If you constantly wish you could turn down the speed on the treadmill of your life, know that you're not alone. Maybe the root cause is technology, maybe it's something else, but for whatever reason we live in a culture of busyness, and more and more people are complaining that they feel frantic and overwhelmed.

So what do you do about it? In the longer-term you might need to find ways to step off the treadmill entirely, be that by imposing a digital detox or even opting for the more radical solution of a lengthy sabbatical, but in the shorter term how do you calm that frantic feeling in the moment?

Beat busyness with a ritual

One good suggestion emerged from a recent Greater Good Science Center post by Dr. Christine Carter -- how about trying a busyness ritual?

The idea might sound a little bizarre at first, but a boatload of science attests to the strange power of completely secular rituals. Studies show small repetitive actions seem to help us regain perspective in a variety of situations where our emotions threaten to get the best of us -- even if that action is something completely irrational like writing down our problems on a piece of paper and then tearing it up.

Carter says you can use that insight to combat your feeling of excessive busyness. "When the pace of life seems to be taking off without you, create a ritual to help you feel more in control," she writes. Like what? Carter goes on to share her own personal busyness-busting ritual.

"When I start to feel pressured for time, my own 'busyness ritual' kicks in: I stretch my neck (first by looking to the left, and then to the right, and then by tipping my left ear to my left shoulder and my right ear to my right shoulder). I exhale deeply with each stretch, and then center my head, and straighten my posture. On my last exhale, I think to myself: 'I have plenty of time,'" she explains.

It's incredibly simple, but Carter swears this ritual helps her remain calm when her day starts to feel like it's spinning away from her.

What other rituals could you try?

If you give Carter's anti-busyiness ritual a try (or invent one of your own) and find it works, it's worth noting that other experts claim rituals can increase our well-being in a variety of situations. Perhaps you could try a starting ritual to get yourself in the right frame of mind to dive into work, for instance, or give a savoring ritual a go to suck the greatest possible amount of joy from life's little pleasures. You can get more ideas for these types of rituals here.

Published on: Mar 16, 2016
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