Before the pandemic, I had a goal to stay home at least two nights a week.  Most weeks I was unsuccessful. I was feeling overwhelmed and exhausted with my work, music, social and family schedule.

Almost everything on my schedule was positive and fun, but it was simply too much. I’m aware that this sounds pretty entitled and privileged. I feel huge gratitude for the comfort, love, family, friendships, music and professional partnerships that surround me. I think about these things every day and when I get whiny or grumpy, I feel guilty and spoiled (wah, wah, I’m so busy doing fun and fulfilling things, poor me). It’s a side of myself that sometimes makes me cringe a bit.

You think YOUR busy?!

You know how the things you don’t like about yourself tend to annoy you even more when other people do them? Well this whiny/busy side of myself makes me ultra-sensitive when other people complain about being too busy. I start thinking “you think YOUR busy…well you have no idea”. My friend Susan reminds me that being busy is not a race. She’s so wise, that Susan. I think many of us get into the habit of talking about how busy we are, so when someone asks how we’ve been, we say “I’m soo busy!”. Before the pandemic, I was practicing a different approach. Instead of automatically responding when someone asked how I was, I tried to process for just a second longer before speaking. Maybe acknowledge when work was manageable, or we weren’t playing as much music, or when things were going smoothly with my dad’s care.

The busy list

One of my most uncomfortable habits is listing all of the things I have going on, especially when I have to say “no” to an invitation. I tend to worry that people might take it personally if I decline, so I want them to know there is a valid reason. Now there’s a little bit of self-importance for ya. Why would I assume that my absence might somehow cause heartache? When my friends decline an invitation, I don’t typically assume they don’t want to see me. Okay, so there are a few more things that might be at play when I break out my busy list. There’s a chance I could subconsciously be “playing the martyr” or fishing for a little sympathy. There is also the unbecoming possibility that it makes me feel important to talk about how very busy I am. Likely, it’s a combination of all of these things which feels yucky to put down in words. That said, writing it down feels liberating and might be a good step towards both mindfulness and self-awareness (insert deep inhale…hold…and release slowly).

Please talk to my scheduler

My friend Mike reminds me that I’m the one who’s in charge of my schedule. Wait, what?! He’s wise, that Mike.  So, what am I going to do when then pandemic takes a turn and we’re able to mingle again? What will it be like to drive around the state to attend in-person meetings, gather with friends, go to band practice and play music in public?  I’m actually getting nervous about falling back into my old pattern. I want to see the people I care about and I also want to be less busy and stop talking about how busy I am. I want to continue attending meetings virtually when I can. I want to remember that when I decline a social invitation, my people will understand and not doubt how much I care about them. I want to play music without over committing. I want to honor the introverted side of me that I seem to have misplaced when I found my career in public relations and started playing live music. Most of all, I want to be home more than two nights a week. Maybe I’ll aim for going out only two nights a week (which I think was Susan’s idea too). If I can work towards these things, I’m pretty sure it will be a good step towards greater mental health and wellness.

If you’re tired of saying how busy you are too, here’s a good article:

Stop saying ‘I’m so busy.’ Harvard researchers say this is what successful people do instead

Thank you for reading! Please stay safe and well.

Linda Quon is Vice President and Director of Communication at Quon Design and Communication. Linda is working to promote everyday mental health awareness in partnership with Deschutes County Health Services and Central Oregon Health Council — which includes providers and health advocates from Crook, Jefferson, and Deschutes Counties. Linda was born and raised in Southern California and moved to Central Oregon with her husband and two children in 2005. Her mother lived with Schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder and her oldest brother also experienced bi-polar disorder. With support from family, friends, therapists and primary care providers, Linda has been navigating the world of mental illness most of her life — including her own struggles with mild anxiety and depression. Linda is proud to work as an advocate for mental health and a blogger for Mind Your Mind Central Oregon.

Feature photo courtesy of Eric Rothermel on Unsplash