In today’s society people are going 24/7 in order to keep up with the demand of expectations. Is it really any surprise then that people are breaking? Mentally and physically, the body was not meant to operate like we are pushing it today and yet we expect it to, we need it to.
The average family contains working parents, children involved in multiple activities such as sports and dance, and social obligations such as PTO meetings that extend the day to an 18 hour work load. Some people, because of the lack of full-time quality jobs, work two or even three jobs leaving sleep and down time a thing of luxury that cannot pay the bills.
Work hours are longer and often incorporate non-traditional work schedules, school days have been extended with many places having students go year round, and added into that blend is the never ending list of everyday up keep for living. As if this wasn’t grueling enough, there are the extras thrown in there, the pressure to do and be more so we squeeze in church and social activities, sports practices and games, exercise and meetings.
To the right is an oversimplified look at my Monday schedule. Not included is all the juggling I do to ensure that all the people I encounter and have in my life are afforded my full attention, the countless disruptions by phone calls and animals, or the strain of working in a public facing job.
All of these daily activities and expectations stretch the limits of my mental, emotional, and physical capacity which leaves one not only feeling stressed but overwhelmed and fatigued. Dr. Stephanie Brown of the New York Post accurately describes this as “fast at any cost.”
A hectic lifestyle has become the norm in today’s society. Dr. Brown even equates it to an addiction as we embrace the “out of control behaviors, feelings, and thinkings” that we believe to be “normal”. She says that Americans embraces the “chaotic, frenzied spiral” in order to chase “money, power and success at any cost”.
A Gallup Poll done in Dec. of 2017 reflects the mounting stress that people are feeling due to this fast-paced living. 4 in 10 people polled said they felt like they lacked the time to do all they wanted to do in a day. 8 in 10 described feeling frequently or sometimes stressed with those who were working parents feeling particularly affected.
But what does all of this mean?
Dr. Brown’s research led her to make connections between increased demands and increased stress-related disorders such as obesity, anxiety, attention disorders, and learning disorders. It is not just adults feeling the strains of societal demands but children as young as pre-school age are displaying signs of being over-taxed.
Psychology Today showed a correlation in how current eating habits reflect the current style of living. More and more people are eating on the run while commuting in their cars or working at their computer. Even if someone manages to find an opportunity to sit at a table and eat a meal, their cell phone is often out keeping the participant from actually stepping away from the instant gratification and notifications that social media has created.
In my own personal experience, I count myself fortunate if I can cook two meals out of the week. All too often, we are eating on the run or grabbing something “quick” to eat due to time restraints on schedules. Even at work, when afforded a half-hour or hour long meal-break, I am doing several other tasks at the same time. Thus I am left feeling hungry or with indigestion.
It is noted in Dr. Brown’s article that there is a sense of pride in being frazzled and sleep deprived. Multi-tasking has become a “new skill” and the more you do it must mean the more successful you are. “You juggle 10 plates while you brag about your 90-hour week and pop your Ambien to get to sleep.” And this has been deemed a good thing?
Because fast is the measure of success, there are no limits to which people and companies will go in pushing for more. Dr. Brown observes that the harder people try to go faster, the more they utilize medications to cope with consequences of the breaking mind and body that results from this need for speed mentality.
Our bodies are trying to tell us to slow down, but few are listening until something catastrophic happens. But sometimes that catastrophe is irreversible – such as death due to heart-attack or suicide.
Though more and more healthy ways are being published in various forms of media, the pace of living has not slowed down. As Psychology Today put it, we have become “human doings” instead of “human beings.” We want instant gratification and thus live in a state of constant action instead of living to accumulate experiences.
I personally don’t know how to change this problem as it is a societal expectation. However, what I have learned to do is to make the most of every little quiet moment afforded me. To value the time with family and friends, and to exist in that moment and that moment only when I am with them.
Take time to smell the roses may be cliché but it is sound advice. Take time. Be still. Reflect. Breathe. Such simple things can go a long way in quality of life.
* Helping hands
* Healthy diet
* a sweet treat
* doing something fun