We are a world filled with chronically stressed and anxious people. Stress levels rise every day; some people place stress as a badge of honour upon their chest. Stress and busy are synonymous with ‘good enough’ and ‘worthy’. Because humans want to be like those around them.
We work ourselves to the bone in order to give ourselves permission to feel acceptable to others. Let me be clear here. We stress ourselves out working because we feel unlovable and unworthy unless we do. But that level of busy leaves us feeling empty and unloved because we are not being true to ourselves. It’s a cycle that unless broken, leaves us hollow.
Some stress and some busy, even some extremely busy, is okay, even good. If the stress and busy is related to something that builds us up and fills our bucket. The problem arises when stress and extreme busy is a persistent norm or when we attach our personal value to the amount of busy we keep in our life.
Childhood Directs Our Future
When I was in school, it was possible to succeed with minimal outside school work. I still had time to read, spend time with friends, do chores, play video games and participate in extra curricular activities. But that has shifted greatly.
Children now have short recess times at school, limited in school study time, and hours of homework a night from a young age. Children also participate in fun activities like sports, music, or dance. But when children come home from these activities they have to choose between sleep and homework. It doesn’t take long for these small people to decide not to bother with school work. But not doing school work impacts their grades. Children that haven’t even hit puberty yet need to choose between following their interests or sleeping. Following their interests or failing school.
They feel hopeless about themselves and their future before they even hit high school.
Last night, and hour after her bedtime, my daughter began to cry. She still wasn’t done her homework, but if she didn’t finish it, she would receive a detention and miss recess. Of course her school doesn’t call it detention, they call it visiting the ‘opportunity room’. But if it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck…
Children’s Stress Becomes Parent’s Stress
Parents see the amount of work required by their young children and they rise to the occasion. They help their children and support their children through work and tears. They shuttle them from one activity to another, all the while subconsciously comparing themselves and what they do to the things their children do.
Students work for 6+ hours a day behind a desk, then follow up with a couple hours of homework, and activities on top of that. They seldom have an opportunity to just relax, to play unstructured. When they have free time, it’s often in front of a screen. Adults’ lives reflect students’ lives: Work outside the home, help with homework, parent, shuttle, screens.
We don’t allow ourselves unstructured time to follow our own interests. We don’t give ourselves permission to try new crafts or activities. We don’t have time to be ourselves.
Parent’s Stress Becomes Your Stress
This doesn’t happen only to parents either. This also happens to anyone that spends time around parents. We want to be like those around us. Sometimes it means a certain group of friends all listen to country music (and like it). It also means if the people we work with are always super busy and stressed, we begin to take on the same habits and attitudes.
We want to be included. We want to be accepted. The cycle doesn’t stop unless we make a conscious effort to change the way we do things. Without unstructured time to explore our own interests, we never discover who we are and what we stand for. We’re left living life on autopilot.
Our stress has no where to go. It builds and builds. It bubbles out as anger and tears when even the smallest thing doesn’t go according to plan.
The school culture doesn’t stop at adulthood. It doesn’t stop because we are so entrenched in it, we never see how much more there is to life.
It’s time for change. What do you do to help shift away from busy? What do you do to help decrease your own stress?