Recently a colleague and I were discussing a reoccurring theme among the people to whom we provide counseling: a theme best described as “time sickness.” Time sickness is a term originally coined in 1982 by Larry Dossey, author and physician, who defined time sickness as:
The belief that… time is always slipping away, that there is never enough of it, and that we must go faster and faster to keep up. (Source)
This definition of time sickness reminds me of the three money myths Lynn Twist outlines in her book Soul of Money. They are:
- There is never enough.
- More is better.
- That is the way it will always be.
No matter what the resource is – time, money, or something else – if we believe the resource is finite and finite is bad, then we move into a scarcity mindset.
“Wait,” you say, “resources are finite. How can I pretend otherwise?”
You are not wrong. There are finite limits to most resources. (Love feels like an exception to this rule.) Believing the opposite, that there is an inexhaustible supply, is a major contributing factor to our current climate crisis. Clearly when you treat the planet as a blank check, there are consequences.
Acknowledging something is finite is one thing. After all, there are only 24 hours in a day. The interpretation you give to this fact is what defines your mindset.
Time sickness, which embraces a scarcity mindset, is rooted in anxiety.
While there are many reasons for a person to feel anxious about time, here are some laments which I frequently hear:
- If I don’t do it, then it won’t get done.
- I can’t let them down. I promised them.
- I have no choice.
- Something bad will happen if I don’t do it.
These laments reflect unconscious beliefs which we absorbed through our family and our culture. They hold us hostage and create a feeling of stuckness.
The same culture, which not only engenders stuckness, also rewards people for staying busy. Being busy is the new badge of honor. “I’d love to… but I am too busy.” Getting things done becomes another way to compete with others and to judge.
When I hear, “It must be nice to have time to [insert leisure activity],” I hear condemnation but I also hear envy. I suspect the envy is less about the leisure activity and more about my ability to let go of the external pressure to constantly perform.
Some days the ability to tune out a world in which people and devices are competing for my attention is extremely difficult. I feel anxious if I attempt to slow down, rest, or God forbid, do something fun. On days like these, I do the following:
- I ask myself: What do I think will happen if I do not complete the assignments I gave myself? Follow-up question: Are these things true?
- I tell myself that taking a break will help me more than pushing through. I then give myself permission to take at least a 15-minute break. Movement breaks, I have found, are the most useful.
- I remind myself how I felt the last time I skipped eating/exercising/meditating/playing. I then ask myself, Do you really want to feel that way again?
- If I experience restlessness, irritability, or nervousness upon stopping my incessant checking-off-the-boxes behavior, then I tell myself these feelings are symptoms of withdrawal – withdrawal from busyness. I remind myself that I have and I will move through withdrawal. It is temporary.
Time sickness is the natural by-product of unconscious capitalism. It is curable and requires:
- acknowledging the people and organizations who profit from our labor
- changing our beliefs around work (both in and out of the home)
- building community which supports slowing down
- being in relationship with our “resources” opposed to owning them
The next time you catch yourself saying you are “busy” do something radical and rest. Let’s stop rewarding busy behavior and instead encourage love and compassion for ourselves and for others.
Kim Bushore-Maki is a soul-driven entrepreneur who understands the undeniable urge to create a business and a life filled with meaning and purpose. Her vision of opening a center where women could heal and grow led her to open Shakti in the Mountains in Johnson City, Tennessee: a place where the creative, feminine energy is nurtured and valued.
Since 2010, Kim continues to build and to support a healthy, vibrant community and now guides retreats, teaches yoga, and provides one-on-one services for women who want an immersion experience into the life-affirming, Shakti energy.
Kim’s training as a therapist and yoga teacher allows her to safely and compassionately guide women on a heart-centered journey to Self, where women re-connect with their beautiful, authentic spirit.
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