Is it Better to be Busy?

You work like crazy all week. You intend to stop on the weekends, only to discover that you’re still in overdrive, constantly on the go with work-related activities or things that need to be done around the house. Sound familiar?

Mindful.org refers to this as action addiction, a deep-rooted human condition caused by imbalances in dopamine, the same neurotransmitter associated with the brain’s pleasure center. Much like abuse of drugs and alcohol, being busy makes us feel good, at least for awhile.

The catch is that humans aren’t created to be in constant motion. Juggling non-stop deadlines and constant activity can enslave the mind and negatively affect our mental and physical health.

If you’re in treatment or rehab for drug and alcohol addiction, this is a prime opportunity to learn about action addiction and how it can deplete your energy. Constant action can lead to exhaustion, anxiety and depression that can jeopardize sobriety and trigger relapse.

Just remember, you aren’t alone. Action addiction is an epidemic of our modern times.

Are you Addicted to Doing?

Mindful.org says the following simple exercise can help you determine if you have a problem with an action addiction. Here’s how it works:

Carve three minutes out of your day, preferably before you get busy in the morning. Sit in a comfortable chair and look out your window. No talking, no doing. Just sit. That’s all there is to it.

If you get restless and have trouble making it to the three-minute mark, you may have some degree of action addiction.

What Next?

Sometimes we don’t even know why we’re pushing so hard, but constant motion may be an escape mechanism that prevents us from thinking about the difficult questions of life. Constant busyness is one way to keep problems at arm’s length.

Being busy isn’t always productive and even if we accomplish a goal, we tend to set the bar even higher, so it seems that we never truly “get there.”

Whatever the reason for our action addiction, we may eventually pay a high price with chronic stress, exhaustion and burnout that damages relationships and takes a toll on our health and wellbeing.

It’s difficult for a person with an action addiction to slow down, but we do have the power to step out of the cycle.

Here are a few suggestions that may help you reach a healthier equilibrium:

  • Take a minute to think about your addiction to constant action. Be honest with yourself. Are there tasks you can let go?
  • Stop doing things just for the sake of being constantly busy. If you slow down, you may find that you actually accomplish more in the long run.
  • Are you viewing your busyness as a status symbol? Being busy doesn’t make you more important. It just makes you tired.
  • Focus on important goals and don’t waste your energy on things that don’t matter. If an activity isn’t really important, let it go.
  • On the other hand, if you determine an activity is truly important, don’t waste time agonizing over it. Just do it.
  • Be careful of acting on impulse. Choose your actions with intention.
  • Take a short time-out every hour. Set a timer to remind you, then use the brief respite to relax and breathe deeply. Even 45 seconds can help you stop spinning your wheels.
  • Focus on a single task at a time. Contrary to popular belief, it really isn’t possible for humans to multi-task. We’re just switching from one task to another, which ultimately diverts our focus and causes us to waste time.
  • On a similar note, don’t attempt to multi-task during your leisure time. Enjoy the time without constantly writing lists or checking your email. Learn to relax.
  • Place a high priority on your mental health. It’s just as important as your physical health.
  • Learn to say no. Admit that you aren’t superhuman and you can’t do everything. This may mean declining some activities you actually enjoy.

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