I was at lunch with a friend last week and she was asking how my practice was going and how yoga teaching was. That naturally led to a conversation about how stressed out everyone seems to be. Followed by her asking me why I thought that was. I didn’t even blink an eye when I summed up in 4 words what I thought the problem was “the epidemic of busyness”. She took a moment, nodded and stated “I absolutely can see that because we are so busy."
As a society, we have gotten busier and busier. We are busy at work, we are busy at home, we are running errands, we are busy with our technology, busy with kids, the kids are busy, we are always busy. From a 2015 Gallop survey, American adults employed full-time work an average of 47 hours a week, and 4 out of 10 work 50+ hours a week. That is up from just decade ago. Not to mention that when we leave work our to-do lists are a mile long. Whew, I’m tired just writing about it.
Of course, I’m tired since the average American per a 2015 Gallup survey 40% of Americans get less than the recommended hours of sleep. No wonder why I and most people are always feeling tired. Not to mention it’s just a vicious cycle because the less sleep we get the more likely we are to be stressed and the more stressed we are the less likely we are to get a good night’s sleep. Being so busy doesn’t leave much time for rest and relaxation either.
Man, and don’t we wear our busyness like a badge of honor too? Who hasn’t said or heard someone talk about how they are running on 4 hours of sleep, I worked 10 + hours yesterday, and I haven’t had a vacation in a year? I know that I have said things like this and I have heard others say things like this. As though we are somehow superior to the person who set good boundaries and left work on time, who found time to squeak in some self -care, and got a healthy recommended 7-9 hours of sleep. What is that all about? Because I know deep down for me I would much rather be the person who is well rested, energized, and grounded than stressed out, overwhelmed, and over caffeinated.
We receive a lot of societal validation about being busy. It’s as though the busier we are the better we are. I know that I have and still do catch myself putting validation behind how busy I am, which is unhealthy because what happens when we aren’t busy? What happens when we rest or get sick? We have tendency to flip our thoughts about how we aren’t good enough because we aren’t doing anything. “How lazy am I that I’m lying around the house. I don’t have time to be sick. I feel so guilty.” The list goes on and on.
When did taking time for you, saying no to things, or leaving work on time become anxiety riddled? It didn’t happen all at once. It never does. It happens little by little, over time, till suddenly we are in a middle of a crisis. A public health nightmare fueled by validation for being busy and shame for resting.
I can remember when I started voicing how wrong I thought it was to be spending 6 hours a day in the car for work, to not want to work a 16 hour day even if I got overtime, and wanting to take a sick day so I could sleep because I was exhausted. I remember how I was shunned, looked down on, and treated as though I was just young and naïve. I remember what that felt like, how shaming it was.
I also know that I wasn’t being naïve that it was my survival instincts taking over. That centuries of evolution written into my DNA was screaming “this is not going to work, this is what is going to make you sick”. You know what I was sick, a lot in the beginning of my career. I had migraines weekly, stomach issues, and I was constantly fighting colds. I didn’t feel happy. I felt stressed. Either I would sacrifice me time to just crash and sleep or I would sacrifice sleep to have some sort of a social life. I was busy all the time.
When I decided to start making changes in my life. To stop just letting work and life happen at me I began to notice that I was sleeping better, eating better, my migraines decreased, and I felt good. I felt passionate again about what I was doing, what I wanted to be doing, and how I wanted to live my life. I felt connected with my relationships and started developing new friendships. I had time to finally take that leap into yoga teacher training. Not to mention I had the energy to open my own private practice.
Is busyness all that its cut out to be? No, I don’t think it is. I think now more than ever with the evolution of technology we as humans need to set stronger and stricter boundaries with how we live our life. Technology is evolving faster than we as humans can naturally evolve so it will come down to us to set in place self-care activities, meditation practices, saying no, and setting boundaries at work.
I understand that some fields are demanding and require that you work 10+ hours a day but that is when finding time throughout the day to nourish your mind, body, and spirit becomes even more important. Making time for breakfast, taking lunch away from your desk even if it’s only 15 minutes, walking the stairs, and maybe revisiting why you are doing that job that doesn’t allow for self- care.
We are in control here of this epidemic of busyness. What a powerful thing to know, because there are so many things in life that are out of our control but this is not one of them. We have the power to set boundaries, we have the power to prioritize our health and wellness, we have the power to say no, we have the power to end this epidemic of busyness. WE are in control of supporting others and ourselves by validating self-care and supporting others in their journey towards being healthier and happier. Each of us has an opportunity this week to do something different, to encourage someone to eat lunch or leave work on time, to watch the kids so your partner can workout or grab a bath, to lead by example. We have that opportunity so lets take it.
Hello! Welcome to my Blog on self care . I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Registered Yoga Teacher.