I met a person this week and asked him to tell me about himself.
He didn’t start by telling me about his family or education or work experience or political affiliation. He started the conversation by telling me, “I’m a busy guy.”
I asked him, “Do you think that most people are busy?”
He said that he did.
I asked another question: “Do you think busyness is a good thing or a bad thing?”
He responded that busyness is definitely a good thing.
I asked him why it’s a good thing. He responded, “If you’re not busy, something must be wrong with you.”
This is not uncommon. Many people believe that busyness is good.
But Jesus said, “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” (Matt. 7:18). If busyness is a good thing, it will produce good side effects.If busyness is a good thing, then it will produce good side effects. Click To Tweet
So let’s examine the fruit of busyness – some of the overlooked side effects – to see if it is good or bad.
1. Busyness Leads to Burnout
Stephen Cherry writes this about busyness: “Busyness, if left unchecked, leads to disappointment, disillusionment, and even burnout.”
None of these three effects are positive. But burnout is especially damaging.
Burnout has been researched in depth by Christina Maslach. It has three stages. Do you find yourself in any of these stages?
1. Emotional Exhaustion
During this stage, you feel drained of energy and emotionally empty. You also believe that there is no source for replenishing the reserves of your emotions and energy.
During this stage, you develop a negative opinion of others. You expect the worst from them. You can even “actively dislike” them. This means that you expend energy telling yourself how much you dislike them.Busyness leads you to actively dislike the people around you. Click To Tweet
3. Reduced sense of personal accomplishment.
In the final stage, you feel like you aren’t accomplishing anything. This has major side effects:
“prolonged fatigue, insomnia, lack of appetite, loss of libido, inability to concentrate, and feeling that one’s life is out of control.” (“Burnout and Leisure,” Journal of Applied Psychology, Nov. 1998, Stanton-Rich and Iso-Ahola).
Busyness leads to emotional exhaustion, depersonalization of your relationships, and significant physical side effects.
2. Busyness damages your body
Busyness is usually caused by an overcommitment to too many good things. When you overcommit, you create stress. Your body’s response to stress is that it produces adrenaline.
Like a drug, adrenaline creates feelings of euphoria. Archibald Hart writes, “The essence of stress damage lies not so much in the problems of life, but in our attitude toward time and the excitement and pleasure we derive from interesting challenges and demanding schedules.”
But Hart points out that long-term exposure to adrenaline creates a significant breakdown of your body.
How Busyness Breaks Down Your Body
Busyness creates feelings of stress. When you encounter stress, your body is designed to go through a 3-stage process:
1. An alarm system realizes that something is wrong. This is when adrenaline kicks in.
2. A response system responds by “fight, flight, or freeze.”
3. A recovery system provides healing and recuperation.
But when you are busy, your body doesn’t allow for the third stage to take place. You move from one commitment to the next. From one busy activity to the next. From one busy day to the next.
No recovery. No healing. No recuperation.
This takes a toll on your body. It diminishes your immune system. It will attack you at your weakest point. According to Hart, it leads to “headaches, ulcers, digestive problems, or muscle spasms.” Busyness and stress causes people to “live very painful and intolerable lives.”
In fact, Hart wrote in 1995: “The time is rapidly approaching, if it hasn’t already arrived, when we will be dying less and less from infectious or invasive diseases—but more often from the ravaging effects of too much stress. And stress disease is different from most forms of illness—we bring it on ourselves!”
Busyness takes a significant toll on your body through the creation of adrenaline and the failure to allow for recovery
The Drug of Busyness
Busyness is like a drug. It feels really good. Because it feels good, you convince yourself that it is good.
But, like a drug, it actually does significant damage to you.Busyness is like a drug. It feels really good. But it’s killing you. Click To Tweet
My new friend believed that busyness is a good thing. But it produces bad fruit.
Busyness is killing you. It’s killing your friends. It’s killing your children.
That means that busyness is a bad thing.
It’s time for you to attack busyness. Your life depends on it!
Question: How have you seen busyness affect your emotions and physical health?