Johns Hopkins Health Review has identified a serious health threat that many people in the world suffer from: overscheduling. According to Herald Net, being busy is more than just a way of life — it’s a risk to life. While many people say they thrive under pressure, their idea of thriving may be the adrenaline rush of surviving — heightened awareness, racing pulse, tense muscles. We are so busy trying to excel in so many areas that it’s possible we are slowly killing ourselves, according to the researchers at Hopkins.
Picture this: an average Wednesday in middle American suburbia. Mom and Dad get up at six, Dad goes to the gym, Mom drops the baby off at daycare and takes two more kids to school, stops for a coffee because she only had three hours sleep last night — a big proposal was due at work today. Dad, meanwhile, is tense about the office environment — the new manager has different expectations than the last. While Mom and Dad fight traffic to get home after 10 hours of work, mom is already thinking about what she can feed the kids before soccer, while Dad worries that he’s not going to make it to his night class — he needs that MBA to climb the ladder. Meanwhile, the kids are rushing through homework before soccer practice. Mom gets them to practice while she makes three phone calls to people she has been blowing off for a while. On the way home, she notices little Johnny has a cough. Momentarily panicked, she realizes she can’t miss work tomorrow — can her husband? She calls him and they argue about who has more to lose at work while Johnny stifles a cough in the backseat. At home, they rush around making lunches and climb into bed, exhausted, in order to get up and do it again tomorrow.
That’s not an unrealistic day in the lives of many families. But that doesn’t mean it’s good for you — even if your activities are stimulating your mind and your brain. Busyness is more than a fact of life; it is a significant health concern. More than one-third of Americans say they don’t have enough time in a 24-hour-period to get things done. Work hours morph into home life until the two are not distinguishable from one another. Gallup polls have shown that our hectic schedules directly correlate with a drastic increase in anxiety. The majority of Americans who report not having enough spare time also say they also suffer from stress, and that it manifests itself through physical symptoms, emotional symptoms, lack of productivity, and relationship strain.
According to Joseph Bienvenu, a psychiatrist and director of the Anxiety Disorders Clinic at Johns Hopkins Hospital, busyness has become so pervasive that he sees people who cannot eat, sleep, or even think clearly.
“Emotional distress due to overbusyness manifests as difficulty focusing and concentrating, impatience and irritability, trouble getting adequate sleep, and mental and physical fatigue. This is a vicious cycle, of course. Emotional distress leads to trouble with sleep and fatigue, and lack of sleep and exercise leads to more distress.”
There is a word for what many people feel at the height of their busyness: time poverty. But the good news is, once you identify that you are time-poor, you can take steps to become more balanced. The problem with lack of down-time is that it makes your body overproduce the stress hormone cortisol, which can lead to weight gain, fatigue, diabetes, heart disease, and mood disorders.
Researchers noted that the most effective ways to take back your time are quite simple, according to the Johns Hopkins Health Review. These include keeping a time diary to see where your time is really going; making small commitments, like promising yourself you are leaving the office at a certain time no matter what; and taking the time to vacation regularly. These small changes can help protect against serious health problems in the future.
[Photo by Westend61/Getty Images]