Busyness has slipped into the driving seat with modern day living. While we can get immediate validation from its short term benefits we also get tiredness, a lack of personal time and an incessant noise in our minds. Many of us feel like we are missing out on the very quality of life that we are striving so hard to achieve. To understand how busyness is taking grab of many of our lives we need to mention the physiology at play. On one hand we have the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The SNS is the accelerator of the body and known colloquially as the fight or flight response. It is this response that is in play when we are consumed by busyness. In contrast, the PNS, which is known as the rest or digest response, is the brake that activates all restorative functions of the body, creativity and emotional resilience. Ideally we find a happy medium in between but in reality one system usually prevails at the expense of the other. Busyness is not the main reason why people get injured and sick. Busyness can be highly productive and satisfying and is often the catalyst that can draw the best out of us. People instinctively know this, because there is a defensive argument where people assertively claim that they thrive on stress and love the fast lane. They are right. The issue is that busyness can become so entrenched that it can turn into busyholism. This is when a person is unable to activate the PNS and restricts themselves of the necessary restorative processes that life in the fast lane entails. It can be an addiction for people and letting go requires a conscious effort and a fight. There are four main areas which research has shown will activate the PNS; youth, positive thinking (mindfulness), exercise and rest. Moderate exercise is enough to have a positive effect on every part of your life and is not the poor cousin to ‘real’ exercise. Intense exercise actually attracts the busyholics. Intense exercise can be addictive and can reset our perception on normal exercise. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 5 days a week of 30 minutes of moderate activity such as brisk walking for healthy systems all round. The danger signs of busy holism (When the oil light goes on in your car)
-fatigue, mood changes, sleep problems, an upset golf swing, a social blip, a sense of spiritual loss, or a negative flare-up of your own personal idiosyncrasies. A sore throat or a mouth ulcer is an early danger sign (no water for windscreen wipers). This is easy to trivialise. Severe chest pain is a late danger sign and like when the oil light flashes. This needs to be listened to and the appropriate action undertaken. A classic example of a person who is investing too much on the SNS is the over training athlete who is prone to injury, fatigue, depression, weaker immune systems and poor sleeping patterns. Rest is not the occasional cat nap or the active rest of something like gardening-true rest comes from a chemistry that is activated from the inside out, through changes in thought, posture and breath. Rest hasn’t been made a priority. To conclude this article I would like to state the benefits of the PNS
- Replenishes energy stores,
- Releases hormones that repair the wear and tear on your body.
- Allows the full expression of your immune system, digestion and reproductive organs.
- It activates your thinking for new levels of innovation and creativity and opens up pathways that allow us to process emotions in a positive way.
- Improves memory.
- You will be less reactive and easier to live and work with, with an appreciation of the bigger picture instead of your immediate concerns.
Rest: A science and an Art by Ros Broome.