Being Too Busy is Dangerous - How to Identify it & Restore Your Health and Sanity.
Tell me if this sounds familiar: You run into someone you haven't seen for a while and ask them how they are doing and they say, "I am sooooo busy." Or maybe someone asks you about how things are going and your knee-jerk response is to reply, "I'm really busy," maybe even with a bit of pride at how busy you are.
Let's face it, we are living in a very fast-paced world and especially in Singapore, most of the working adults usually work more than 40 hours per week. However, busyness also does not mean that you are getting all that is necessary done. Some of this busyness is self-imposed as many people take on added work and obligations voluntarily.
As from my personal experience, busy doesn’t adequately describe my life over the past few years. Looking back from my current safe vantage point, I’m not sure how I survived.
The Stress Of A Busy Schedule
In 2011, I was working full time for a company and working part time trying to start up my own business. In the year before, I had my third child - my only daughter, who turned out to be a non-sleeper and a constant crier.
After nine months of sleeplessness, stress, and upset I went back to the workforce ‘part time’, working three days a week, but the reality was I had the same workload, only now I had to sort out childcare as i am living by myself with no parent support and stay awake all night to deal with my daughter too.
Over the course of three years we also moved three times. You know how they say moving is the most stressful experience? It is—especially with two jobs, two school-going kids and a toddler.
On top of all this stress I kept getting ill. I will always wake up either lethargic or down with a terrible flu and would usually suffer from back pain. I cried literally all the time. Being a mum is hard, but I told myself “Get a grip,” every day.
The Wake Up Call
Then one of my aunt passed away at the young age of forty-nine.
She was always busy working and looking fabulous. She complained to her doctor about headaches sometimes and he sent her away with a “stress” diagnosis. The following week a call came through, she was brought to the emergency after suffering from chest pain and she passed on with heart failure.
Last year, in February 8 2015, i collapse on the side of the road. I woke up on a bed in the A&E of Alexandra Hospital and did not recall what happen at all. I was thankful for the kind souls who have helped me to call for an ambulance when i was unconscious.
It was a mighty wake-up call for me. Work, stress, and demands had taken the fun out of life—it was miserable.
Life is too short, so I made a vow to sort myself out. I was ungrateful for my life, too busy to appreciate anything except tea and Kit Kats. I was a horrible person to be around, if anyone actually saw me.
How I Dealt with the Nightmare Years
I ate rubbish.
I don’t eat much meat or dairy, but I ate a lot of processed foods to save time. My daughter and her elder brothers had lovingly prepared home-cooked foods, but me? I ate standing up in the kitchen—usually peanut butter on toast or at times i was too tired to even eat at all.
I didn’t exercise.
I didn’t have time to exercise. If my kids was asleep it was time to work on the business, or cook something, or even clean and do the laundry.
I found time for friends instead of me.
I sent rounds of emails and Facebook updates to stay in touch because I didn’t have time for individual chats, but I went on nights out even when I was too tired to stand up. I felt my social obligations were important - they say networking is important for business. I was still the joker and laughed at anything going, always all smiles, but by god, it was exhausting.
I didn’t enjoy my children.
I feel robbed of their early years, not because they were active and outgoing kids, but because I didn’t have time to appreciate them.
I cried a lot.
I cried every day, usually in the shower and in the bed at midnight. When i was finally exhausted and fell asleep i did not charge my phone nor prepare for the next day. I also realised that at times, i kept forgetting where i put my purse or other important belongings.
So what do you think of my coping strategy? It’s pretty pathetic looking back. Many of us do this in the belief that we’re soldiering on, but in fact we’re destroying our health.
How I Made it Better
After self-reflections, discussions with family and friends, I decided to make some cutbacks so I could give up my full-time-part-time job. The thought of me commuting and juggling school runs with the peak hour crowds in buses and trains was the deal breaker. I was to concentrate on my home business instead.
I realize I was fortunate to be able to gather the courage to drop my job, focus on my kids and my business, and that not everyone can do that. But I believe everyone can start restoring their health and their sanity by making these choices and lifestyle changes.
Sleep and more sleep.
Skip that TV program or burning the midnight oil and go to bed.
I started getting ready for bed at 10:00. By the time I was asleep it was 11ish, but this was a lot better than my midnight to 2:00 or 3:00am routine.
When my daughter woke up in the night, instead of putting her back in her own bed (with an hour of fighting), I just let her in with me. It’s quite cosy, and she’s more relaxed.
Getting kicked every now and then is worth it in my opinion. A new Korean study has shown we increase our odds of diabetes, stroke, and heart disease if we get less than six hours a night—so damn the parenting magazines.
I went to the doctor.
It’s easy to dismiss small symptoms when you don’t have the time to stop.
When I finally got to the doctor, who went thirty minutes over my allotted ten minute appointment, I left with appointments for a physiotherapist, an ECG, and a prescription for whole loads of medicinal drugs very new to me!
It turned out that I had chronic nasal infections, series of hyperventilation, and eczema all dragging me down—and I was exhausted. The doctor thought I had post-natal depression. Also given that my family's history consists of many deaths from heart failures, i should be wary but in hindsight I think I was simply tired out.
Talk about a mess! That’s what can build up when you ignore your health. The solution?
Fresh air and walking are tonics like no other.
My youngest child is now in school, so we walk there and back whenever we get the chance. I find time to bring my kids to the park and chat about their day too. Their behavior became startlingly better and all of them sleeps well too (including my youngest daughter!).
After dropping off the kids to school, I walk to the supermarket or to wherever I needed to be, just for the exercise. I’ve lost 10kg by far and my backache is pretty much gone.
Put the mobile down.
It’s easy to constantly look at Facebook, LinkedIn, personal emails, and even work emails when you should be resting.
Keeping work and home life separate is harder than ever, but it’s more important than ever. Talk to your family, watch a family series on TV, or read a book. I stopped reading email or Facebook afer 7:00pm and immediately felt more relaxed.
Drink water, not coffee.
Dehydration is a problem for many people, but they don’t realize it. Your body doesn’t function well without water. A study claims that millions of people visit the doctor with tiredness symptoms when we’re simply dehydrated.
I didn’t drink much water in the dark days because it didn’t give me a boost and I resented all the peeing time. As a result, my skin was dull and grey, and yes, I was exhausted.
From the outside all was calm, organized, and clean. On the inside I was fire fighting with sugar, caffeine palpitations, and a bad attitude. So I took up mindfulness—the act of present-time-awareness.
According to The NHS, “Mindfulness, sometimes also called ‘present-centredness,’ can help us enjoy the world more and understand ourselves better.” They aren’t wrong!
I plan my day and manage my time well now. However, i still allow myself lazy days.
It’s okay to say you need some alone time, or to leave the house messy. I didn’t want people to think badly of me back then, so I put myself under pressure to be an actual Wonder Woman. I found out there’s a reason she’s fictional.
I was a smoker before and wasn’t a smoker ever since i have my kids, but a busy stressful schedule can cause people to start or to smoke more. I know of friends who does that. Goodness knows I was looking for a prop. The effects of smoking on health are devastating—heart disease, cancer, asthma, and higher prone to colds are just a few. There are no pros.
I stopped eating sugar.
Processed stuff was my main diet, and it’s horrible for our health.
I was never fond of meat and dairy, but I was filling up on caffeine and sugar. I upped our family intake of fruit and vegetables, bought soya milk, and drink mostly plain water. Bye-bye constipation and headaches.
I started taking supplements.
And i encourage my children to have them too...
It’s taken almost a year to feel human again. My dietary changes, exercise, and water intake helped almost immediately, but it took a little longer for the health problems to clear up.
Now I find myself looking back and wondering how on earth I allowed my busy schedule to harm my health so badly, not to mention my family life and friendships.
Nothing is more important than your health and well-being, because without it you have no life. Is that overtime really worth it? Can that email wait? Those illness symptoms certainly can’t. If you want to find out more on how i actually achieve better health, more time and money, meet me HERE.
When we’re on a busy schedule, fitting in some self-care and relaxation time just feels like another chore. However, it’s one that could save your health, life, and relationship. Make it your number one priority—before it’s too late.
Hi! I'm Liyana. In this blog, I'll share stories, tips and tools to help you move beyond burnout and thrive at the intersection of mind, body and business.
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