Do You Avoid Feelings by Over-Working?

Do you often say, "I can't because I have to work?" This might be avoidance.

Posted Jun 22, 2020

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I felt naked, as if someone stole my clothes while I was skinny-dipping.

My friend had just said, “I know you are busy but I also think you like saying that.” 

I stopped breathing for a long while.

I wanted to defend myself and explain that she was wrong and I was worn out from being busy and would do anything for a break.

But that was a lie. 

I felt in every cell of my body that she was right.

Saying and feeling “I am so busy” is my badge of honor.

When I’m working a lot then I feel productive, worthy, and important.

But, I also say a lot that I want a break or some time off. 

The question was then: Why wasn’t I taking it?

Does this sound familiar to you?

Do you go to bed wishing you had more time and wake up feeling the dread of all the things you have to do?

Do you feel a high when you accomplish things off your to-do list and then quickly tackle a new project?

Do you feel proud when you hear yourself say, “I have so much going on?”

If so, you might do what I do—use work to avoid strong feelings and set boundaries.

Here is how to tell if you do this:

Do you often find yourself saying,

“I wish I could, but I have to work.”

“Work is just too busy right now for me to take a break.”

“I feel bad asking others to cover for me.”

Or do you find yourself:

Feeling antsy at times of the day and opening your computer to work?

If you answered yes, then keep reading because I have a suggestion on how you can rip that badge of overwork off your chest.

If you are working to avoid feelings, to set boundaries, or to feel worthy, then you are using work as a way to calm your frazzled nervous system

At some point in your life, you learned that by working or telling others that you are busy, you were able to feel safe and at ease.

Think back to when you might have developed this skill.

Did your parents intrude on your space anytime you were not clearly working on homework?

Were you able to clearly say "no" to family engagements if you had work to do?

You want to ask yourself how working or staying busy protected you from feeling uncomfortable. 

Pull out a journal and write about your relationship to work.

Write about how it feels to work and how it feels to tell others you have a lot to get done.

Notice what rewards being busy brings you.

Now that you know how being busy allows you to feel, see if you can set a goal for this week to find 30 minutes where you don’t work or do your busy tasks and instead simply sit and notice your feelings.

If 30 minutes feels too long, try it for five minutes. 

The important thing here is to simply notice what you feel when you are not working.

If being busy and working is protecting you from experiencing your feelings we want to loosen your grip on work.

If you don’t try to loosen the grip, it will simply get tighter and tighter and you will burn out.

Can you commit to trying it this week? What time period will you pick?