Friend: How’s it going?
You: I’m insanely busy. You know the usual, kids, family, work.
Friend: Yeah, me too.
You: It’s nuts, I can’t even remember the last time I took a real vacation!
Friend: Well, at least we are busy, right?
Does this conversation sound familiar? If so, we need to talk…
As a society, we are suffering from the “addiction of being busy”
As an amazing speaker and author, Brené Brown puts it, we use numbing behaviours to armor ourselves against vulnerability.
If you think numbing doesn’t apply to you because you are not using drugs or alcohol, think again…
“One of the most universal numbing strategies is what I call crazy-busy,” says Brené Brown.
At some point we’ve created a culture of people who believe that if we are busy enough, we’re safe from or avoid the truth of our lives.
In some degree the basic underlying principles of all additions are the same. We shame additions to sex, drugs, etc. but somehow we have normalized evened praised the addition to being busy. Are we doing ourselves any favours by creating an illusion of such high expectations?
It has become clear to us that too many of us see “busyness” as a badge of honour. When did we created this idea that, “If I am busy, then I am important and valuable. If the later is true then I must be worthy.”
Is it possible that feeling this way is better? A lot of us don’t want to have time to reflect on our lives. It’s possible that what comes out in the silence is not something you want to look at.
The addiction to being busy is not only a maladaptive escape of vulnerability, it’s not healthy for us.
Effects of Chronic Stress on Health
Brain: A 2013 Literature review showed that chronic stress impairs serotonin (5-HT) neurotransmission and 5-HT receptor sensitivity and is a major risk factor for developing major depression (2). Chronic stress also has been shown to be an etiologic factor in chronic pain, fatigue and migraines (3,4).
Hair: Chronic psychoemotional stress causes oxidative stress and cutaneous nerve fibres to release substance P. Through the substance P mast cell pathway chronic stress has been shown to inhibit hair growth (5).
Thyroid: During stress, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, with the sympathetic-adrenal system, is activated, resulting in increased glucocorticoids and catecholamines, respectively. With more research it is becoming clear that stress, suppresses cellular immunity and potentiating humoral immunity. There is strong evidence from epidemiological studies as well as clinical reports an association between stress and thyroid disruption (6).
Heart: Adrenaline and cortisol that are released during the stress response, elevate blood pressure and cause your heart to beat faster. If these effects are chronic you are at increased risk of heart disease (7).
Pancreas: Stress elevates blood sugar in order to provide your muscles with immediate energy. What happens is over time cells become resistant to insulin. This increases your risk of type 2 diabetes and insulin insensitivity (10).
Stomach: Stress alters the communication between the brain and gut resulting in low vagal tone. A high plasma epinephrine level and low vagal tone a marker of unadapted sympathetic activity and is see in IBS and Crohn’s disease (11).
Reproductive System: High cortisol blocks progesterone from binds to its receptor which promotes an estrogen dominant state that may be responsible for the development of PMS symptoms and infertility (12).
Immune System: Stress hormone, through its effector pathways, suppresses cellular immunity and potentiates humoral immunity. This has been postulated to be the mechanism contributing to the development of auto-immune disease but also increases your risk of infection and vulnerability to disease (6,8,9).
Brené Brown suggests asking yourself the following questions: Are my choices comforting and nourishing my spirit, or are they temporary reprieves from vulnerability and difficult emotions ultimately diminishing my spirit?
Are my choices leading my Wholeheartedness, or do they leave me feeling empty and searching?
Think about your actions… Is there something behind your sticky notes and to-do lists? Is there a better way to care for yourself so you don’t feel a need to fill the void with busyness?
Give yourself permission and be at ease with slowing down
Written by Breanne Kallonen