Check Your Vibes: 10 Reasons You Feel Busier Than You Actually Are

We all have the same number of hours in a day, so why is it so easy to feel like we’re more overscheduled and stressed than anyone else we know? Can we never escape the endless cycle that is “being busy”? It can seem like no matter how many things we accomplish or how “caught up” we get, we’re always behind. Sometimes, that feeling of busyness isn’t about how much we have to do, but about how we’re doing it. Here are some reasons you may feel like you’re much more busy than you actually are – try switching them up so you can finally find the time to exhale every now and then.

1. You never take a break from your digital stream. The internet never sleeps, and a constant stream of news updates and social media posts can make anyone feel like they’re behind on what’s current, even if you’re in the habit of checking in 24/7. In fact, that constant checking in could be making you feel more frazzled, because your mind is frequently being pulled away from your current surroundings to digest all those digital updates, then struggling to get back into focusing on reality.

2. You lack routine. A consistent daily routine eases the mind and creates the kind of predictability that allows you to focus on being more efficient with your time. It also helps you decide quickly when you do and don’t have the space to commit to an extra obligation because you already know the loose framework of your everyday schedule.

3. You’re always starting things, but rarely finishing them. All of us have, at one time or another, fallen into the pattern of starting a new project with great excitement then watching it fizzle as we lose momentum. This can make us feel frantic, like there are a thousand unfinished tasks hanging above our heads all day long, and makes it harder to trust ourselves to see things through when we set out to accomplish something new. These habits paired with the short attention span that comes along with life in 2015 makes it easy to start a short task you’ve been meaning to do, see your phone light up halfway through and stop to check it, then forget what you were working on afterward and start a whole new project without ever finishing the other. The stuff of nightmares! See how much more free time you suddenly have when you just work on one project at once.

4. You need more sleep. Yes, it’s probably damn near impossible to find any more time for sleep than you’ve already got, but that lack of sleep may be what’s making you feel so overtaxed. If you’re not well-rested, it’s tough to concentrate on things or keep lots of balls in the air at once, which leads to you feeling far busier than you really are. Exhaustion can also make people much more emotion-driven, which makes stress a lot tougher to face. Establishing a consistent routine could be a big help in making sure there’s more time in your schedule for a good night’s sleep.

5. You don’t schedule any “you” time. If there’s never any time to zone out, recharge, go on a fun outing, or just be you, it’s easy to feel like your life doesn’t even belong to you anymore. Where’s the joy when you’re so overscheduled that life is only about making it from one obligation to another? Be firm about setting aside time to relax, and treat it like any other appointment.

6. Everyone tells you you’re supposed to be busy. Our culture views being able to say you’re “super busy these days” as a great accomplishment, as if it must mean you’re important. That attitude seeps into our psyches and sometimes subconsciously makes us feel like busyness is a high we’re supposed to chase, which leads us to get ourselves into stressful, overscheduled situations before we even realized how unhealthy that is. Recognize the busy trap for what it is, so that the next time someone unloads about their own busyness to you, you’ll at least be able to acknowledge the vicious cycle.

7. You always say yes. I am totally about saying “yes” to invitations and opportunities whenever possible (how the heck else are you going to open yourself up to life’s best adventures?), but sometimes, our true power lives in a “no.” You can’t do it all, and taking on anything and everything you’re asked to do out of guilt and obligation does no favors to you or anyone in your life. It also creates that flame of anxiety in your stomach that surfaces when you feel too busy to think straight and totally lacking in control over your life.

8. You’re constantly exerting willpower. Most of us have to do things we don’t want to do every single day, because that’s just part of being a functioning person, but it’s a problem when nearly every single thing you do requires epic willpower. Willpower is a limited resource, and it takes a ton of energy. If you have to force yourself through every task of your daily existence, you’re going to burn out quickly – and feel more behind on your schedule than ever. If you’re in this situation, look for any aspect of your routine that could be switched around a little to make things even a tad more enjoyable. You shouldn’t have to drag yourself through life!

9. You use the word “busy” a lot. Words make a difference! Despite how often and how proudly we throw the word around, ”busy” has tends to have a negative connotation. As soon as it leaves your mouth, you can feel the stress rising in your body. Try framing your packed schedule with more positive words instead!

10. You catastrophize. Do you take one minor stressor and think about every possible negative outcome until you’ve blown it up into an entire mental crisis consisting only of hypotheticals until you feel like you have an impossible mountain on your plate? Yep, me too. Focus on what’s in front of you, instead of multi-layered future crises that don’t even exist right now.