It's a cult

Do you belong to the cult? 

We live in a culture of busy, and it’s easy to get swept up in the wave. Researchers at Johns Hopkins call it “the cult of busy,” and many people have unwittingly joined and are victim to the health challenges it brings.

When I ask people how they are, the most typical response I receive is, “I’m so busy.”  

Within our society, being busy is often worn as a badge of honour. For some, it seems like a contest of who’s the busiest, and therefore, who’s more important. We feel locked and loaded for action at any moment.

For many, being busy is a sign of success, importance, and being valued. Many of us buy into the idea that if we aren’t busy, we’re not important or are somehow lazy.

I recently found myself cringing as a friend said she hesitated to call me to check-in, because she knows how busy I am. I’m never too busy for my family, friends and those I care about, yet somehow, I’ve been communicating that I’m too busy.

This has to stop.

I admit, after many years of work and parenthood, like many others, I’ve developed a tendency to fall into the cultural trend of feeling too busy. 

When we get caught up in the mindset of busyness, even pleasurable things become something else we ‘have to do,’ instead of we ‘get to do.’

There’s a totally different feeling-response in our bodies and minds when we say we ‘have to’ as opposed to we ‘get to.’ I’ve frequently fallen into this habit myself, turning wonderful opportunities into chores, or just another thing to check off my to-do list. 

Feeling chronically busy keeps us stuck in the fight-or-flight response. Living our everyday lives can start to feel like an emergency. 

Over time, the cost of this stress is experienced as:

  • Sleep problems and fatigue
  • Cardiovascular changes 
  • Digestive upsets, such as indigestion, heartburn, constipation, and diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Kidney and adrenal challenges
  • Impaired immune function
  • Changes to our DNA and cellular-health
  • Irritability
  • Shrinkage of grey-matter in the brain
  • Inability to be present in the moment
  • Difficulty with relationships
  • Loss of happiness 
  • Burn-out 

When we’re practicing the busy-chant, we often miss out on the many pleasures we want to experience. The pleasures of everyday life can be lost to us, such as tasting the food we’re eating, as we’re consumed with our minds.

Words have power. The words we use carry an emotional charge, and our bodies are always listening and responding.

As I recite, “I’m busy,” “I’m stressed,” and that I have deadlines or a huge to-do list of activities, I can feel tension mount in my body, and my awareness closes.

I find it helpful to listen to myself and what I’m saying.

I’ve changed my busy-chant into acknowledging I have a full, rich, and interesting life. I recognize the privilege of the many things I get to do, and endeavour to see them that way.

I’m still growing. I fall off the wagon as I get pulled back into the cultural norm of busy. When I do, I simply pause, breathe, notice, and smile. I soften my body and dismiss the busy-chant in my mind. 

Mindset is key. When I dismiss the busy-chant, my mind grows clearer and I feel more relaxed and less pressured as I go about my day. I’m better equipped to deal with life’s opportunities, and I am a nicer person.

Changing old habits takes time, and it’s best done with gentle awareness. 

Even taking the time to notice, pause, and simply breathe resets my mental attitude and changes my experience of life.

The cult of busy is one I don’t want to belong to. The cost is too great.

At the end of the day, it’s our experience of things that matters the most. I want to enjoy the experience of life and the many opportunities I have. 

As Dolly Parton said, “Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.” 

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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

Corinne, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Health Science, is a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, and a hospice volunteer. She is an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan, and is currently teaching smartUBC, a unique Mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. She is an invited speaker and presenter.

From diverse experience and knowledge, personally and professionally, Corinne has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people to gain a new perspective, awaken, and to recognize that we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts or to life; we are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 41 years, and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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