Family, Journal

I Was Exhausted and Worn Out from Trying to Live Up to Impossible Standards

Three summers ago, I was in-between my junior and senior years of college. I wasn’t in a great place mentally, so I tried to cover that up with busyness. I got a job working at my college’s health and wellness center and worked around 20 hours a week, taught 10-15 piano students weekly, and also completed a summer newspaper internship for my degree.

At the start of the next semester, I was doing all of these things, plus working for my student newspaper, working for the campus writing center, and taking 19 hours of classes. In hindsight, I was insane, but at the time,  I was doing what I thought I had to and was proud of it. What I refused to acknowledge was that I was living an incredibly unhealthy life. I was unintentionally glorifying busyness.

I don’t think I’m alone here. Our culture tells us we have to commit to everything, that busyness is a virtue, and that we aren’t good enough if we aren’t doing everything everyone else is.

As coaches’ wives, that pressure often takes a different form. Are we supporting our husbands like we should? Are we attending games like we’re expected to? Are we picking up the loose ends during season and holding our homes, families, and careers together like we need to? Are we helping with the fundraisers and team events? Are we doing cute little treats for the players?

None of these things are wrong, but all of these things can take on an unhealthy aspect when they’re crammed into exhausted, busy schedules, and especially when we take them on because we idolize busyness or feel we have to live up to someone else’s standards.

When we glorify our busy schedules, we mistakenly put our worth in what we do, instead of who we are.

In The Transforming Friendship: A Guide to Prayer, James A. Houston says, “Busyness also seems to be a determination not to ‘miss out on life.’ Behind much of the rat-race of modern life is the unexamined assumption that what I do determines who I am. In this way, we define ourselves by what we do, rather than by any quality of what we are inside.”

We put our worth in what we do, our accomplishments, and the success of our commitments, instead of the things that actually matter. When we do this, we begin to miss what life is actually about and where true value comes from. We worship being busy, and eventually that will come to haunt us in one way or another.

For me, the idol of busyness came crashing down at the beginning of the next semester when I was diagnosed with a severe case of mono, a UTI, ear infection and, oh, they discovered I was pregnant (a story for a different day).

I missed three weeks of class, and had to quit teaching piano and my wellness center job. My doctor told me I had to change my schedule, and that I had run myself into the ground so much that my immune system was weakened. It was a painful, but necessary wake up call.

Again, I don’t think I’m alone in this. According to an article in the Huffington Post, The American Psychological Association has found that most Americans have an unhealthy level of stress in their lives, which can be correlated to being too busy.

In fact, leading an overly busy life has become a legitimate health concern. Joseph Bienvenu, a psychiatrist and director of the Anxiety Disorders Clinic at Johns Hopkins Hospital, says he has seen an increase in patients who experience trouble sleeping, exercising, and making time for the important things, like family, because their bodies cannot unwind from their over-scheduled lives.

And these are just the most basic issues that can arise. Ongoing research continues to show the many severe problems that can come from being too busy.

Guys, I don’t pretend to have the answers, but something has to give. Clearly this obsession with busyness our culture is experiencing is detrimental.

We need a change in mindset, and that takes time. It takes self-evaluation, work, and diligence. It takes a willingness to look inward and the humility to admit if we have a problem.

Let us evaluate our lives, remind ourselves of what is important and what is not.

Let us learn healthy ways to balance our lives and prioritize only the things that actually matter.

Let us learn that we do not have to live up to anyone’s expectations.

Let us learn to step away from the pressure to live a hectic, crazy lifestyle.

Let us learn the value of saying no to the idol of busyness.