busy life syndrome

Busy life syndrome: what’s it all about?

If there is a topic that most people can relate to as soon as they hear it, it is the well-known busy life syndrome. Do you suffer from it too? Let’s take a look at what’s really going on with you and why. 

Then came the “busy life syndrome”

We all wish we had more time to rest from our commitments, activities, and responsibilities. However, when we do have more time, we use it to fill it with more commitments, activities, and responsibilities that will make us want more time to rest from them. 

We want to “be on top of everything” and get everything done: e-mails, updating our diary, meeting content, meeting objectives, taking care of our leisure and health, children, partner, friends… However, when it comes down to it, we experience too many situations in which we don’t really get anything done

Sometimes the feeling of suffering from something called busy life syndrome is due to the haste with which we want to do everything so that we can move on to the next thing, pecking away at activities rather than immersing ourselves in them. At other times the problem is the number of things we have to keep track of within a time frame that is too short for us to grasp, attend to, or experience them thoroughly or deeply

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The result is that we fall into a feeling of inadequacy and we become distressed thinking that our performance is not up to par, our concentration is not strong enough, or that nothing we do to feel satisfied fills us up, but instead overwhelms us. 

We wear ourselves out, we are absent from what we have to do, we find it hard to concentrate, to think, to connect with what we have to connect and switch off from what we have to switch off. What is happening to us?

síndrome de la vida ocupada

Does the busy life syndrome really exist? 

For years we have been talking about the busy life syndrome, based on the work carried out by CPS Research in Glasgow. This expression complements everything we already know, say and, of course, experience about the fast-paced, demanding, and stressful lives that many people lead

This is particularly acute in urban environments and has causes and consequences especially linked to the workplace. Multitasking, stress, lack of attention, overload, are aspects that seriously affect work performance, motivation, and the work environment, and can give rise to -among other factors- burnout in particularly vulnerable employees.

Even if they do not describe it in these words, HR managers are paying more and more attention to such phenomena, aware of their implications for the prevention of psychosocial risks in companies

It is not a mental disorder 

From a sociological point of view, we speak of the busy life syndrome as a lifestyle. From a health point of view, it is misunderstood as a disease. In fact, to speak of the busy life syndrome as a “disease” is not correct, since this expression does not correspond to an official diagnostic label: although it is based on some studies, this does not mean that it should be understood as an officially accepted mental disorder. 

Nevertheless, most of us are witnesses or first-person protagonists of a permanent feeling of being very busy and of the overload in terms of psychological well-being that this entails. 

Attention and performance consequences

The creators of the expression busy life syndrome place great emphasis on the consequences of hyperstimulation and excessive activity on memory, as they lead to forgetfulness, absent-mindedness, and lack of concentration

It makes sense: if we attend to several stimuli at the same time the attention we pay to each of them is more superficial than if we attend to them one at a time for long enough. If we do not pay sufficient attention then it is difficult for us to grasp the information they contain and, therefore, the memory trace they leave in our brain is fragile

In short, this is how the so-called busy life syndrome leads us to more forgetfulness, absent-mindedness, and difficulty in sustaining our attention on a specific stimulus than if we lived in a more relaxed way, investing time, attention, and quality involvement in the different tasks we undertake in our daily lives. 

Is busy life syndrome useful?

In order to analyze the issue, two initial questions must be raised, which are actually the same question but formulated in a different way. The first relates to the causes of the busy life syndrome and the other to its effects: what drives us to occupy our lives beyond the limits of psychological health, what is the point of keeping ourselves constantly so busy?

Therefore, by adopting a psychological perspective, we can understand this so-called syndrome in at least three ways, compatible and complementary to each other. 

1. Psychological consequences of a social problem

Seeing the busy life syndrome as a consequence of living in a highly demanding environment that becomes a highly stressful environment when, for various reasons, we do not put a limit on it. 

2. Defense mechanism

Addicted to being busy as a defense mechanism in the face of different circumstances in our life, that is, as a strategy to cope with those circumstances and adapt to them, even if it has a great cost in terms of psychological well-being. After all, keeping ourselves intensely busy is often very useful to avoid having to connect with issues in our life that we dislike. 

3. An ego protector

Physical solitude, silence, inactivity… can be very threatening to our psychological balance, especially the less familiar we become with these situations. Many people experience them as something unpleasant, because when the external “noises” stop, thoughts, conflicts, or feelings arise that we are not entirely comfortable with and we feel the need to flee from them. Sometimes the problem is that, for different reasons, we need to feel useful and productive and this is rarely achieved in a way that does not involve doing something. 

For this reason, many people find in their work, with the addition of their hobbies, “extracurricular activities”, social life, etc., a magnificent mechanism to regulate their discomfort and, why not, to feel that they are on the right track, that they are effective, that they have useful and full lives (through feeling that their lives are full of things or activities).

Filling ourselves with tasks -and executing them more or less well- is a means to feel sufficiently stimulated: being busy is stressful but also rewarding, it chases away boredom, it brings a sense of activity, vitality, and efficiency. Having mechanisms to regulate our psychological discomfort is healthy unless we take them to the extreme and end up exhausted, or detached from ourselves… and not always pinpointing what’s causing our distress

síndrome de la vida ocupada

Emotional well-being for companies

At ifeel, we understand that it is not possible to take care of the company without taking care of the psychological well-being of its employees. To do so, we have an emotional well-being program for companies, designed by our team of occupational well-being psychologists with one main objective: to help companies place employee health at the center of their strategy to build their mission statement.  

Thanks to this partnership, the people in charge of HR departments can receive personalized, data-driven advice on how to make good decisions in a company to get the most out of the teams they are in charge of and take better care of the psychological well-being of the people in them. 

Moreover, this program offers employees a holistic mental health care service structured at different levels according to their needs. This service includes, if required, online psychological therapy with a psychologist specialized in cases like theirs. Try our program today so you can see how it could help you.

We hope you found this post about the busy life syndrome useful. If you want more information about our emotional well-being program for companies, simply request it and we will contact your team as soon as possible.

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