Whether you have an upcoming presentation at work or are feeling overwhelmed about a full day, if you live on planet earth, you know that life can be stressful. No matter how much you know about health, nutrition and meditation, there are days when isn’t enough time to exercise or prepare the healthy food you know will help you maintain your health. But what happens when being busy becomes part of our identity? What happens when we don’t know how NOT to be too busy anymore?
This article will invite you to explore and re-think being busy and stressed out to reflect on your lifestyle choices more deeply.
Let’s get started!
What happens in our bodies when we are under stress?
First, let’s talk about the start of this blog, STRESS. Why is it important to understand the effects of stress? Because when we are constantly busy, we are also under stress, affecting all body systems, including the musculoskeletal, endocrine, gastrointestinal and nervous systems. That is why it is common to get gut issues such as constipation or diarrhoea, PMS, changes in appetite or muscle tension when stressed out, but that’s not everything; stress contributes to decreased performance and poor performance work quality and many mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Stress can even be an underlying cause of illness and disease, including heart disease and type two diabetes. In short, long-term stress makes everything worse.
Stress can be positive, tolerable or toxic. Toxic stress is when you are faced with a continuous stressor or triggered by multiple sources; this type of stress can have a cumulative effect on your physical and mental health. It is an experience that overwhelms us and leaves us feeling powerless and hopeless.
Another interesting fact about stress is that for our bodies, there is no difference between physical and emotional stress; the side effects are the same. This means that whenever we are overthinking and making fake scenarios of possible situations, our bodies react as if they were real-life threats when, in reality, those are just thoughts of potential problems that usually do not take place. Unfortunately, most of our daily stressors are in our heads, making it super challenging to regular ourselves.
How do modern life and childhood contribute to the busy syndrome?
We live in a society obsessed with being busy, overworking, overdoing and over everything possible. Being busy is often glorified and seen as a higher status and something to celebrate, as if the busier we are, the more essential and accomplished we must seem. However, as we discussed before, over-scheduling yourself can harm your emotional and physical health. So why do we keep adding tasks to our do’s list even when most of us are already experiencing the adverse effects of stress on our health and our ability to maintain healthy relationships?
The answer may surprise you, but most of the time is deeply connected with our identity. Many people’s level of busyness is strongly linked to their self-worth, and these unhealthy destructive habits often start very early in life. For example, when parental love is conditional upon the child’s achievements, children are likely to develop the belief that they must work hard by proving themselves or their self-worth to gain love and approval. This behaviour is profoundly and unconsciously incorporated into adult life. Even though we are not children anymore, this belief is part of how we behave in the world, affecting our relationships and ideas about ourselves and others.
The beliefs you have about yourself drive your long-term behaviour, and the more you repeat a behaviour, the more you reinforce the associated identity with that behaviour. When being busy becomes who you are, the change is much more than learning to meditate and relax during the day; actual behaviour change is identity change. Behaviour and belief system change takes lots of inner work and practice. It’s not fun work; most need professional help to achieve long-lasting and profound change.
“Work is often the place that I go when my anxiety is very bad and I’m not able to soothe myself.”Bryan Robinson
Are you numbing yourself with work?
Being busy can be overwhelming and stressful but simultaneously rewarding because it can give us a sense of vitality, purpose and efficiency. But, unfortunately, so is a double-edged sword that can provide excellent results at work and in our private life when our busyness is out of purpose, passion and love. Still, the effects can be destructive when we hide behind the business’s back.
Being constantly busy is not as popular as overeating, gaming or drug abuse when it comes to coping mechanisms, but guess what? Being always busy can be a coping and defence mechanism to avoid or numb uncomfortable feelings such as grief, sadness or anger. But, unfortunately, It can be just as damaging as other unhealthy addictions. If you’re too busy, you cannot focus on what may be causing you discomfort deep inside; we cannot connect with anyone or anything; more importantly, we can not connect with ourselves, with our deep fears and needs.
Overworking may be helpful in the short term, but these uncomfortable feelings and emotions do not magically disappear; they will keep showing up and sooner or later, not focusing on them could lead to a worsening of symptoms feeding the negative cycle of addiction. Poor managed negative emotions are not good for your health. The feelings of helplessness and hopelessness can create chronic stress, which upsets the body’s delicate balance, depleting the brain chemicals required for happiness and damaging the immune system.
“What you resist, persisit”Carl Joung
Busy vs Productive
Being too busy does not mean that you are working productively; in fact, you may have a lot on your plate, but this doesn’t mean that you are using your time efficiently or achieving your working goal for the day or getting things done. Unfortunately, we are often too busy doing nothing, which drives the overload.
The interesting thing is that you can be very busy for a whole day and still feel that you are not productive. This makes sense if you add more tasks to the do list, checking email 24/7 and answering each message you get on what’s up while reading the news and doing your daily work.
The critical difference between being busy and productive: Are that busy person spend all their time researching, finding out about possibilities, multitasking and trying to perfect things before they even start; they are rushed and easily distracted. They are driven by stress and too often say yes to every new task. On the contrary, productive people are focused, relaxed, driven by a mission and know how and when to say no. A productive person prioritizes the things that need to be done, which means they have less work to do each day and a greater sense of achievement at the end of the day.
“…Being busy is about working harder while being productive is about working smarter…”
What can be done?
We must be aware that we have a problem before changing our lives. Only when we accept that we have a problem can we ask ourselves how willing we are to receive help. Finally, I will assume that if you are reading this article, you are interested in changing your lifestyle and exploring healthier alternatives for your well-being, so let’s explore small steps to move towards a healthier lifestyle.
Add breaks to your schedule.
Work smarter, not harder! Adding small active breaks between meetings and after meals can make a huge difference in your mood, focus and productivity. I know. Perhaps you think doing more without breaks is better right? NO, your brain can not focus 24/7; research shows that taking purposeful breaks to refresh your brain and body increases your energy, productivity, and ability to focus. The Pomodoro technique is fantastic and uses work time, usually 25 minutes, with 5 to 10 minutes breaks. This technique is a great place to start! On your break, go for a run, listen to music, walk or meditate. Take that break!
Learn to say NO
Set clear boundaries with yourselves and others. It’s okay to say “no”, and it is not okay to sacrifice your well-being to overextend yourself and suffer severe consequences in the long term. I know easy to say and hard to do, i get it i am still working on this, but what helped me is to plan my day, so i know how much time i have ahead. You need to know every day exactly what task is urgent and essential and what can wait. Also, you can add an automatic reply for emails and incoming calls to avoid unnecessary distractions. Finally, schedule your work or busy time and your free time in chunks, and always make sure you leave time for yourself throughout the day, even if it’s just for a small break. Set a reminder on your phone, or post a note in your home reminding you to breathe and take time for yourself before you have the impulse to accept any new task.
Learn to be bored
The paradox of this story is that busy people also aim to have free time and vacations from work. Still, as soon as they have it, most of them don’t know what to do with it, so they end up addictively scrolling on social media or doing anything else but enjoying the free time, which ends up in this endless and familiar circle of “business” instead of connecting with the people right next to us and enjoying our free time. Those quiet, boring times allow your mind to wander, rewiring your brain in ways that help you achieve more. The key here is to be present instead of distracted by our phones every time we wait at the doctor, restaurant or go to the toilet. A start can be going for a short walk without your phone, looking around, and tuning into your body sensations and surroundings.
Don’t skip meals
Ideally, you will have your breakfast, lunch and dinner at fixed times and do so without tapping away on social media. However, realistically what’s fundamental is that you keep an easy-to-follow schedule for drinking and eating enough every day. Now how can you do that? You can add a phone reminder for water and food breaks on your calendar and keep a big water bottle on your desk and healthy snacks at the office or home. Also, choosing low-sugar and high-protein meals is essential to help you feel fuller and focused for longer.
Seek professional help
If you use busyness as a tool to avoid unpleasant thoughts or feelings, you may benefit from getting professional support. As we said before, this behaviour is not an easy change, and it sucks, but you need to go deeper to figure out why you did this in the first place and learn a better way to cope with unpleasant feelings and emotions. It took me years to make this change, and the journey was challenging, but slowly, i started understanding myself and why i was unable to express my needs and feelings without hurting myself with food or sport.
Do more of what makes you shine.
If you have a hobby, do it often, and if you have no idea about your passion, try new stuff, maybe sports or a new language or spend time in nature with your dog or best friend. Whatever it is, my friend, shine, shine like a crazy diamond because when you shine, the people around you shine with you, and this little light makes your inner world a better place.
Final thought: I hope this article was of value to you. Did i forget something, or is there anything you want to add or share with me? I would love to know; let’s connect on social media :).