By PATRICIA CALABRESE, PMHNP, and ANTHONY CALABRESE, PhD
We all know that we have busy lives to the point where most people have perfected the skill of doing more than one thing at a time. We drive and talk, work and eat, jog and listen to music—the list is endless.
But performing simultaneous tasks, in the past two decades, has become an increasingly expanding trend. What has changed is that technology has made the world portable. Phones calls do not end when we leave the house. E-mail, instant messaging, and text messages follow us everywhere. Being present at an event through Skype allows us to keep doing our daily activities and not miss anything.
All of us would agree that we are busy. However, it appears that some may be busier than others. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “On an average day, 20% of men did housework—such as cleaning up or laundry, compared with 49% of women,” and “43% of men did food preparation or cleanup, compared with 69% of women.”
Additional statistics suggest that women who are mothers spend “one hour providing physical care (such as bathing or feeding a child) to household children; by contrast, men spent 23 minutes.” Women also spent more time reading to, playing with, and looking after their young children. Women are busy, busy, busy!
Performing a variety of tasks has directly affected the way women plan their day, in that they no longer schedule one thing at a time but now must overlap activities where double booking has become the norm (i.e., “I can shop for groceries across the street while my car gets an oil change.”)
For some time now many media sources have been telling women that they can “have it all,” stating specifically that they can have an education, a career, a marriage, a family, raise children, and care for their own emotional and physical health.
The reality is many women do this as well as provide for the emotional and physical health of family members reinforced by societal expectations that encourage women to be good daughters, sisters, mothers, wives, and friends.
It now seems typical for most women to be flexible, to juggle their schedule, and to function at a fast pace. A life of unhappy “busyness” creeps up on us. Life may be in balance one day and the next there are six things to do at once. Prioritizing can help.
Not the kind that helps you realize that cleaning the kitchen is best done after the children are in bed, but prioritizing what is important in your life. If the top of our priority list is children and family, for example, then turning down your friend’s party and choosing to help your child with a science project becomes an easy decision. But this list needs to be a well thought out, contemplative exercise that is reviewed and challenged periodically. Be present for those activities (school play, high school prom, graduation) that only happen once. Know what is truly important.
But being busy involves more than just performing a series of busy acts, it can also mean staying mentally busy at the same time. It is fair to say that most women will admit that mental work is far more arduous as you are constantly thinking ahead. It is called anticipatory anxiety or more commonly, worry, which is the million things that go through the mind at once.
Worry is the uneasy feeling that something has been missed or left undone. Worry is the constant search for the next thing to do! Worry not only involves anticipating what can go wrong, but planning ways to avoid it from happening. This is a difficult, never-ending task. Worry needs to be shared, with those who are close to you so as not to feel overburdened.
Talking to others might invite solutions and reduce the worry. Taking time for you is also an anxiety reducer, whether exercising or reading. This is not always easy to do as technology may have rewired our brain where solitary activities or quiet moments may now actually feel uncomfortable. Find the value in being alone.
After many years of busyness being the norm, it is becoming evident that this state of being constantly engaged might not be the best for women’s health. Most women who are busy are usually attempting more than they are comfortable doing in a given day. Many women are accepting responsibilities that need to be shared. If someone is over-working it might mean that someone else is not working enough.
Being put upon by others and feeling obligation where there is no choice is not practicing positive health behaviors. For any request know that you can say “No” as well as “Yes.”
Every person needs to know that their own self-worth is not tied to how many things they accomplished that day, but rather to the meaning of each task, the happiness, and fulfillment some tasks can bring us, and to knowing that we made a choice and were able to decide what we wanted to do.
Anthony Calabrese, PhD, is the Director of Pine Grove’s Outpatient Services. Patricia Calabrese, PMHNP, is a Nurse Practitioner for Pine Grove’s Outpatient Services.