Does Staying Busy Affect Your Health?

 

Dealing with schoolwork, jobs, daily emotional stressors, clubs, volunteering, exams, a social life, and a mountain of other responsibilities can feel suffocating. However, everyone tends to glorify busyness. We see it as productive and put-together to fill up your plate with commitments. We like having plans and we hate feeling like we’re wasting time. We get anxious when we feel like we have too much free time on our hands—so we take up another job or club or class. 

Busyness is what keeps our lives in motion, and what keeps us pieced together. Whether or not you fit this “we,” it is obvious that society looks up to people who fit the busy persona. The people who work, maybe even more than one job, but still find a gap for countless other time-consuming activities. We don’t like the lazy feel of a day full of unproductivity, regardless of how much we require it. 

Busyness is an addiction. That’s what several psychologists say, and they even consider the effects to be like an addiction to drugs or alcohol. We pack our schedules with plans and make ourselves endless to-do lists to numb our emotions, regardless of whether we see it this way or not. Being busy keeps us from processing what’s happening in our lives. It keeps us from letting our thoughts overwhelm us, and instead ignites us to stay in constant motion. 

We crave the comfortableness of it. The Journal of Psychological Science published a study that shows that, regardless of whether an activity has any real purpose, simply doing an activity to keep ourselves busy gives us happiness. The superficiality of this happiness is up for debate, but it is noteworthy that even meaningless tasks can bring us joy. Doing something is better than doing nothing. Doing something keeps us moving. 

It’s necessary, however, to recognize that there are different kinds of busyness. The dangerous kind is rooted in the anxiety of having nothing to do and feeling like you must fill the time with something. Healthline.com notes busyness becomes an addiction “when it’s used as an unhealthy coping mechanism to deal with stressors or unpleasant situations in our lives.”

According to psychcentral.com, important questions to ask yourself, says clinical psychologist Andrea Bonior, include things like “Does your busyness feel like you’re running away from something (versus running toward it)? Do you feel anxious or uncomfortable when there isn’t a task immediately in front of you? When you end up unexpectedly having a few unstructured hours or alone time, do you automatically try to fill it with distractions (such as social media)?” Check in with yourself. Discover where your desire to stay busy comes from. 

What can you do to watch out for yourself? Chauntie Brusie, a writer for healthline.com has a few helpful tips. 

Step 1: “Admit that we are addicted to the disease of busyness. Admitting it is the first step!”

Step 2: “Take time to examine the “why” behind our busyness. Are we using success or work or outward successes as a way to measure our own self-worth? Are we trying to avoid a problem in our personal lives? What are we replacing through our busy schedules?”

Step 3: “Analyze our schedules. What do we absolutely have to continue doing and what could we cut down on?”

Step 4: “Seek help. Talk to a therapist – there are so many avenues to get professional help, from online sessions to even texting. Many insurance plans also cover therapy, so it’s worth exploring how closely your mental health is affecting your physical health.”

Step 5: “Slow down. Even if you have to set a timer on your phone, take time to check yourself throughout the day. Pay attention to your body: Are you tense? Breathing? How do you feel in this very moment?”

The next time you have a free moment, check in with yourself. Identify when you’re getting done what you need to do, but also pay attention to when your busyness crosses over into a dangerous territory. It’s okay to keep yourself moving! It’s okay to feel good when you’re being productive. Just make sure it’s an honest good feeling. 

Make sure you’re giving yourself time for you.