‘Let me check my diary and get back to you.’
It’s a phrase we’ve all uttered when trying to squeeze friends and family into our busy schedules and increasingly demanding lifestyles.
And while we have all struggled with an over-booked diary or jam-packed week at some stage, it’s possible some members of modern society have developed what experts label an ‘addiction’ to being busy.
Psychologist and Clinical Director of MindMovers Psychology, Jaimie Bloch, explained the psychology of ‘busyness’ and revealed the signs that you, too, may be suffering.
Life in the fast lane can get hectic. Can you become addicted to being busy? FEMAIL asks Jaimie Bloch, Psychologist and Clinical Director of MindMovers Psychology
Signs that you’re addicted to being busy
- You pack your schedule to the brim
- You panic at the thought of an activity free day
- When you’re out, you can’t stop checking your phone or emails
- You feel the need to constantly be productive
ADDICTED TO BEING BUSY: A CHEMICAL CONNECTION
When we complete tasks, we get a burst of the pleasure hormone dopamine.
Therefore, we can get hooked on the rush of achievement.
‘You can definitely become addicted to being busy,’ Ms Bloch said.
‘Addiction occurs when our brain’s reward system is activated by a rewarding experience.’
She explained that every time we complete a task, it ‘floods our brain with the neurotransmitter dopamine, responsible for the release of pleasure throughout or brain and body’.
Our brains become hooked on this dopamine rush, become used to this amount of dopamine release and then crave the pleasure again and again.
Ms Bloch said that when we complete tasks, we get a rush of the pleasure hormone dopamine which gets us hooked on achievement and make us addicted to being busy
ANXIETY AT SLOWING DOWN
The fear of missing out on activity or being unproductive may stem from a desire to succeed or a fear of experiencing difficult emotions.
Sometimes people pack their schedules in order to avoid dealing with other emotions and thoughts in their lives.
‘Some of us use being busy as a way to avoid difficult emotions,’ Ms Bloch said.
‘When our mind isn’t occupied with a task, a social event or work we are left with our thoughts and our emotions.
We are constantly on the go, with work, children, fitness and friendship, yet it can be hard to adjust our pace and slow down
‘Many people feel uncomfortable and anxious being in this space, as it forces us to deal with difficult emotions or thoughts.’
For example, people who have recently left relationships might use excessive activity as a way to keep their minds off the break up.
‘This is a form of avoidance,’ Ms Bloch said.
‘Therefore, when you are left without being busy, your mind will then wander into the past, replaying the break up.’
‘Other people feel anxious when they aren’t busy, as it feels like a form of failure when we don’t have our schedules filled up’ said Ms Bloch
However, other people might keep busy because they feel it’s a way to seek success.
‘Other people feel anxious when they aren’t busy, as it feels like a form of failure when we don’t have our schedules filled up, creating unpleasant emotions such as anxiety and sadness,’ Ms Bloch said.
‘BUSYNESS’ AS A STATUS SYMBOL
In life, we can get caught up in the rat race.
Ms Bloch said that in a society obsessed with productivity and achievement, being ‘busy’ can be a way to elevate your social status and ‘we can become addicted to the feeling of being ‘at our best’.
‘One reason why we become addicted is because the concept of being ‘Busy’ in western modern culture has become a status symbol’ said Ms Bloch
‘One reason why we become addicted is because the concept of being ‘busy’ in western modern culture has become a status symbol,’ she said.
‘Being busy creates a sense of importance and value and people can become hooked by the emotions this can elicit.’
She said that because of this value on productivity, we feel pressure to constantly achieve.
‘It has become the norm to feel and think the more we are doing the more we are worth, she said.
‘If we are relaxing we are not doing anything, which is linked to unpleasant emotions, such as guilt, shame, worry.’
Have you ever experienced anxiety at the thought of having an empty calendar? Fear of being unproductive is driven in part by society’s obsession with productivity
WAYS TO UNWIND
While we find time to do a million activities and tasks, it can be a challenge to find the time to decompress.
In fact, this is a problem for many active people.
‘Busy people are often bad at relaxing,’ Ms Bloch said.
‘This is because relaxing is associated with not being busy, which creates a sense of anxiety, unrest and guilt in the person who is relaxing.’
According to Ms Bloch, ‘Busy people are often bad at relaxing’ but it’s important to slow down and allow yourself to acknowledge your emotions every now and then
In terms of self care, Ms Bloch said that to manage this anxiety, it is important to know that we all experience emotions and that emotions can only pass when we let ourselves feel them.
”When you notice you aren’t busy and feel worried, know that filling your schedule up will only put off the inevitable,’ she concluded.
‘Pause, take a breath and let the emotion be.’