Behavioral Psychology

Managing a Hectic Schedule

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Many purposefully make their lives way too busy in order to avoid a confrontation with existential anxiety. For these people the route to well-being is bringing this fact into conscious awareness and then restructuring their lives, getting rid of all of the activities that are really just part of the deeper unconscious strategy to keep from having to contemplate their existential situations.

But some really are super busy, pulled in many directions at once, directions that all demand attention. If you fall into this category the physical and emotional toll can be quite severe. Stress is eventually going to catch up with you in the form of physical or mental illness if you don’t do something to find moments of relaxation and ease.

A really helpful distinction to make is between quality of time and quantity of time. You can have all the free time in the world but not use it very well to recharge, and conversely you can use small blocks of time to the fullest and do a lot of good for your psyche. The best thing you can do for yourself is to start cultivating your daily practice of mindfulness by focusing on your breathing during these small blocks of time.

An idea we have that uses the power of behavioral psychology to your advantage is to treat all the emails, phone calls, text messages, and other pings that you receive all day every day as stimuli telling you to devote a small block of time, even just the next ten seconds, to mindful breathing. Using stimuli is great because at first you have to remember to enact your behavior, but after some time it becomes a conditioned response, meaning that the stimuli will call the behavior out without you needing to think about it. You will just go directly to your deep breathing. This happens for me any time I walk anywhere now, because I have been practicing walking meditation long enough that my organism physiologically associates the act of walking with deep breathing. Often I’ve been walking for a bit before even remembering that I am supposed to start breathing deeply, but of course I already am.

When the phone rings, let it ring three or four times and use that interval to sit with your breath. When you hear that ping signifying a voice message, don’t reach directly for it but do the same thing as with the phone ringing and breathe mindfully for a few seconds first. You can think up as many different stimuli as fit your specific life situation. The biggest thing when you start out is to be committed to the practice but not get down on yourself when you forget. Just recognize the lapse without judgment and resolve to focus on your mindful breathing on the next ping. Before long this behavior will hardwire and you’ll start breathing deeply when activated by a ping without needing to think about it. If you can mindfully breathe throughout your day, even if it’s only during small blocks of time at first, you will be doing a lot of good for your physical and mental well-being. Your slow, rhythmic breathing will directly combat the mounting stress of a busy life