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Overwhelmed? Declare war on 'busy pride'

To-do list as long as your arm? Head about to explode? In last part of a series of pieces on feeling overwhelmed in our lives, Oliver Burkeman gives us the lowdown on how to change the way we think about everything we're trying to fit in

by Psychologies

after-school activities

All too often, tips and tricks for fighting ‘overwhelm’ seem to hinder, not help. Even worse, time-use research indicates that we’re not busier than we used to be, on average. We have plenty of spare time, researchers say – so why doesn’t it feel that way? All this suggests that feeling overwhelmed is not a simple question of having too much to do, but a tricky psychological trap.

So, here is the best current thinking on finding your way out – and reclaiming some breathing - space to enjoy life again.

Declare war on ‘busy pride’

If you’re completely honest, do you feel a minor thrill when you’re asked ‘how are you?’ and you can reply, ‘I’m so busy’?

Most of us get an ego-boost from busyness: it alleviates insecurity, making us feel important. But that short-term boost is a long-term recipe for misery.

A few years ago, New Yorker Catherine Crawford set out to borrow parenting techniques from France, recording the experience in her book Why French Children Don’t Talk Back (John Murray, £9.99).

‘One of the best and most lasting changes was to cut my two young daughters’ extra-curricular activities from five to one,’ Crawford recalls. ‘Instead of agonising over schedules and rushing from one kid’s karate to the other’s cooking class, we went home. After adjusting to a life without constant stimulation, my kids grew much happier. We all did.’

Photograph: iStock

More inspiration:

Read It's time to stop the glorification of busy by Jules Mitchell on LifeLabs

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