Why is Busyness Toxic For Our Mental Health?

Life can feel like a marathon. Jumping from one thing to the next and over each hurdle as we come to it. Never a time to press pause or take a break. Figure out where we’re going, what we’re doing or what could be the best route for us. When life get’s too busy it’s easy to switch from proactive to reactive. Always in firefighting mode. And if you’re anything like me, life can start to feel like a ride which you can’t get off. Being whirled around with no opportunity to step back or away. So, when life feels this way, why is it toxic for our mental health? And what can we do to help ourselves?

For Why Self-Care Isn’t Just a Bubble Bath read here.

Toxic Busyness

If you google busyness as a badge of honour, you’ll find plenty of articles on the subject. And that in and of itself should be a warning sign. It seems in this fast paced, hustle bustle world we live in. Being busy has become some kind of status symbol. How many hours did you spend at work? How little sleep have you had? We’ve started valuing our busyness whilst taking time for ourselves or having a break has become synonymous with laziness, lack of productivity or even selfishness.

Before we begin to find balance, we need to find out our why. Perhaps it’s time to ask ourselves what’s behind our constant busyness? Is it a simple matter of too many things, too little time? Or has society convinced us that we are not deserving of the time to look after ourselves? What does always being busy mean? Does it show people or ourselves how productive we are? Give us an excuse not to think about our own lives? Allow ourselves to look after other people and demonstrate our care and concern? Whatever our reason, whatever our why. What does it mean for us and is it preventing us from looking after ourselves?

For How to Balance What I Want & What’s Good For Me read here.

Why Am I Always Busy?

On reflection busyness for me has been a comforting buffer between myself and reality. I’ve coasted on this buffer allowing it to shelter me from having to make decisions about myself and where my own life is going. Literally, so busy helping others, I forgot to help myself. And I found comfort in denying important life decisions. But busyness also had a secondary role in my life. It helped me maintain a sense of control. My anxiety can be rooted in uncertainty, and therefore asserting control by ‘doing’ has become a coping strategy. Albeit an unhelpful one.

Lastly, I’ll admit that the people pleasing persona I’m adamant to shake has led me to seek my value in what I could do for others. Leaving me to fill my hours trying to prove my worth by being helpful. As there are always more people to help and more that one can do. This provided an exhaustive list with no end in sight. And, of course, once you start helping people you create an expectation. And to break that is unthinkable. To press pause or take a break for myself, feeds into the narrative of selfishness that society feeds us. How can I step back or relax, when I should be helping someone else?

How to Reframe Busyness

When we’ve discovered our why it may be that much easier to begin the journey towards balance. Some of us may find that our busyness is acceptable or helpful to us. In terms of my anxiety, keeping busy can be hugely helpful. As long as I keep it in check and don’t over rely on it, using it as a substitute for other healthier practises. Likewise, I like the part of myself that uses her time to help others. But again, where’s the balance? I don’t wish to take a step back from that part of my identity or being a member of my community. So, it’s not about eradicating but rather taking the time to reassess. How much time can I give to others? And what do I need for myself?

For the 9 Tips You Need to Hold Boundaries read here.

Others of us may find that busyness is rooted in unrealistic pressures in personal or professional lives. Which on consideration are unacceptable and we shouldn’t have to tolerate. In these scenarios, the answer isn’t necessarily balance but finding a way out. However, we may need to accept that a gradual exit may be the better option despite the time it will take. Wherever we are on our busyness journey, we will need to find practical solutions relevant to our scenario. But alongside the decisions and steps we take, looking after ourselves throughout the process will be vital. For myself, freeing up some hours in my day allowed me to engage in self-care which bolstered myself esteem and overall wellbeing. Thereby helping keep my anxiety in check and providing me with a healthier outlook on helping others. Likewise, learning to assert my own boundaries was hugely empowering. It helped me rethink my value not in relation to others but in who I am as a person. And set appropriate expectations around when I could help others and when I needed to help myself.

What are your thoughts on busyness? Does it have a toxic impact on your life? And what are your tips for finding balance?

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6 thoughts on “Why is Busyness Toxic For Our Mental Health?

  1. Due to my depression I had to quit the busy life I had. It is frustrating to not be in an office chasing a deadline. But I found ways to do things at my pace and following my interests. No point in running behind things that bring stress.

  2. Great post! I love how you explained toxic busyness and the importance of finding what’s behind it. I think people can get lost in the hustle culture, but a full schedule can just be an avoidance of traumas and personal reflection/healing.

  3. This post hit home for me on a few levels, especially after I had gotten really sick with chronic illness. I felt “lazy” although in reality I was taking that time to heal. Seeing others around me living a very busy life made me feel pressured to be busy all that time. However, your sentence about discovering our “why” and how it can help us balance that busyness was when like the lightbulb came on. It made so much sense. Thank you for sharing.

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