How many times a day do you ask someone how they are, and they respond with “good, but a little stressed,” “doing well, but I’m so tired,” or “I’m fine, but I’ve just been so busy!”? A bit too often, we guess. And how often do you answer the question with the same response?

Do you also ever catch yourself thinking, “Wow, that person is so much busier than I am. He or she is doing so much more, so I should be busier, too?” It can be all too easy to view other people’s workload as an indicator that they somehow must be more fulfilled by what they are doing, or more accomplished in their endeavors. We can get caught in a trap of over-scheduling our days to the brim, as a way to make us feel more important, or to make us feel as if we are measuring up to the people around us.

It can be all to easy to proclaim about how busy we are, as if the amount we have to do is a marker of our accomplishments. However, when we glorify stress and being busy, we normalize a culture and environment where running ourselves ragged is not just commended, but is also the rule.

It’s no secret that chronic stress and anxiety can negatively affect both mental and physical well-being. Stress and anxiety increase fatigue, can weaken your immune system, raise your blood pressure, and increase the risk of depression. Therefore, we should all be careful of celebrating busy-ness in our daily lives, and be cautious of glorifying the things in our lives that contribute to burnout. How much you pack into your day does not determine your value, our worth, or success.

Of course, it isn’t practical to just drop all your activities in the name of being less stressed, but what you can do is re-evaluate. You can re-evaluate what, and most importantly, who, is meaningful in your life. You can re-evaluate how to prioritize your relationships, and how to make time for the activities that make you feel the most enriched. And you can re-evaluate your own personal definition of success.

Instead of glorifying the notion of being busy, you can shift your perspective from how much you pack into your day to with what you fill your time. Focus on depth, not breadth: not how much you fit into your schedule, but the quality of what you do throughout the day.

Start first by prioritizing who makes you feel the most fulfilled, and put an emphasis on spending time building and fostering those relationships. Feeling connected to the people we value most does wonders for lowering stress and anxiety, and helps us fill our time with interactions that bring us joy.

Then, reevaluate what you do that makes you feel the most fulfilled, and what you are excited to spend your time doing during your day. Do you want to make more time for your favorite type of exercise? Or want to spend time on a new passion project? Whatever those activities are, put them at the top of your list of things to put first.

Then, move on to figuring out what is cluttering your day, and what makes you feel frazzled, drained, or full of negative energy. Think of strategies as to how you can reduce these things, or cut them out of your life entirely, to make room for the things that bring you peace and help reduce your stress.

We can change our rhetoric, even in small ways. Changing the way we frame our lives doesn’t have to come at the expense of being real and honest with others about when times are bad or when they are good, but we can actively emphasize what we value in our lives over the “busy-ness” of our lives. And in doing so, we can not only change what we view as important, but we can influence others to do the same.

Author: Maggie Harriman

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