why keeping yourself busy when facing a problem never works

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

How your mind works

So you broke up with someone, Lost your job or got depressed for any other reason then you were told by so many people to keep yourself busy.

Before you know why this is a really bad strategy you first need to know few facts about the way your mind works. Every now and then ,depending on your level of patience and how important a problem is to you, your mind will make a check to see if your existing problems were solved.

Lets suppose that you had to call someone to deliver a very important message. If you called that person and found him busy then few minutes later your mind will remind you of the call.

The reason this happens is that your mind always wants to reach a calm state where there is almost no feelings of stress. Because each new problem adds some stress to your mind it will keep reminding you of it until you solve it so that this stress gets reduced.

Why keeping yourself busy when facing a problem never works

Your mind uses the different emotions to motivate you to take certain actions. If for example your mind believed that you are walking in a dangerous neighborhood then it will use the emotion of fear to motivate you to run away from that place.

Now what if you faced an important problem and instead of trying to find a solution you kept yourself busy doing something that is totally unrelated?

In such a case your mind will use a greater force to remind you of your existing problem because it wants you to solve it. The more you try to distract yourself by keeping yourself busy the fiercer will be the reminders from your mind in the form of unpleasant emotions.

What do you usually do when you knock a door and nobody opens? You knock even harder and may even call the people inside the house on phone while knocking. This is exactly what your mind does. It will knock even harder to remind you of the problem you are trying to escape from. (see also Where do emotions come from?)

In my book How to get over anyone in few days i explained how keeping yourself busy can be one of the mistakes that delay recovery. In order for you to recover from a loss you need to make sure you absorbed the shock and faced the facts. Running away only delays recovery.

What's the right thing to do

No matter what your problem is your mind will need an action plan that it trusts so that when it makes the regular check up it does every now and then it finds something to calm it down. (see also The connection between impatience and worrying)

This is why the first thing you need to do when you face a certain problem is to plan for the next steps in your life and know exactly how you are going to react.

Now when you develop that action plan and when you know exactly how you are going to respond youf mind won't bother you every now and then.

Keeping yourself busy will only work if you did it after you already spent enough time to know how you are going to get out of the problem you are facing, apart from that it will only add to your pain.

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