The Glorification of Busyness


We shouldn't be striving for a stress-induced schedule

Article Image

Image by José Martín Ramírez Carrasco (

By Ellie Parnham

Anyone else stressed out of their minds and it’s only week two? It’s like going from zero to a hundred as we shake off the seemingly interminable summer and drag ourselves back to studying. Under this dump of sudden pressures and anxieties quickly came a weirder feeling however: now that I’m busy again, life somehow feels more worthwhile than it was before. Even in the full knowledge of the effects of stress on mental health; it’s as if suffering under the weight of a busy schedule is something to be glorified. I can wipe the sweat off my brow and hope everyone around can see it.

After chatting to a few friends it became clear that this is a fairly common feeling. The need, whether conscious or unconscious, to be busy at all times in order to feel a semblance of self-gratification. It sounds extreme when written out but it’s clear that this attitude is unhealthy at best, severely inhibitive at worst.

Unfortunately, we live in a society which favours the individual and rewards the independent. In an effort to preserve our image, we’d rather sacrifice our mental states and keep our ego intact than admit we’re spinning too many plates. Instead of asking for help or, more often, saying ‘no,’ we store it all up in a sweaty, stress-filled ball which we end up complaining about anyway. I know that my stress manifests itself in insomnia-driven frustration, inevitably hurting the people around me, so by staying quiet in reality nobody wins. The line between productivity and busyness becomes increasingly blurred.

On the flip side, being busy does not make you better. Some people thrive with loads to do, some people suffer; at the end of the day we all have one brain and we’re all susceptible to burn out. Again with the ego; it’s easy to look at how much you’re doing and compare it to others; feeling superior to those with emptier schedules, jealous of those with busier ones. In reality, it’s all subjective and really, it’s none of our business.

It is important, especially in a diverse setting like University (the wonderfully stalwart merit-based system that it is), to appreciate that everyone operates on different levels and can handle different loads. What you may be able to juggle might really hinder someone else.  It’s also easy to forget about factors such as mental health, disability, privilege etc which can fluctuate how much we’re able to manage.

As a fresher or a returner to university, the urge to commit to loads of societies and to get stuck in is strong. I’m by no means saying we shouldn’t be trying out new stuff! Only that over commitment at the expense of relationships, self-care and mental wellbeing is far more common and easy to fall into than we realise. Plus, being the one who is constantly shouting about how much they’re doing and how busy their timetable is isn’t cool; it’s annoying.

In this weird, post-lockdown era with social media more entrenched into our lives than ever before and the outside world steadily crumbling around us, the need to exercise even an ounce of control over something, anything, is strong. It appears that this, coupled with the inherent pressures to make the most of every second of the day, be constantly developing our skills and interests and committing to absolutely everything in an effort to appear our best possible selves is not always the answer.

Basically we all just need to slow down a bit.