Too busy to read this? Then you probably should

work life balance Sep 08, 2020

Busy? You're not alone. 

More than 60% of Brits feel overwhelmed trying to stay on top of everything they have going on. Being busy has long been linked with feelings of increased stress and anxiety and decreased well-being, and when time-pressure is added on, good decisions go right out of the window. It seems that making choices that are good for Future You give way to whatever works to get it ticked off the list. And this includes the big decisions like food, financial strategies and even medical decisions. 

When you are constantly busy, your body secretes more cortisol, the stress hormone. Cortisol inhibits your digestive and immune systems as it reroutes all of your energy to facilitate the fight or flight response. This is perfectly fine in small bursts, but over time, you'll really start to feel the effects on your health. 

And while busyness can have its negative effects on the body, it's not all bleak. Being busy has been found to increase cognitive performance, as the brain is being challenged throughout the day by various tasks. Long term, this mental sharpness reduces the risk of degenerative mental health in later life, but will also increase your cognitive performance throughout your life, making you better at problem solving and improving your memory.

A study by Jeehye Kim, Monica Wadhwa, and Amitava Chattopadhyay found that feeling busy actually has a positive effect on your self esteem. Having lots to do makes us feel important, and getting things done make us feel accomplished. People who suffer from low self esteem typically experience more anxiety and stress, difficulty in relationships and lower performance in their jobs. 

People with higher self esteem have been found to make better choices in general, and be more successful at making decisions that benefit their future self as well. People that are feeling good and confident in themselves also tend to have a healthier lifestyle which will also help them in dealing with stress in their lives more effectively. 

But being busy isn't the answer to everything. The study also found that when there is a sense of time pressure, people start to make worse decisions, and your body starts to exhibit signs of stress again. Next time you're feeling a bit overwhelmed:

  • Take a moment to remind yourself that you're only so busy because you're important! 
  • Look at the things you're trying to do and work out which of those things can wait for another day.
  • Prioritise the things that are most important, and that have an effect on your health, like shopping for healthy food and paying your bills on time.
  • See which things you can automate or delegate!

 It's really important that you're not always busy though. Being able to be present with your family and friends is vital to keeping close and healthy relationships, and sometimes people fill their time up with busy-ness so they don't have to deal with something they're avoiding. 

As always, what we're striving for is balance. A great way to contain your busy-time is to use power-hours (can be any length of time) where you focus on getting a task (or tasks) completed. Once the timer's up, you're done and it's time to do something that fills you up, like playing a game with your kids, or going for a walk. 

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