Busy isn’t Better

I’m sure most of us know someone who always talks about how busy they are. Some people even wear their busyness like a badge of honor. What is it about modern life that makes us feel the need to stay busy, flaunt how busy we are, and feel ashamed if we stop to take a break? There is an underlying subliminal (or not-so-subliminal) message that if we aren’t working non-stop, we’re lazy and less-than. At some point, we began prioritizing “hustling” over everything else, and we began telling ourselves that if we aren’t moving, we aren’t hard-working or determined enough.

When we see friends and family, the first thing we talk about is how busy we’ve been, apologizing for the time that has passed since our last get-together. We cancel plans because our schedules are just too full and we’ve double-booked ourselves. We run on a few hours of sleep, dragging our feet, and talking about how exhausted we are. Is this really a way to live? (I want to clarify that in many countries, people are busy and working non-stop because it’s the only way to pay their bills, provide for their families, and put food on the table. This is a completely different issue, related to the systemic issues of minimum wage, equal pay, and cost of living. When I refer to the culture of being workaholics and valuing work over everything else, I’m not referring to those people who have no choice but to work multiple jobs.)

But this idea of our value being determined by our busyness is not a healthy way to live. First of all, if our worth is tied to how busy we are, then we’re stuck in a cycle of never being able to stop in order to avoid not having worth. Secondly, our bodies are not meant to go non-stop without rest or sleep. Most of know the importance of a good night’s sleep, but what about rest that isn’t sleep? Resting is critical for our physical, mental, and emotional health in a similar way to sleep. Throughout our day-to-day, we need to find time to take a break and pause so that we can connect with ourselves on every level.

Taking time to rest and relax is important for our mental and emotional wellbeing for several reasons. If you are in a constant state of busyness, you’ll likely notice high stress levels, increased anxiety, and physical symptoms. We need time to rest and relax in order for our bodies to recuperate from the physical exertion of our days, and for our brains and minds to recuperate from the mental exertion. Our bodies and minds can’t really function their best if they aren’t given a chance to rest and recover.

Children especially need rest, relaxation, and SLEEP. Their bodies are growing and changing, while their brains are developing, so it’s vital that they are given adequate time to rest. It seems so common these days to have our kids enrolled in every extra-curricular activity possible, keeping them busy and active. But at some point it’s just too much. If you’re noticing your child’s mood shifting from energetic and happy to short-tempered and irritated, it’s probably time for them to rest. Remember when they were infants and cried because they were tired? They may not be crying from exhaustion now, but you’ll see it come out in other ways. If your child tells you they are tired, or throws a fit about going to football practice, pause to wonder if they’re in need of some relaxation.

If you’re reading this and thinking, I have a to-do list of twenty items and don’t have time to relax or rest!, take a deep breath. You don’t have to spend hours relaxing every day, although if you’re able to do that that’s wonderful! Even giving yourself ten to fifteen minutes a day to sit down and be quiet, read a book, watch a funny TV show, go for a quick walk, or take a bath is helpful for your body and mind. It really can be that simple! Even better if you can take some time as a family to rest and relax together, as this will teach your children the value of taking time off of work.

Being busy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, frustrated, and stressed-out is not a way to live your life, especially if you’re in a position where you can carve some time out of you day to take a break from the busyness. Your value is not correlated to how busy you are, how much overtime you’re working, or how many activities your kids are involved in. Your value goes far far beyond your busy schedule. So, take start giving yourself permission to rest each day, even if it means the dishes don’t get done or your child doesn’t go to swim lessons that day. Their mental and physical health- and yours- are more important.

And the next time your coworker or friend boasts about how busy they are, proudly tell them about the relaxing evening you had the night before and encourage them to do the same. Now, I’m off to relax! Thanks for being here.

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