Being busy is often seen as a badge of honor and a marker of self-worth, with a lack of leisure time viewed as a direct indication of status. However, over-scheduling yourself can negatively affect your emotional and physical health, as well as your ability to maintain healthy relationships.
Why We Love Busyness
Research indicates that an individual’s perceived level of busyness may be heavily connected to their self-worth, as well as how others view their status.1 Individuals who are busy by choice may feel needed, in demand, and important, thus elevating their feelings of self-worth.
Culturally, there has been a shift in status perception in that material objects and goods are no longer the only indicator of one’s social standing. Now, individuals who are busy at work, are overworked, and have a real lack of leisure time are perceived as higher status.
Numbing Yourself With Busyness
In addition to its connection to feelings of self-worth and status, staying busy may also be a way to avoid or numb out painful feelings and situations. If you’re super busy, you are unable to focus on what my be bothering you or causing you discomfort beneath the surface.
Busy vs. Productive
Being busy and being productive can often be confused with one another. If you are busy, you may have a lot on your plate, but this doesn’t necessarily mean you are productive, or using your time efficiently. Being productive means being able to complete a task or get something done. You do not need to be busy in order to be productive.
Being busy has to do with how you spend your time, where productivity has more to do with what you accomplish.
Work-life balance is an important part of experiencing a healthy work and home environment in which you can thrive. Work-life balance will look different for each unique individual, but in general, if you have work-life balance, you feel in control of and comfortable with how your time is spent.
If your work-life balance is thrown off, you may experience burnout, feeling overworked, exhausted, and disconnected from your social and/or family life. Poor work-life balance may also lead to chronic stress, which can impact your mental health as well as your physical health.
Impact on Emotional Health
When busyness is glorified and encouraged, you may end up overextending yourself with varied obligations, appointments, commitments, and responsibilities. Busyness may lead to feeling:
If you are unable to complete tasks or uphold the many obligations you have dedicated yourself to, you may end up feeling guilty, or as if you’ve let yourself of others down. If you derive self-worth through being productive and completing tasks, feeling as if you’re falling short can impact your perception of yourself.
Being overly busy and exhausted may lead to an increase in stress and/or decreased self-esteem. This may trigger more serious mental health disorders including anxiety disorders, depression, and substance use disorders.
Impact on Physical Health
Busyness may lead to sacrificing your physical well-being for the sake of getting tasks done. You may end up making quick decisions that have to do with your day-to-day physical health, instead of making more thoughtful choices. This may include not prioritizing exercise as much as you’d like or not getting as much sleep as your body needs. You may also find yourself ignoring or pushing aside any physical health concerns instead of seeing a doctor right away.
Excessive busyness may impact your physical health by triggering or exacerbating:
- Muscle tension/pain
- Compromised immune function
- Change in sex drive
- Digestion issues
- Cardiovascular disease
Impact on Relationships
Demanding schedules may leave no or very little time for meaningful connections with others. You may feel isolated and lonely, and those around you may feel rejected or angry with your lack of availability. Relationships with friends, family, and spouses may suffer because of your overextended schedule.
Relationships require time and effort from all participating parties. Being pulled in multiple directions by your obligations can leave you feeling stressed and unable to engage fully in your relationships.
The Cure for Busyness
Everyone will have their own idea of what being too busy means to them. If you feel overworked, overwhelmed, or burned out, it’s important to prioritize your health and wellness. Although it may feel difficult to shift your priorities and your time, doing so may lead to increased mental and physical well-being, as well as more connected relationships with your loved ones.
- Practice mindfulness as a way to connect with yourself, observe your thoughts without judgment, and ground yourself. This can also help interrupt a racing mind if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
- If possible, plan a vacation or staycation for yourself (and don’t fill it with activities) so you can recharge.
- Make it a priority to spend time with your loved ones. Doing so can help you feel connected, loved, and energized.
- Take small moments every day to appreciate yourself. This may include offering yourself positive affirmations or journaling about one thing you are grateful for everyday.
- Set boundaries with others and remind yourself that it’s okay to say “no.” Sacrificing your well-being to overextend yourself can have severe consequences in the long term.
- Remind yourself that your self-worth does not come from being productive or busy. Come up with a mantra that expresses what self-worth means to you or why you love yourself and try to recite it everyday.
- Set a reminder on your phone, or post a note in your home that reminds you to breathe and take time for yourself.
- Connect with a therapist if you are experiencing difficulty with acts of daily living or notice your overall quality of life has decreased.
- Set appropriate expectations for yourself when it comes to how much you can comfortably take on and know that this may change over time.
- If you use busyness as a tool to avoid unpleasant thoughts or feelings, try to determine what you are uncomfortable facing. If this seems too overwhelming, it’s a good idea to reach out to a therapist who can support you.
- Schedule your work or busy time and your free time in chunks. Always make sure you leave time for yourself throughout the day, even if it’s just for a small break, and deliberately disconnect from your work.
You deserve to take time for yourself, whether that means a full vacation or mini breaks during the day. Doing so is an important reminder to yourself that you are a worthy and valuable individual.
While being busy may positively impact your self-esteem, if you are so busy that you are unable to practice self-care, spend time with loved ones, and enjoy your free time, being overbooked can actually have a harmful effect on your overall well-being. Even though it may feel challenging to shift your priorities, disconnecting from work or unnecessary obligations and deliberately resting and taking time for yourself can significantly boost your quality of life.