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  • Writer's pictureJessica McQuistin

Becoming Aware of the "Busyness Hangover"

Photo by Djim Loic on Unsplash

Have you ever heard of a busyness hangover?

This term has popped into my mind a few times lately and has brought me some comfort, as it's helped me to put a finger on some things I've been experiencing:

  • struggling to be present with my family on the weekend

  • having racing thoughts or "monkey mind"

  • eating too fast when I actually have plenty of time to eat

  • avoiding/wanting to cancel evening hangouts with friends (not due to feeling down or depressed)

  • not starting anything new (new books, new puzzles, etc.)

  • watching too much TV

  • spending too much time scrolling through social media without making any comments or reading any longer posts

  • struggling to come up with words (in conversation and in writing)

  • sleeping in

  • having very active dreams

I've realized that all of these behaviours, impulses and mental blocks stem from the same thing, which I'm referring to as a busyness hangover. Here's my simple definition.

busyness hangover: a mental state ranging from over-activity to exhaustion, occurring after a period of being busier than usual

I like how the word hangover implies lingering effects occurring after the fact - in this case, after a busy period. When it comes to busyness, I want to acknowledge that "busier than usual" is highly subjective. What I consider a busy day might be a walk in the park to someone else. We all have our typical busyness levels and I think everyone can identify certain times in their lives that are busier than others. Sometimes these busy periods are self-generated and highly desirable. In my case, I've taken on a new part-time job that I'm very excited about and between my work shifts, prep work, training, taking on some extra shifts and just keeping up with everything else I do (volunteer work, parenting, blogging, hobbies, general adulting, etc.) I've made myself busier than I'm used to. Other times, life piles things onto us that we didn't choose and don't necessarily want to do (say, for example, having to make funeral arrangements) and that colours the busyness in a whole different way.

When's the last time you experienced a busier-than-normal period? What were the after-effects? How did you cope?

On one hand, I wish I had a hair-of-the-dog cure for this type of hangover but on the other hand, just naming it has felt immensely helpful to me. It's allowed me to come up with coping strategies in the moment, depending on how the busyness hangover is affecting me at the time.

As I was sitting down to write my last blog post on a rare quiet day amid a busy week, words initially felt out of reach. So I started where I could, which was by simply saying - or rather writing - "hello" to the moment and to the things in my immediate surroundings.

Here's a snippet from that journal entry:

Hello pen! Hello paper!

Hello cozy table at Cafe Pyrus.

Hellooooo vanilla-oat latte.

Hello unbusy day. Precious, unscheduled hours of mine.

Hello empty pages.

Hello spaciousness of time.

You feel too good to be true after the busy week I've had.

Is it really you?

Hello my new favourite song* playing over the speaker, assuring me that I'm in just the right place and time!

Goodbye dinosaur.

Hello sandwich.

I continued on this way for quite a while and this exercise was enough to get my creative juices flowing.

At times, it's felt appropriate to follow some my busyness hangover urges, like sleeping in if I needed to catch up on sleep or doing less if I was craving downtime. Other instincts needed to be challenged though. Recognizing the busyness hangover, I could talk myself through it, telling myself,

"It's okay. You had a busy week. You needed to be hyper-vigilant! You needed to prioritize things like time management, efficiency, organization, thinking on your toes, etc! But that time has passed. You can let these skills rest now until they're needed again."

I could then convince myself to slow down and chew my food, or go ahead and start a new puzzle, or put my phone down and go for a relaxing family walk. Awareness opened up all of these possibilities.

For a brief minute, I wondered if I had come up with the term "busyness hangover" but a Google search quickly proved that I am not that original. (Shucks!) Empowered Connections, a women's counselling agency, has also written a blog post on this topic. They describe a busyness hangover as a sign of burnout; that "you've just used up all your energy and are feeling low as a result". In my conceptualization of the term, I hadn't equated it with burnout, but I suppose it could be an early warning sign. If you're curious, check out their take on the subject.

Does the term "busyness hangover" resonate with you? If so, I hope that naming it helps you to confront it with intention, and follow your inner-wisdom in terms of what you need to move through it.

*I just love "Exile", the duet between Bon Iver and Taylor Swift on her album Folklore! I'm actually quite surprised how much I enjoy this whole album, as I'm definitely not a Swiftie!


If you enjoyed this post, here are a few related ones, in case you missed them:

A Change in Blog Post Frequency & All the Wise Whys Behind It

The Struggle (To Switch Gears) Is Real

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