Are you addicted to being busy? And what is it doing to your health?
I feel like life is one constant to do list with no end in sight, especially for women. As soon as you finish one thing, you move on to the next task – or as women, we are constantly juggling multiple tasks at once (sometimes I think this ability is a massive detriment!). I used to thrive on this constant action – whenever there was a gap in my schedule I would fill it – I loved the high of constantly rushing, doing and achieving things. I also thought it made me more interesting and capable, when someone asked what I was up to, I had a full social/travel/work itinerary to talk about.
In today’s society, being busy has become a badge of honour, I mean if someone has time to god forbid relax and take time for themselves, they are often met with derision or shock from those around them; ‘well I have much more on my plate, so I don’t have that luxury like you’. Or when we get asked how we are we respond with ‘really busy’. Sound familiar? Ladies what are we doing to ourselves?? Being busy does not make you more important, more interesting, a better mother, a better wife, a better boss etc. We need to lose this idea and start looking after ourselves.
So what is all this busy doing to your body?
When we are perpetually busy and in ‘go’ mode we activate a part of the nervous system called the sympathetic nervous system. This part of the nervous system is called our ‘flight or fight’ mode that historically would have been activated when we were presented with an immediate threat to our lives (lions, cannibalistic tribes, bears, hordes of dinosaurs…). Our sympathetic nervous system directs blood to our muscles and brain, increases our heart rate and blood pressure, and stimulates the excretion of adrenaline and cortisol for extra energy so we can fight or fight in the situation presented to us. It shuts down all systems in our body not critical to survival.
But now this response is being triggered from getting stuck in traffic, work deadlines, arguments with our family, rushing around from one place to the next, endless to do lists EVERY SINGLE DAY. We are not designed to be stimulated like this constantly. Having this part of your nervous system constantly activated can affect your ability to sleep, make you feel wired and tired and irritable, lead to digestive disturbances such as reflux, heartburn or bloating, increase feelings of anxiety and long term can increase your risk of chronic diseases, particularly cardiovascular disease.
This is the price I see so many women (including myself) paying for being on the go always and putting everybody instead of themselves first. And I get it – when you’re in ‘go’ mode you get things done. There is an energy to it that makes you feel like you can power through anything (it’s called adrenaline). But I’m telling you, you can still get through the massive list in a calm and easy manner. Feeling ‘rushed’ and on the ‘go’ doesn’t actually help you get more things done, you can’t create extra time, it just makes you feel on edge and depleted. Imagine if you could get everything done and feel relaxed, happy and energised as well. Imagine being able to have spare time – for nothing!! It is possible, you just have to start changing the way you approach each day.
So what can we do about this?
The opposite part of the nervous system is our parasympathetic nervous system, or our ‘rest and digest’ response. This part of the nervous system conserves and restores energy, helps us digest and assimilate nutrients from our food, helps us sleep well and helps our body to repair. This system makes you feel vibrant and keeps you looking amazing. Sound good? When you’re constantly stuck in flight or fight mode, this system doesn’t get a chance to do its job.
What can we do to activate this system?
We need to become ‘busy’ taking care of ourselves and slowing down – give yourself permission to be busy with the following:
Be busy meditating
Be busy doing yoga
Be busy reading a book
Be busy going for a walk
Be busy taking a bath
Be busy sitting still and breathing
Be busy doing something you love, just for you, by yourself
Be busy, doing nothing
For busy, ‘go-getter’, A type personalities these things can be very hard initially (trust me, I know), so start small and slowly increase the activities, or the amount of time spent doing any of the above. I always schedule some self-care into my daily schedule, sometimes it’s 15 minutes, sometimes it’s 2 hours, sometimes it’s a whole day. Your body will love you for it and you will find that once you start taking some down time for yourself, you can power through your to do list faster and more effectively, leaving you with more time to relax and look after your amazing self.