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#NoDaysOff: Why we're obsessed with staying busy  6 Days ago

Source:   USA Today  

If you didn't take a selfie and hashtag a hundred variations of #grinding or #nevernotworking, are you even busy?

Social media is filled with posts about how we're constantly working and never have time to do anything, romanticizing the idea of  #nodaysoff. 

I asked all of my social media friends to message me if they've ever used one of the hashtags before or felt like they always needed to be busy, and almost instantly my DMs were full of responses from people who could relate. 

The glorification of always being occupied with work is tied into our self-worth, experts say, and although working is beneficial to leading a fulfilling life, it may not be sustainable or healthy. 

Photographer Samia Minnicks says that as an entrepreneur, there's pressure to always be working. 

"I have this immense anxiety when I feel like clients are waiting for me for things," Minnicks says. "So I’ll go out to eat and I’ll bring my laptop, and I’ll be editing there. I have brought my laptop to the bar before. If I could go to the movies and edit pictures, I would – wow, I really have a problem. Oh, my gosh." 

Consider that, aside from your name, the first thing people ask when they meet you is "What do you do?" 

"We get this message that you prove your worth through what you do for work," says Margaret Sallee, associate professor of educational leadership and policy at the University at Buffalo, who has researched work/life issues for the past 15 years. "Very few times do you prove your worth by saying, 'I'm really good at sleeping' or 'I'm a good amateur cook.' 

"So when people say, 'Tell me about yourself, what do you do?' it’s tied to your identity. So how do I prove my worth? It’s by working all the time."

The mentality of having to stay constantly busy stems from workplace expectations that employees stay connected beyond normal work hours and the dismantling of strong labor unions that rally for workers' rights, says Eric Blanc, author of "Red State Revolt: The Teachers' Strike Wave and Working-Class Politics." 

Companies aren't forced to respect an eight-hour work day, he says, meaning that even if you're not in the office, you'll get requests to work from home or be on call or work "flexible schedules" – all of which makes it feel like you can't afford to take time off for yourself.

"It’s totally understandable that people feel like they have to work all day," Blanc says. 

The ideology of staying busy was ignited by baby boomers, a sizable generation competing for a limited number of jobs, and in turn putting in more hours to keep said job, Sallee says.  

After dying down a bit in the '80s and '90s, that mindset came back full cycle with millennials and social media, which creates a space for us to live our lives publicly. Although millennials prioritize having a work/life balance, there's something about being early in your career (regardless of which generation you belong to) that makes you more likely to work more hours in order to prove yourself, Sallee says.

Social media allows us to post daily updates on what we're doing, where we're going and how productive we're being and slapping a #nevernotworking hashtag on it.

Chinwé Williams, a board-certified counselor at Meaningful Solutions Counseling & Consulting, says everyone has reasons for wanting to be constantly occupied, ranging from FOMO (fear of missing out) and keeping up with the Joneses to job security and feelings of inadequacy. 

"We sort of associate being busy almost as a status symbol," Williams says. "It’s an indication that we are important. In some cases, we feel more valued and it speaks to our worth."

The therapist says that while work, paid or volunteer, is good for our well-being and contributes to an overall sense of happiness and confidence, bringing work home can have a negative impact. We think the more we work, the more productive we'll be, Williams says, and that's not necessarily true – doing so will only result in burnout. 

"Burnout isn’t taken as seriously as it should," Williams says. She gets clients who tell her, " 'Thirty minutes have passed and I’m still crafting the same email' – that’s not normal. 'It’s taking me hours and hours to do something that normally takes 20 minutes,' that's a sign of burnout."

She says it's important to note that stress manifests itself in different ways and that people should avoid the comparison trap. Williams advises against looking at your co-workers' or friends' lives on social media and thinking, "They're able to get all of this done, what's wrong with me?"

Minnicks was forced to take time off from her business after needing emergency surgery. She's now on mandated rest for six weeks and said she felt like she "was going crazy" the first two weeks.

"I understood I needed to take care of myself, but I was so torn because I still needed to take care of my business, too," she says. 

"I’m starting to realize that some people have a problem with stillness. It creates this sense of anxiety, it’s kind of like a drug in a way. A lot of people try to stay busy to avoid what comes with stillness."

Experts say it's OK to say no and step back from your professional and personal responsibilities. 

"One of the saddest things is that we don’t create space just for being," Sallee says. "I mean that in every sense of the word – just sitting and thinking." 

If you're really deep into a project that you can't get out of and are experiencing burnout, even a five- or 10-minute intentional walk to clear your mind and get a breath of fresh air can be beneficial, Williams says. 

She also suggests socializing outside of your immediate friend and professional circle, so you can take your mind off what people in your life or your industry are or aren't accomplishing. 

We're more than what we do for a living, Sallee says, and taking time off to care for your personal life shouldn't be frowned upon. 

"Our worth is not just what we do, it’s who we are as a holistic human," she says. 

 

 

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