“I’m so Busy” | Deconstructing Business, Stress, and the Implications

In this world we live in, everyone is operating on a different timeline, in a different body, with different circumstances. We are all vastly different, more-so than we can likely ever understand, with the tiny, beautiful nuances and intricacies that make up a human being and make us ourselves. This said, we often find ourselves frustrated with the constraining nature of language. Language creates a standardized set of words and phrases used for self-understanding and the understanding of others.This is especially the case when it comes to the invisible qualities of a human such as our thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

Think about all of the times you’ve said that you feel “sad” or “mad” in your life. Now, think about the massive degree of variation in those feelings from one instance to the next. Perhaps once you were sad because you lost your favorite sweater, and perhaps another time you were sad because you lost a relative or someone close to you. It seems like madness that the word “sad” would be used in both, substantially different, events, wouldn’t you say? So, if one word can look that different in two of your personal experiences, think about how different it may look from one individual to the next. How on earth are we supposed to relate to one another when we’re operating within such a small sphere of words to express how we feel when others can’t physically see it?

There’s a word that has been ringing in our ears lately, and because is seemingly ubiquitous and needed exploring. That word? Busy. We’re just going to come right out and say it: business is being glamorized in today’s society in an unhealthy, unnatural, and very peculiar way. Everyone is “hustling” with coffees in hands discussing how “busy” they are and judging other individuals’ degrees of business. The hustle is not only everywhere, but for most, it is entirely necessary to make ends meet. Being a hard-working, motivated, or ambitious individual is not a problem by any means, these are incredible traits; rather, the problem is the mentality that this is the only way of life. Appearing to be busy has become a badge of honor, a measure of how important someone is, and a means to gather feelings of self-worth.

Have you noticed that “so busy!” seems to be an adequate and frequent response to “how are you doing?” these days? We’re beginning to wonder what on earth “busy” even means.

Tasks, obligations, and schedules look different for every individual and we are each different in regards to what we are capable of. Have you ever heard someone speaking about how busy they are and thought to yourself “they’re not busy”?-  The thing is, if being a parent and working full time works for you (for example), that’s wonderful. If working 100 hour weeks works for you, that’s great; but, if you find yourself exhausted and stressed with a part-time school schedule, a 20-hour a week job, or no job at all, this is fine, too, and is no cause for shame or judgment. Some of us become stressed on account of full schedules, and some of us derive stress from excessive free time.

 

Busy as a feeling not as a state of being

In order to deconstruct the ways in which we have come to look at being busy and the measurement of whether or not someone should be stressed by their workload, we must first re-think the way we understand the word “busy” altogether. There are a number of things which may make an individual feel busy, some of which are more objective, some are unique to said individual. Because busy looks so vastly different from one individual to the next, we would like to reimagine it as a feeling rather than a state of being.

So, rather than understanding someone as either being busy or not being busy, why don’t we try to understand business as a feeling which some of us may feel more often than others, for reasons which are unique to ourselves. Let’s empathize with people when they say they are busy because we’ve felt that way, too. Rather than seeking to quantify vastly different tasks, jobs, schedules, lifestyles, and states of being in order to decide if someone is allowed to call themselves busy or not, let’s believe it when we hear it, this person says their busy so they must feel busy.

Next, we can ask them how that makes them feel. Remember, some individuals enjoy being busy and may even use the term positively, whereas others associate being busy with negativity and the negative feelings which it gives them. Listening is key and trying to understand is all we can do! Practicing empathy is beneficial in all of our interactions as it ensures that all individuals involved feel heard and understood. It also helps us form, solid, lasting, meaningful relationships.

Stress & Business

The vicious cycle: Stressors make us feel busier, feeling busy makes us stressed

When we are stressed, we are far more likely to feel busy. Tasks may seem more daunting, less manageable, and sometimes even impossible. When we are in states of stress, we interpret situations, tasks, events, and interactions differently; this may cause us to perceive things as far more stressful or time/energy-consuming than we would if we were in sound states of mind. These states of stress can be incredibly cyclical because, when we are stressed, we tend to perform tasks less effectively/efficiently than we otherwise would, and poor performance or inefficient task-handling may then cause an individual additional stress, and the cycle continues.

“The ironic consequence of the “busy feeling” is that we handle our to-do lists less well than if we weren’t so rushed. The economist Sendhil Mullainathan and the behavioral scientist Eldar Shafir describe this as a problem of “cognitive bandwidth”: feelings of scarcity, whether money or time, prey on the mind, thereby impairing decision-making. When you’re busy, you’re more likely to make poor time-management choices – taking on commitments you can’t handle, or prioritizing trifling tasks over crucial ones. Vicious spiral kicks in: your feelings of busyness leave you even busier than before.” – Oliver Burkeman, BBC


Stress looks different on everyone

We all have vastly different susceptibilities to stress and stressors in our lives. New research is showing that there are certain molecules that play a role in neuronal development and plasticity. These stress-induced alterations in growth factors such as neurotrophins, in particular, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), have been studied and shown to potentially be a stress-associated pathology. With this, the changing expression of BDNF and its receptors over development and in response to hormones are giving us better understanding differences in regard to individual susceptibility to stress.

Stress has long been associated with the development of neuropsychiatric and neurological disorders. The effects of stress on our minds and bodies will vary depending on many factors like age in which the stressors first started, the duration and severity of the stressor(s) and can even have more influence based on our hormones.

The majority of research investigating the link between stress and pathology development has focused on stress hormone secretion. However, trends have started to shift and research has started to focus on more additional neuromodulatory systems that may be significantly impacted by stress that may explain changes in developmental and gender-related susceptibility to stress.

Needless to say, what stresses you out may not stress me out in the slightest, and the other way around. Additionally, what stress may look like for me, might be significantly different for you. So, we are back to the whole problem of words not quite doing the trick. Stress looks different, feels different, comes at different frequencies, and has different effects on every individual.

Different types of stress

There are a number of different types of stress. Because stress is something which we (commonly) cannot see, it is up to the individual to explain they are feeling and, as such, words typically fall short. It is important to understand that when someone says they are feeling stressed, we can’t know exactly what they mean or the severity of how they are feeling; therefore, we must ask questions, commit to learning, and support them in any way they may allow, to the best of our abilities of course. This said, here are three common types of stress individuals may encounter:

Acute Stress

“Acute stress is the most common form of stress. It comes from demands and pressures of the recent past and anticipated demands and pressures of the near future. Acute stress is thrilling and exciting in small doses, but too much is exhausting.” –American Psychological Association

Episodic Acute Stress

 “There are those, however, who suffer acute stress frequently, whose lives are so disordered that they are studies in chaos and crisis. They’re always in a rush, but always late. If something can go wrong, it does. They take on too much, have too many irons in the fire, and can’t organize the slew of self-inflicted demands and pressures clamoring for their attention. They seem perpetually in the clutches of acute stress.” –American Psychological Association

Chronic Stress

“Chronic Stress comes when a person never sees a way out of a miserable situation. It’s the stress of unrelenting demands and pressures for seemingly interminable periods of time. With no hope, the individual gives up searching for solutions.” –American Psychological Association

These three types of stress alone are incredibly different, therefore we mustn’t assume that we know how someone is feeling when they say they are stressed. Furthermore, as the types of stress are different, the effects of stress are as well. In terms of chronic stress, this is an illness, not just a feeling or a state of being which one may experience. It is consistent, it is unrelenting, and it may affect an individual’s mental health, physical health, relationships, career, and overall quality of life.

Motivation Vs. Debilitation on the face of business or stress

As many of us are aware, stress affects the human body, mentally and psychically, in countless ways. But because stress affects us each so differently, it can be troublesome at times to empathize with others and the ways in which they deal with their stress. When some individuals are faced with stress, they gain motivation from it and push themselves to work harder and complete the tasks or face the fears which are causing them grief. Though for others, feelings of stress leave them debilitated and unable to face that which is causing them stress. For example, if there is a large test or exam afoot, some individuals’ stress will manifest in relentless studying and preparation; but for others, their stress will manifest in an inability to look at their notes or think about the daunting examination at hand.

Both of these reactions are normal and both are entirely valid. So, next time you hear someone say “I’m so stressed about finding a job” and you think to yourself “then go apply for some!” perhaps you should be aware of the fact that simply writing a resume may be causing them crippling amounts of stress. Everyone copes differently, this is something we must always be aware of.

 

That which we cannot see: Health conditions may make us feel more busy/stressed

Something else we must take into account when speak of stress and feelings of business is that which we cannot see, i.e. invisible illness. There are a number of illnesses, mental and physical, which are (for the most part) undetectable to the outside observer.

Think of it this way, if someone suffers from social anxiety and they are seeking to plan a party or prepare for an event, this may take a great deal more time and energy than it would for someone else, therefore causing them to feel busier or more stressed. If someone suffers from an illness which brings them chronic pain, Endometriosis, for example, something such as running errands or going to the gym is far more difficult, and at times impossible. If someone suffers from Depression, simply getting out of bed may be a nearly impossible task and, in fact, deserves celebration. So, rather than judging someone on what they aren’t doing, let’s celebrate what people are doing because we simply cannot know how anyone is feeling beyond what we can see.


Changing Up Busy: Deconstructing How We Understand Business

Knowing that we can only know ourselves

We have no idea what others are going through, what they are feeling, where they have been, what their goals are, what their values are, or anything apart from what they show/tell us. Drawing conclusions about others are productive for no one as we can only fully know ourselves. When in doubt, act with empathy, compassion, and kindness. If someone says they are stressed or busy and you cannot for the life of you understand why, that’s okay! You don’t need to understand why, you just need to understand that they are a human telling you they feel a certain way and they deserve kindness and care, just like you do.

Glamorizing Self-Care

Instead of telling yourself you “should” get to the gym, work harder, be more social, make more money, or any of the above, why not ask yourself what would make you feel great in this very moment? If it’s sleep, amazing. If it’s a healthy meal, perfect. If it’s some social time with friends, have at ‘er! It feels good to feel good, so rather than putting the hustle at the forefront of your priorities, put yourself first and the hustle will follow. Set goals and intentions, listen to yourself, mind and body, and act accordingly.

Changing the way we use the term “busy”

Because, as we said, the term busy may be too broad to encompass all its many faces, perhaps it’s wise to seek alternative forms of expression. Instead of “I’m to busy” when turning down a task, a social obligation, or something of the sort, try “that’s not a priority for me right now.” What we say has a whole lot to do with how we feel, so if we are constantly saying that we are busy, we will feel that way and potentially become overwhelmed. Using your power of choice is empowering and can allow you to create space for that which matters most to you without jeopardizing your current state of being.

Asking Questions & Seeking to Know

There is nothing more important than seeking to know and understand the individuals around us. Ask questions, listen, do research, and be there for others to whatever extent you are able. First and foremost, be there for YOU. Learn about yourself, listen to yourself, and never stop caring about the humans on this lovely earth, yourself included.

 

Britanny Burr

Britanny is a Freelance Writer and Editor with a Bachelor of Arts in English. She grew up in the Rocky Mountains and is currently dwelling in Vancouver. She loves pool parties (though they are few and far between because she lives in Canada), hairless cats (though she hasn't yet met one in real life), and people who make her laugh. You can find her dancing, reading, drinking coffee or wine (dependent on the time of day), and watching Boy Meets World re-runs. @britburr

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