Be­ing busy can be a bad habit

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - REAL ESTATE - Rachel Hal­li­well

STAND­ING out­side school the other day I tried to make con­ver­sa­tion with a fel­low work­ing mum by rec­om­mend­ing a novel I had en­joyed. How I wish I hadn’t.

‘I don’t have time to read,’ she scoffed, be­fore launch­ing into the long list of tasks she jug­gles each day.

Her part­ing shot? To add, rather point­edly: ‘How lovely for you, though, to have the time to sit down with a good book.’

I should have left it there. I re­ally should. But no woman wants to lose the ‘I’m busier than you’ game so I raised the stakes. ‘I’m just very or­gan­ised,’ I said smugly, be­fore reel­ing off all the things I’d man­aged to get done be­fore break­fast that morn­ing, owing to a 5am start.

Churl­ish, I know. Thank good­ness our chil­dren came run­ning out of school mid­flow, bring­ing the ‘busy-off’ to an end.

But our ri­valry is sure to be picked up again, when in­stead of be­ing hor­ri­fied by our in­abil­ity to switch off, we’ll each qui­etly

won­der: ‘Am I do­ing enough my­self?’

The prob­lem is that like count­less women of our gen­er­a­tion, we seek val­i­da­tion from hav­ing too much to do. If we’re not work­ing, we’re fer­ry­ing our kids to ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties while mi­cro­manag­ing our fam­ily’s diaries as well as our own.

We feel guilty if we don’t cook ev­ery meal from scratch and see fold­ing laun­dry as a chance to catch breath. And what mother doesn’t know the where­abouts of ev­ery mem­ber of her house- hold at any given mo­ment? Not least be­cause it’s of­ten our job to get them there in the first place.

At the crux of all this is the fact that, un­like other ad­dic­tions, you don’t keep quiet through shame. Quite the op­po­site, busy­ness is worn as a badge of hon­our.

And it is start­ing to af­fect our men­tal and phys­i­cal well­be­ing.

A UK sur­vey showed that though the av­er­age woman typ­i­cally com­pletes 26 tasks each day, 80 per cent still don’t think they’re good enough; a wor­ry­ing four in ten felt on the brink of burnout.

So why do we find it so hard to stop? The prob­lem is that busy­ness feeds our psy­che.

Ac­tiv­ity, stress and a sense of ac­com­plish­ment trig­ger the brain into re­leas­ing the ad­dic­tive chem­i­cal adren­a­line and the feel­good hor­mone dopamine into the blood.

Even when we’re on hol­i­day and have noth­ing to do, we feel rest­less and look for things to oc­cupy our hands and our minds so we can get an­other hit.

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