Yes, we know you’re busy. Busy being productive, providing for the family, staying fit, sourcing healthy food and saving the planet. But have you taken time off recently? Or did you use the occasion to read up on world events, network with colleagues, or catch up on social networks? We’re a nation addicted to busyness and it’s not getting any better. Read on to find out if you’re a victim, and how to snap out of it.
Spotting The Signs
There are ways to know when you’ve been indulging in this addiction a little too much. Do you find yourself complaining a lot? Do you find you never have any free time? Are your relationships suffering? Do you not remember what makes you happier? These are signs that you are constantly stressed out and unable to break out of it.
The Effect It Has On Your Brain
Having a better work-life balance is not just good for you, but also essential for brain health. The brain has several different modes in which it works, which correspond to brainwaves: alpha, beta, theta and delta waves. When we are involved in planning and preparation, we are in alpha mode. Beta mode is when we’re ready and alert. The theta state is when the brain is relaxed, and, finally, there’s the delta mode which is crucial for good sleep. Having a healthy brain requires you to move through all these different modes. Most people today exist in the beta state permanently, because they’re overwhelmed with things to do, from work to social networking.
The Effect It Has On Your Body
Being stressed and busy all the time harms the immune system, and increases inflammation. It messes with your sex hormones, leads to heart disease and high blood pressure, it even impacts the genes that decide how much fat you store, how fast you age, and whether or not you will develop cancer. Chronic stress damages the energy powerhouses of your body, your mitochondria. It also reduces your ability to metabolize and detoxify, lowers bone mineral density and increases sensitivity to pain.
Take A Pause
Stress can’t just be turned off. It takes concerted effort and time to reverse the effects of chronic stress—but what it really requires is an attitudinal shift. Once you start to let go of your need to be busy, you can start to reclaim control of your life again. Observe the different ways in which you fill up your time: are you unable to say no to extra commitments, do you fill in every single space on your calendar and daily schedule with tasks, do you hesitate to turn your phone off or refrain from checking it every few minutes? You’re probably also a victim of the ‘fear of missing out’ syndrome (FOMO), and it doesn’t help that social media is rife with examples of how awesome your life could be, if only you had more time.
How To Overcome It
Slow down, breathe deep and re-evaluate your priorities. If you find that there are some areas of your life where you can scale back, do so. Chalk out time every day to do absolutely nothing, even if it’s just for 10 minutes, using this time for reflection, jotting down notes, and reviewing goals. Meditation can help you refocus your attention on healing yourself emotionally and mentally, with the body benefiting eventually. Try doing a digital detox occasionally. Being closer to nature can speed up this process of slowing down, whether that means time spent in a Zen garden, going hiking in a park, or just star-gazing from a rooftop on a clear night. Reconnect with childhood friends or long-ignored relatives to remind you of your former self, and how it was before you got so busy.
Busyness is an addiction that is hard, but not impossible, to beat. With a little time and effort you can reclaim your life and live the best version of it.