Finding Calm in a Culture of Busy

We are all too busy for our own good (I’m including myself in this). Most of us are scheduled from the time we wake up until we go to bed, often later than we’d like to because we have “so much to do.” What’s even worse is that being busy has become competitive, as in who is the busiest and deserves the most “credit.”

We don’t have an “off” button. Even if we do find a quiet moment, inevitably our phones will beep or vibrate and we’ll be distracted again. We are also expected to be accessible on weekends, holidays, vacations, and sometimes even in the middle of the night.

What does this non-stop chatter do to our teens?

For one, we know that being busy all the time leads to increased stress. Even though stress is not always negative, our body doesn’t differentiate between “good” or “bad” stress, so our fight or flight response is activated either way. Overactivation of our fight or flight response leads to real physiological changes in our bodies which can lead to physical and mental health problems. Anxiety disorders are on the rise in the United States, and I’d venture to say always being “on” contributes to that.

The majority of teens don’t get enough sleep because they have too much to do. Sleep is when they grow, process new information, and relax. Not getting enough sleep can be detrimental to their health, mood, learning, and development.

Our teens also don’t have time to be “bored.” Being bored is when creativity happens, when they figure out their values, and they learn to delay gratification. It is believed that Newton discovered gravity while he was just sitting under an apple tree.

So what can we do?

Make a commitment to building in some down time. I know work and school are important, but at not at the expense of our mental and physical health.

Teach our teens stress management skills, and model them ourselves. There are a variety of free apps (some of which take 2 minutes) that offer guided meditation or relaxation breathing. Check out Headspace, Stop Think Breathe, or Buddhify.

Be aware of when stress is interfering with daily life. If you see dramatic behavioral changes or statements that are worrisome, seek professional help.

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  1. Lulu Miller says:

    Making a commitment to having downtime is important for everyone. While the week is always a whirlwind of activities and getting everyone to here and there on time, or even worrying about who is where, can add to the stress as well. We like to try and designate Sundays as our “Downtime Day”. It’s the day to stay in our pajamas all day if we want, read the paper, be bored, catch up on resting, get renewed for the week to come. It’s not always possible to do “nothing”, but it’s a day we can all look forward to, and un-plug from the “have to’s”.

    1. TEEN LINE says:

      I totally agree. Love that you have implemented this in your home! Thanks for sharing.

  2. ML Walker says:

    This is great!! I totally agree that our society doesn’t have the threshold/attention span to have true downtime… we are so busy “doing” that we feel uncomfortable just existing.

    This is why I started my non-profit Command Joy – as a way to show people that there is more to life than the constant distractions/work/school that weighs us down…life is passing by quickly, if it is not a life of joyful laughter we want, then what is it?

    I believe allowing ourselves the space to just breathe, exist, and listen to our inner voice/wisdom is what will lead us to the joyful existence we are all craving.

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