Do you often answer “busy” when people ask how things are?

It can be all too easy to slip into a state of constantly doing more. In fact, you might feel like you never get enough done, even though you seem to be busy all of the time.

It can seem like it’s just a requirement of modern life. However, restless “busyness” is often a coping mechanism for anxiety.

If you stay busy enough, you can keep your mind from thinking about important things. In other words, you can push away your anxiety.

However, this coping mechanism eventually fails. Either you choose to slow down or life forces you to do so. Then you are left with your restless mind. Therefore, taking steps now to tame your restlessness can go a long way towards easing current and future anxiety issues.

1. Exercise

man and woman jogging over a bridgeRestlessness often manifests in the body. It feels like you can’t sit still. Therefore, it helps to physically get moving. Exercise burns extra adrenaline. Eventually, you do need to deal with the underlying issues. However, it’s a lot easier to do when your body is calm.

Incorporate a regular exercise routine into your life. If possible, spend more time in nature (hiking, biking, running) than in the gym. You don’t want exercise to become another goal to check off of your “to do” list.

2. Practice Breathing

Learning to stay present in your body is critical for reducing restlessness. Deep breathing is a key tool. There are many different types of breathing exercises. For example, try the 4-7-8 exercise (also known as The Relaxing Breath).

  • Inhale slowly through your nose for a count of four.
  • Hold the breath for a count of seven.
  • Exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of eight.
  • Repeat the entire process three more times or as many as necessary.

3. Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation

This technique is useful when you’re too restless to “just breathe.” There is a specific process that you can learn fairly easily. The gist of it is that you tense and then loosen each of your body’s muscles one at a time. The act of tensing and relaxing helps with focus and relaxation.

4. Do One Thing at a Time

Research increasingly reveals that we aren’t as good at multi-tasking as we think. We actually get more done when we do one task at a time. Nevertheless, we often try to busy ourselves with many tasks at once. This is a symptom of our society. It can also be a symptom of trying to outpace anxiety. Instead, practice single-tasking.

When you cook, just cook. Don’t turn on the TV, check your email, or answer phone calls. When you take a bath, focus on getting clean or relaxing your body, not on what you need to do when you’re done bathing.

This is essentially mindfulness practice. Be present doing what you are doing. Do one thing and do it well. Let the rest go. It definitely takes practice, but it is well worth the effort.

5. Define Self-Care

Self-care is a popular phrase. It has also come to frustrate a lot of people. After all, you already have so much to do, how can you add more to it? In other words, people feel shame because they aren’t taking care of themselves “the right way.”

The thing is, all of the self-care tips in the world don’t matter if they aren’t right for you. Instead, take the time to define what self-care really means for you. If mani-pedis feel like a chore, instead of an indulgence, don’t force yourself to get them. Instead, use that time to do what feels restful and rejuvenating.

6. Get Curious about Why You’re So Busy

Take the time to get to know yourself. Ask yourself why you stay so busy all of the time. Don’t settle for the simple answer (“my family needs me to put food on the table”). Instead, dig deeper.

Learn about anxiety and see how its traits might hinder you. Question the root of your restlessness. Do this all without self-judgment. The more you learn about your experience, the more power you have to change it if you so desire.

Anxiety has many symptoms and manifests in different ways for different people. Learn more about how therapy can help you slow down and reflect. I am here to help.