and perhaps as many as 11 hours a day on some combination of television, computers, and smartphones. Of course, much of that may be for work, but I suspect that many of us are spending a significant chunk of it engaging with technology for pleasure.
It’s worth asking: is it possible that we are contributing — perhaps unintentionally — to that feeling of overwhelm or anxiety or fatigue…through overstimulating ourselves during our downtime?
How much time are you actually spending on the left side — the bored, under stimulated side — of the spectrum?