Living in the 21st Century, being busy is inevitable. We may go to school, or go to work, or both. We may have hobbies. We may have families, and friends. We may be active in our communities. Muslim women in the West, in particular, are expected to do so much more just to prove our existence is valid and positive. Add further marginalization due to societal expectations, and things get even harder. We have to work that much harder than others, just to fit into society’s standards.
With that, it’s inevitable that we start comparing amongst ourselves about who’s busier, and who has it worse off, as if this is a badge of honor. That notion is called the Toxic Glorification of Being Busy, and it is a phenomenon that is taking over, like a disease.
You see, I have fallen into this trap many times, particularly in my late-teens, and early-twenties. Upon starting university, I felt like I had to do so much more than just my studies, just to prove myself in my program and industry. Additionally, I felt an odd pressure to start liking my post-secondary experience. Throughout the first 3 years of my studies, I had already been a part of 18-20 different student groups, societies, unions, all in the name of keeping busy, and imitating an “authentic” academic experience.
On top of that, I started my own business and blog, got a part-time job at Starbucks, and during the latter end of the 3 years, I was talking to someone in hopes for marriage (he is now my husband). I was so busy, but I craved more. Why? Because I saw people who I felt were busier than me, and had been more successful. I felt I was a failure; that even though I was doing so much, I was getting sick, and also not enjoying my academic program. I felt others, while they were busier, were surviving much better than I was. Of course I was wrong. Comparing yourself to others, and how busy they are, is toxic and it needs to stop.
We, as Muslim women, are already expected to do so much just to prove the validity of our existence in this patriarchal society, so why do we add further pressure amongst ourselves to be busier as a sign of attempting to achieve perfection?
Imagine yourself sick to the point you can’t get out of bed. Imagine a relationship with a friend or family member ending because you’re constantly busy, and you cannot devote time to even check up on them, at minimum, once a month. We, as Muslim women, are already expected to do so much just to prove the validity of our existence in this patriarchal society, so why do we add further pressure amongst ourselves to be busier as a sign of attempting to achieve perfection? No one is perfect except Him.
Throughout my university experience (I am technically still in it), I have grown to learn so much about not taking on too much. My “busy-ness” lead me to a 17 day hospitalization in early 2017 due to severe anxiety, exhaustion, and panic attacks. I was leaving myself out to dry for no reason other than I saw others who were busier than me, and I wanted to be just like them. Through that feeling and experience, I learned a lot. I highly suggest you take the below action-list of questions, and ask yourselves them frequently, especially when you feel you’re walking down a supposedly “healthy” path of “busy-ness.”
Are You Too Busy?
- Who are you doing this for?
- Why do you do what you do?
- Are the closest people to you worried about you?
- Are your relationships, even with the Almighty, suffering?
- Are you sleeping enough?
- Is your health deteriorating?
If you reflect on these questions, it’ll really put into perspective the path you’re on, and will easily identify if you’re actually too busy. If the path you’re on is resulting in negativity, such as deteriorating relationships and spirituality, or interrupted sleep, then a re-evaluation is in order!
What Can You Do About It?
Now, if you feel those questions show that you’re on the wrong path, think about the following tips as pointers for what you can do to help your situation:
Sleep a Minimum of 7 Hours a Night.
We all say, “Oh, I just need 4 hours, I’ll be set.” But as per every relevant study under the sun, a constant lack of sleep is so detrimental for your health, and will make you less productive overall.
Cut Out Some Activities.
In order to prioritize yourself and your most meaningful relationships, you will need to drop some activities, and that’s alright! This doesn’t signify failure, as a healthy relationships are also contributing factors to success.
Whether it’s praying your prayers on time, or making more dua, connecting with Him more will help make things more clear. It brings about a peace and serenity, which carries itself into your daily life, and day-to-day activities.
Practice Self-Care Often.
I’m not just talking about warm baths, and comfort-eating. I’m talking about healthy-eating, meditation, exercise. Take time out every week at minimum to take care of you. Without you being at your best, there is no way you can achieve what you want to.
Learn to Say No!
Sometimes, the art of saying no is quite a tricky one. Particularly if you come from a culture that teaches women that saying “no” is mean, selfish, and unbecoming. We all want to seize opportunities when they come at us, but sometimes, the timing just isn’t right. Learn to recognize those times, and act on them accordingly, in the interest of you mental well-being.
Chronic busy-ness is not healthy, and in order to challenge all the pressures of our messed up society, we all need to be on our A-game. We need to focus on efficiency, not overloading. We must develop and embrace the ability to work smart, not just work hard. And sometimes, that means taking a look at the path we’re on, and making adjustments to ensure that the lives we are living are truly fulfilling, not just abundantly busy.
Edited by Manal Moazzam.