An Open Letter To My Daughter: Busy Is Not A Badge Of Honour

03/04/2016 6:42 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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A child dressed as a Bumblebee looks up in a stoic pose with a handful of wildflowers.

To my darling daughter,

I wish I wasn't always rushing around, busy with shopping, cooking, washing, helping the boys with homework, arguing, nagging, negotiating with Dad, working, studying, counselling friends, helping others and running myself ragged. I wish I didn't snap.

I wish I hadn't let my diary explode with stuff that stressed me out until I couldn't even smile at your jokes. I wish I didn't yell all sorts of things I didn't mean. And I wish I didn't let myself get worked up until I exploded and we collapsed in tears.

I wish I didn't get consumed by FOMO every time I checked Facebook to see everybody having more fun than me. I wish I hadn't been a busy bee, a slave, a machine, a work-horse and worse.

It's okay not to follow me down this track. It might be a first world problem, but being a busy bee can make us feel rotten. At best we're always tired and emotional. At worst we're overweight, stressed, anxious and depressed.

I used to wear busy as a badge of honour. We all did. Most of my friends, in fact. Like the corporate lawyer with the exotic life who travels the world, but is always rushed and pudgy. Or my 40-year-old executive mate with two teenage kids, who works full time while doing an MBA instead of sleeping, jogs in her lunch break and wonders why she's so teary. There's my fitness trainer friend who's trying to quit sugar while running a cleaning business with injuries that never heal. Why?

In my mum's generation, it was the 'Protestant work ethic'. Grandma is still sometimes too busy to chat. She cleans the oven while she's still using it and starts washing the dishes while we're still swallowing dinner. She never makes time to lie on the couch with a novel.

She's busy with charity work, church work, volunteer work, gardening, kitten caring, grand-parenting, emailing and housekeeping. OMG. Lucky she's not on Facebook.

I, too, was the busiest bee. But I've stopped. Now I understand why.

Dr Libby Weaver, biochemist and women's health expert, calls it 'Rushing Women's Syndrome'.

She says 'Rushing Women's Syndrome' is the biochemical effect of always being in a rush. And urgent rushing is unhealthy for us -- in fact, it can lead to chronic health problems, and hormone-based health issues including infertility, endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome and issues with menstruation and menopause.

A 'Rushing Woman' needs a daily coffee fix, constantly says how busy she is, has high levels of stress hormones, has sugar cravings, is tired but wired, has no time for self, checks her phone, texts and Facebook constantly, sleeps too little, always looks for more ways to feel loved or praised, can't say no and feels guilty when she does.

Weaver says we do all this stuff because we are in a "relentless pursuit to never feel rejected".

Sound familiar?

It's not our fault. This need to be loved is hardwired in us from birth. It's a survival mechanism to get adults to care for us.

But when we're all grown up, we can let it go. It's not easy, but it's worth it. Once we accept that we are perfect, gorgeous, wonderful women and learn to love ourselves, we can make simple, if somewhat difficult, changes to prevent busy-bee syndrome. Let's bin this badge of honour.

Let's swap self-less for self-love so we can make the most of everyday and share more joy.

For me, it has been a big mindset shift. I've had to prioritise me. I've learned to say "no" to things that are bad for my health like sitting for eight hours, drinking a bottle of red, or doing everybody's washing. I've learned to avoid things that bring self-loathing, like devouring a tub of Gelato or a packet of Tim Tams.

I've replaced those things with activities that make me joyous, like going for a sunrise walk, riding my bike along the beach or strolling in the park, even when I'm busy.

My beautiful daughter, I know you sometimes roll your eyes when I suggest an ocean swim instead of wine, or a sunset hike instead of pizza. But it's fun. Diving into a challenging physical adventure in nature with loved ones brings pure joy. Yes, it's busy, but this busyness relieves stress because it's about nurturing ourselves. Then we can love others.

So, don't wait another 30 years to learn this lesson my darling daughter. Loving yourself by nurturing your health is the best insurance policy money can't buy to ensure that you can love others and they can love you. And, most importantly, so you can love yourself. Because you are enough.

Just don't get so busy you can't see it.

Love, Mum

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