Being Addicted to Being Busy

When I’m not balancing grad school and work I’m constantly juggling social engagements and various other commitments. But on a particular Tuesday night I had nothing to do and a moment of what should’ve been calm and clarity came more as shock-and-awe…what do I do now?

I felt like I needed to do something and a self-realization hit me:

I’m addicted to being busy.


Is it even possible?

Simply put, yes. In fact, scheduling our lives can have the same effects experienced by those with substance addictions. To put it into perspective— an addiction builds by indulging in a substance or activity and enjoying the overstimulation that it causes in our brains as it releases feelings of joy and pleasure. As time goes on, the reward system in our brain becomes desensitized and more is needed in order to experience the same pleasurable stimulation.

We’ve come to hear the words “You’re so busy” as a badge of merit that we wear as a compliment solidifying our importance and worth. This phrase gratifies us in the same way that a hit of cocaine can gratify a user. It makes us feel good and the line of needing more and wanting more becomes blurred. Then begins the cycle of chasing the busyness high and making sure we are always doing something and always have something to do later.

Can being a busy addict really be that harmful?

Why not? Just like those with substance addictions, we begin to let something else take over our lives and that’s where the harm seeps in. We begin to hand over control to the blank pages in our calendars and look for the next ‘fix.’ If we lose self-control— we have an addiction.

The merit badge of busyness that we wear begins to be worn in vain because we are no longer investing our time valuably. While opportunties for professional and personal growth should never be squandered, it is important that we make time for those who really value it. We shouldn’t be hearing “you’re so busy” as the compliment, but we should instead recognize that someone else values our time and see that as the compliment. When we lose line of sight on those who really love us — we have an addiction.

What’s the biggest sign of busyness addicts?

Not knowing what to do in solitude and forgetting the simple pleasures of life that can be found in time alone. When we have a moment to oursleves, but our minds begin to slip into racing thoughts and worries— we have reached an unhealthy addiction to being busy. Just like it is important to reset our bodies every night with an adequate dose of sleep, we need to be able to turn off our minds for a similar reset.

How do we overcome this addiction?

If you know, tell me. Is it going cold-turkey and locking yourself in a room without distractions to read a book or bake a cake? Or is it re-structuring the act of scheduling by penciling in time for social pleasures, but also for more calming and self-aware activities like yoga? I’m sure it’s a balance of the two in some shape or form. To overcome an addiction to being busy we need to be able to enjoy our time with ourselves just as much as we enjoy it when surrounded by constant company.

Because in the wise words of Ferris Bueller..

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop to look around once in awhile—you could miss it.
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