by Karen Larré, Mary Anne Weaver and Carla Garcia
Yvonne Tally leads meditation and de-stressing programs for corporations, individuals, and private groups in Silicon Valley. An NLP master practitioner, Yvonne cofounded Poised Inc., a Pilates and wellness training studio, and is the founder of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Scarves, a charity that provides headscarves to cancer patients.
Truly Alive: What was your motivation to write this book?
Yvonne Talley: While leading what I thought was a healthy lifestyle, I went through a health scare. I thought I was having a heart attack;, but it turned out to be a severe panic attack. I never had one before, and thankfully I’ve never had one since. But it scared me enough, that I had to put some real solutions and practices into place. This is so ironic, because at the time, I had been using the practices and solutions to help my clients – but I did not use them for myself. I was that “cobbler without the shoes.” The panic attack was caused by the cramped schedules, and the sleepless nights…I was raising my daughter as a single Mom, and I missed all my own signs of being over-busy and over-scheduled.
When I had that health scare, it moved me into the direction of sharing these solutions with a wider audience. I wanted to expand how I could help people, and the book was really born from that. It was a way to expand the practice and service of helping others. I’ve been working with women for over 25 years; and I saw the pace and challenges they have come up against and have had to move through. After experiencing the results of over-sscheduling in my own body, I really reconnected with mindfulness and combined it with practical solutions. For me it is about moving forward, expanding the work, and helping others so that they can feel better…so that they can bring their best work into this world as often as possible.
The Universe is within us, around us and moving through us, and I perceive that we are all a part of that. Sometimes we as human beings get so disconnected from that. When needed, the larger energy of the Universe has a way to get our attention. The panic attack was my wake-up call, and I’m so grateful that I had the mindset and the connection with the Universe to understand it and act on it.
TA: What do you want readers to understand about busyness when you write “Busyness is not just a behavior; it is an ethos”?
YT: For years, the people that are busy have always been seen as the successful ones. There is an assumption that “if you’re not busy you must not be very important, and you don’t have a lot to do.” In reality “busyness” is a way of life that we have unconsciously chosen to engage in. Many believe that if we can’t keep up a fast pace and get things done, if we’re not the ones making things happen, being the best and giving it our all and doing it again and again, then we in some way have failed in some way. We are not “good enough” to be on that “pace” with all that those elite pack of changers and doers.
Being busy is often confused with being productive. That’s another reason why “busyness” is praised by many people. But in this case, I am not referring to being productive – such as having a lot on our plates and completing our work efficiently. I’m talking about when “busyness” rams its head into our lives and we begin to experience situations like miscommunication, disengaging from intimacy with ourselves or from emotional intimacy with our partners, or experiencing our own health issues. And when simple activities that are part of moving and traveling through the day become an irritation or annoyance to us…like getting impatient because the traffic light is making us wait too long. This frustration and anxiety start to build from within. The constant hurried pace that we get into with “busyness” is our “fight or flight” mechanism that’s that is always turned on. Unless we do something about it, “busyness” begins to dominate and run our lives and we can feel like we are not able to get out of it. We are unable to create the mental, emotional and spiritual space to reconnect with who we are and what we are doing.
TA: Why do you say that busyness is an addiction?
YT: Busyness is addictive because our bodies and minds become accustomed to a perpetual “fight or flight” condition. In addition, every time the phone pings and says we have an email, or somebody likes our photos, that stimulates dopamine and lets us know that we have something to look forward to – and the dopamine response can further fuel the addiction. The busyness addiction is not created by just the “doing” of tasks – it’s about how our brain and our body are responding to the pace and lifestyle. When we are used to a certain pace, and then we we start to get feedback, (not only through technology but from our reference group – the people that we are sharing our lives with), that it reinforces our lifestyle choices, whether theythose choices are good for us or not. Suppose someone calls and asks “Hey, how are you?” and you say, “I’m so busy” – they respond, “Well I’m so busy too”. Then it becomes a way for us to connect. And, connecting with others feels good. As human beings, we are more heavily wired more towards that which feels good to us, or may seem in the moment, to feel good. But;, the repercussions of those “feel good” choices are the impact that “being too busy” places upon our lives and bodies. Activities that are addictive typically are not going to be good for us., This is because we’re going to begin to ignore the signs of our inability (1) how we’re going to to balance our lives (2) how we are going to balance our relationships or feelings, and (3) to recognize that we are not attaining the things that we really need or want to do. , This happens because we are going to be focused on that pace and that familiar “feel good” habit of always doing and going, and constantly being connected to that space of other people doing the same.
TA: How can we shift from “un-resourceful automatic thinking to the reality of the present moment”?
YT: The first thing we can do is slow our pace. Let’s begin with just BREATHING. Take a deep breath. When we do this, we stimulate something called the vagus nerve. What that does is lowers our blood pressure and heart rate and reduces the cortisol that is produced from stress and anxiety. This The first step is becoming aware of our breath.
Secondly, I suggest we begin to make the shift. Change can be daunting; it can be overwhelming, so let’s just make a shift. Let’s become aware of our pace a little bit. Slow down the way you talk. Slow down the way you walk. Slow down the way you drive your car, and just try that for one day. Clients ask, “Why do you want me to do that?” – Because I want them to be aware of the difference between how they want to feel and be, and where they are right now. So, this is a simple exercise that you too can do.
Next, I would suggest starting to think about your tendency towards over-giving and always saying “yes” to things. Particularly for many women, we have this idea that if we’re not getting things done, if we are not being the one who is always giving – then we are not showing up as the woman that we can or should be. Think about this: when we over-give, we take the giving experience away from someone else. When we allow another person to be in the giving role and allow ourselves to be in the receiving role, we can keep that beautiful balance…that equation between giving and receiving alive for all of us. When we do that, we also teach the people in our lives we are mentoring (such as our children), how to develop that beautiful ratio between receiving and giving.
TA: How does motivation play into being busy or over-scheduling?
YT: Motivation is going to be different for each of us. If you are repeating things that are not feeling good to you, it is important to find out why you are doing it – and, I don’t mean that in a selfish or self-entitled way. If we are not aware of what’s motivating us, we may not be able to address the real problem. When we take an honest look at what’s going on, then we can begin to shift more effectively, or at least be aware of what’s motivating us. Then, we might just find a different way to be, and to create what it is that we want to create.
There is an exercise in the book called, The Power of Belief. We all need to clean out our belief closet from time to time. What do our opinions, values, behaviors and our attitudes contribute to our lives? If we haven’t taken a moment to examine that, we might be motivated by a belief that we don’t even hold true anymore. Examining the power of your beliefs, and how they motivate you, can tell you which ones are actually working for you, which ones are your “power beliefs” and how they tie in to your core values. What you value, is what is going to motivate you.
TA: How does being “clutter-free” help our psychological and emotional well-being?
YT: Keeping a clear space in our home – like keeping a clear space in our calendar – allows our mind to open to creative thought. When we have our phone on and the TV on and we are working on the computer, and we’re checking Instagram at the same time (or whatever it might be) – that’s a cluttered mindspace. And that’s also multitasking, and we know the brain can’t distinguish between two dissimilar tasks, so it’s going to decide which one to prioritize. This creates anxiousness and angst within the brain and the body as well, and the prefrontal cortex begins to shut down.
A clear physical space physically is just as important as a mental clear space. It’s where we can create and expand thought, creativity, and imagination. Another way we might look at that is… when you plant a flower in a garden and you plant it right up next to two big rose bushes. The flower will grow up – but it won’t grow out. It won’t be able to expand, because the air cannot circulate around it. It needs movement; it needs space to create that expansion. Human beings are the same – our mind is the same….it requires space.
TA: In the book, you cover 12 busy-busting solutions. What is your favorite?
YT: My favorite is color coding a calendar with 3 categories of activities: (1) MUST, (2) WANT, and (3) JUST BECAUSE. Activities in the MUST category require about 14 hours a day of our time, consisting of tasks that make life work, such as: family care, doctor appointments, life management, and so on. Activities in the WANT category contribute to our long-range goals, and can consist of lifestyle additions, replacements and removals. The third category, “JUST BECAUSE” is an important element to include in your calendar. That is because this category has no judgment, no justification. The JUST BECAUSE category is a scheduled block of time where we do what feels good to us in the moment. We might call up our best friend and say, “hey let’s go for a walk” or “let’s meet for lunch.” Or we take ourselves to lunch “just because.” Whatever it is it can be so simple. Make sure that you have WANT and JUST BECAUSE on your calendar, because here’s what will happen if you have all MUST activities: you won’t be able to sustain it. You will start to feel those pressures of busyness. They will start to infiltrate into your relationships and creep into your wellness – causing insomnia, irritability, and all those things that occur when you disconnect from your feelings. If you make sure that you have a space of time for your wants where you can expand your creativity, creative ideas, and for your “just because” where you can rejuvenate your soulful self, life becomes more fun. And if you color code the calendar and see that it’s all one color – the color of MUST activities – this is a great way for you to begin to gauge how you can create balance in your life through the week, through the day, through the month. If you’ve got 20 or 10 MUSTs on each day and absolutely no WANTs or JUST BECAUSE, don’t try to take 8 of the MUST activities off. Just start with taking off one. Make the shift small!
Yvonne Talley lives in Northern California. Her website is: yvonnetally.com (Order Breaking Up with Busy and receive her Vibrant Living Online Workshop FREE!) Find her on social media: https://www.facebook.com/livelifevibrantly, https://twitter.com/yvonnetally, https://www.instagram.com/yvonne_tally.