Insanely busy: A plea for mental health

By: Arthur Wenk , Oct 29, 2012

Can being too busy affect my mental health?

Take steps to bring a measure of inner peace into your life.

Recently the manager of a bookstore, in response to my request, said,“Make it quick—I’m insanely busy.”  I’ve been reflecting on our brief exchange.  Did he mean that it was insane that he should be so busy?  Or did he mean that being so busy was driving him insane?  Is there any practical difference between the two?  I tried to imagine responding to a
call from a prospective client by saying, “Can I call you back?  I’m insanely busy.”  

Whether or not they would employ that particular phrase, I have a number of clients who I’d describe as “insanely busy.”  They race to finish one task in order to get to the next, as if they were engaged in a race to the grave in
which whoever gets there first wins.  No, they would probably counter.  The idea is not to die as quickly as possible:  the idea is to accomplish as much as you can before you die.  Is that really it?  Is that really the meaning and
purpose of life?

This is only temporary, they may insist.  How temporary, I would ask?  Just until the kids are grown up, they might reply.  And how old are the kids?  Six and eight.  Sorry—not temporary.

Imagine translating that “insane busy-ness” into a physical ailment.  Would the equivalent be walking with a limp?  A hideous open sore?  Whatever image you conjure up, if you suffered from such a condition I dare say that you would seek medical assistance.  You wouldn’t just shrug it off as one of life’s little annoyances.  Yet people tend to accept mental dis-ease, such as being “insanely busy,” without qualms.  

I’m not just trying to create more business for psychotherapists when I plead for more careful attention to your state of mental wellness.  Even people who conscientiously schedule annual physical examinations probably don’t perform comparable evaluations of their mental health.  But you can carry out a simple exercise right now.  Imagine a scale with “insanely busy” at one extreme and “totally idle” at the other.  What words might you use to describe the desirable midpoint:  balanced? calmly efficient? at ease? happily occupied?  There isn’t any one right answer, but it is important that you be able to supply one of your own.  Because the next step is to assign yourself a place on the scale.  If you find yourself well off he happy midpoint, it may be worth challenging your justifications for the insanity and taking steps to bring a measure of inner peace into your life.

Arthur Wenk holds a doctorate in musicology and masters degrees in information science, music theory, and psychology.

Art‘s client-centered approach is based on empathic listening, helping clients integrate thoughts, feelings and actions, and assisting them to revise self-stories that have kept them enmeshed in problems: all in the interest of achieving mental, emotional and spiritual wholeness.

Art currently practices at Wilson Counselling Associates in Oakville, Ontario.