“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” ~Socrates
A few years ago, the focal point of my life was my work. It took up and made up a huge portion of my life. In retrospect, I would even say that work became a sort of obsession. I became so obsessed with being productive that I set aside almost every minute of my waking hours for some work-related activity.
I even coupled meals with work; toilet breaks meant mentally drafting reports and traffic jams signaled the start of phone meetings. You may look at this picture and think of me as an efficient multi-tasker. I honestly hope I was that, but no. I was nothing but a person trapped inside “too busy” cycle.
Some people perceive being “too busy” as a sign of success or a flourishing career. Although this can be true, being constantly overworked and overwhelmed has more detrimental than positive effects. Being crazy-busy implies stress, and our body can only take so much pressure before it activates its stress response and runs on “survival or panic mode.”
Stress can be helpful and motivating to some degree, but substantial evidence shows that chronic exposure to high levels of stress prompts the body to release hormones called glucocorticoids, which can potentially damage several body systems.
When I learned about the gravity of chronic stress and my overly busy life, I made an effort to change my habits and keep everyday stress to a minimum. There are so many ways to effectively manage stress, but you can do so only after you actually notice and admit that you are indeed too busy and too stressed out.
I have listed below some of the things that have made me realize that my “busyness” was out of hand.
1. I was always looking for something.
Searching for my car keys, phone, wallet, jewelry, eyeglasses, and documents became a part of my daily routine. Things seemed to be misplaced or lost all of the time.
Cortisol, the hormone released when you are stressed, damages the brain over time and can lead to memory problems. But aside from that, when we are stressed out, our thoughts tend to be all over the place, and this lack of focus and the disorganized thoughts could very well cause us to lose track of things.
2. I’d get inappropriately infuriated by the smallest things.
Stress made me a grumpy, unhappy, moody woman. I’d get angry over the smallest mistakes of others and get irritated by just about anything.
When we are stressed, our minds are so overloaded that we are unable to logically and calmly process situations and information. Hence, we have less and less tolerance for mistakes and irregularities.
Furthermore, stress often causes us to lose sleep. And not getting enough sleep can cause a depletion of the neurotransmitter called serotonin which plays a role in calming us down during stressful times.
3. I woke up every single day feeling tired.
It was awful waking up in the morning feeling as if I had not gotten a single hour of sleep. I am pretty sure I slept, but when I woke up, I felt really drained and exhausted.
Morning fatigue is one of the surest signs that you are overworked, overstretched, and overscheduled. The feeling of overwhelming tiredness after waking up indicates that you have not rested well during the night. You may have gone to bed and shut your eyes early but your busy mind just won’t shut down.
4. I frequently experienced headaches.
Hardly a week would go by without me experiencing a terrible headache. I would often feel this tightness in my head that would extend to the back of my neck.
Tension headaches are among the most common symptoms of chronic stress. Part of the body's response to stress is muscular contraction; however, when exposure to stress is prolonged, muscles often spasm, resulting in some sort of pain or discomfort. Spasm of the muscles in the upper back, neck, and scalp area results in tension headaches.
5. I constantly felt a vague feeling of unhappiness.
I was unhappy, but I could not pinpoint why exactly. Most days, I would feel really heavy and sulked for no reason at all.
Stress can cause a roller coaster of emotions because it has the capacity to affect your body’s hormone levels and also cause brain disturbances. This is why a lot of people who have been exposed to a great deal of stress for a prolonged period have fallen into depression.
There is nothing wrong with fulfilling your responsibilities, obligations, and duties. However, you must know how to draw the line between working for a living and living for your work. As I’ve experienced, being “too busy” reduces the quality of your life. Remember that balance is key to everything.
Busy image via Shutterstock