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I know I am in trouble and I know my anxiety has taken over when I get stuck on the to-do list loop. From the moment I wake up to the moment I fall asleep I am running through my to-do list. Mentally calculating what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, how long it will take me to get it done and how bad a person I am for not getting it all done faster. When I get stuck on this loop…I know I am avoiding something. I call it living in the low buzz. The low buzz is when we are going through the motions of our live and we have reduced everything down to a list. We aren’t really feeling anything we are just robotically checking things off the list. The low buzz usually occurs when there is something we are trying to avoid.
Let’s take Linda for example.
Linda wakes up and from the moment her feet hit the floor she is thinking about her day. As she hops in the shower her thoughts drift to last night and the conversation she had with her husband about their lives and what happens after the kids move out. But that thought doesn’t last long because soon her thoughts are filled with her ever growing to-do list.
- go to the grocery store,
- buy a gift for her friend’s birthday,
- make a cake for the bake sale,
- finish the presentation for work.
As she makes her way through her morning…coffee…breakfast…get gas…drive to work…get to the meeting.
At the meeting she is thinking about…lunch…what to buy her friend for her birthday…her talk with her husband last night…the pile of work on her desk.
At lunch she is thinking about …getting back to work to finish the presentation…the shopping list…when is she going to make the cake…her talk with her husband last night!?!?!
At the grocery store she rushes through the aisles looking for the quickest way and the whole time she is thinking about dinner…her work presentation…and making that damn cake.
As she pulls in the garage she thinks…crap I forgot to buy the present for my friend.
Can you relate? All day long Linda was going through the motions of her life…but she was in no way living it. Her internal to-do list was consuming her every thought. No matter where she was, she wasn’t ever fully there she was constantly on to the next thing.
This is living in the low buzz. Living in the low buzz means we aren’t really feeling anything…rather we are controlled by our obsessive to-do list thoughts that keep is trapped in a world of BLAH as if there was a low buzz playing in the background all the time. I have found that we get trapped in this low buzz world for a variety of reasons including habit or comfort. But what is underneath that habit…why is it MORE comfortable to live in the low buzz than to live fully engaged? Because when we live fully engaged we have to feel stuff…
If Linda were to fully engage with her life,,,
She might have to feel the pain of being an empty-nester and deal with the uncertainty of just her and her husband again…what if their marriage can’t make it? What is she going to do with her time? What if it is too hard?
She might have to ask herself does she really like her job? Is this where she wants to be in 5 years? Does she want to retire her?
She might have to ask herself—do I like my life? Am I happy with what is going on?
She might have to feel what is really happening in her life.
The low buzz keeps us from feeling. Sadly the low buzz prevents us not just from feeling the pain in our lives…but the joy as well. When we get caught up in the low buzz we don’t allow room for anything other than the to-do list and getting things done. I have found in my life, the more I allow space for the pain and grief of life, the more I have room for the joy and happiness of life. I know it sounds counter intuitive…but if you want more joy in your life…be more authentic about your pain.
So the next time you notice yourself in low buzz mentality
- Take a pause and breathe.
- Reconnect with yourself, put your hands over your heart, or on your legs… remind yourself that you have a body. Sounds bizarre I know but one of the main traits of low buzz mode is that we are only in our heads..we are living cut off from our bodies.
- Engage in the moment. If you are at the grocery store…really BE at the grocery store. Notice the food, the people and the squeak of your cart. Use your senses to engage with what is around you.
- When you notice the to-do list mantra coming in…remind yourself you don’t have to engage. Imagine your thoughts are on a conveyor belt. You can choose to pick them up or you not. In your mind’s eye, put the to-do list thoughts back on the conveyor belt.’
- Be compassionate about what comes up…as you start to engage less with the to-do list and more with your present life…stuff WILL come up be compassionate about that stuff. Talk to yourself as if you would a close friend. The to-do list obsessing allows you not to be present to your feelings and insights around painful (or joyful) subjects.
Repeat the above steps as frequently as necessary—-yes, initially you will be repeating it frequently. But the more you can get in the habit of being present in the moment the easier it will be and the happier you will be.
Life is more than just the low buzz of the to-do list—life is ever evolving, ever changing and we can ride that change as long as we give ourselves permission to put down the to-do list and re-engage with life. .