MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS: The psychology of busy-ness
Herald Democrat - 12/19/2019
Here we are, just days before Christmas, and almost all of us have list (or two or three of them) of things that simply must get done. We are busy, busy, busy now.... but what of the rest of the year? Many of us actually see ourselves as very busy much of the time. In fact, we might hear ourselves even complain about being "sooo busy" yet also find that we don't ever slow down. Are we addicted to busyness?
Jaime Bloch, Founder of MindMovers Psychology, suggested that some people may indeed get addicted to busyness for a variety of overarching reasons. First, she points out that many of us may experience FOMO, to steal from the text message world. A Fear Of Missing Out can cause us to pack our schedules with activities that ensure we are connected, plugged in. This is a contemporary way to describe Social Comparison Theory which is the idea that humans determine their own social and personal worth based on comparing ourselves to others. It's in our nature to want to feel we belong and being busy sort of gives us an assurance that we have secured and defined our place in our social circles.
A second reason Bloch suggests is that staying over-busy helps us avoid negative emotions. Kristen Gadenshire, an LCSW on GoodTherapy.org discusses how people frequently use busyness as a coping mechanism; as a way to avoid other feelings or situations in life. She notes that for some people, busyness may mask some underlying challenges or concerns we may have about loneliness, depression or anxiety about spending time with oneself.
Two more possible reasons for excessive busyness, per Bloch, are that we may defines success, productivity and status by how busy we are. Having full schedule and lots of productivity has a way of making us feel like we are moving ahead and winning in life. That can be a good feeling that we want to maintain, so when we do slow down, we can feel less successful even sad or anxious. That gives way to another reason for busyness: feeling guilty when
we actually do nothing. Even though relaxing is quite good for our emotional and mental health, such value is placed on productivity these days, that it is common to feel 'less worthy' or guilty when we are not busy. As a result, many of us are so busy, so much of the time, that when it's actually time to relax...we just don't know how.
Earlier this year Jodi Clarke, LPC described, on VeryWellMind.com, how many of us "glorify" being busy. We put a high premium on staying in over drive each day, in hopes that it somehow benefits us. Clarke notes, however, the many ways that excessive busyness can impact our minds and bodies in negative ways. These include muscle tension, pain, insomnia, headaches, high blood pressure, fatigue, digestion issues, and the list goes on. Clarke goes further to say, our relationships are impacted when we no longer have the time, energy or concentration to devote to those we care most about. When we are chronically busy, we tend to come across as uninterested, detached and unapproachable.
All this to say, in this holiday season, remember to take some time and get yourself un-busy and un-productive... on purpose! Then you can begin to enjoy the benefits to your mind, to your body and to your relationships.
Bill Mory is a Texoma-based licensed therapist in private practice. He integrates mindfulness training in working counseling clients and is a strong community-building advocate and a provider of workplace training on a variety of topics. The views and opinions expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.
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