Busyness Addiction as a Response to Trauma

Does this sound like you? Its Friday evening- the work week was long, you had meetings, appointments, coffee dates, fit in time to work out, and did a few loads of laundry. You can finally relax and enjoy the weekend and have nothing on the calendar for the next two days. So why do you feel unsettled? By 10 pm you have already made some plans with a friend for the next day, decided your going to organize your closet and meal prep for the entire week.

Always being “on” and filling your life with distractions, keeps you stuck and feeling irritable and stressed at best and anxious and depressed at worst. This “busy-making” is actually a common response to trauma. When trauma occurs, our body’s response is often to keep moving as a way to avoid sitting with, and feeling the deeply painful emotions we are experiencing. Maintaining momentum can feel like a protective force against being consumed by the realities of what is going on inside of us.

Like it or not, this pattern is keeping you stuck. In order to heal from your pain you have to slow down long enough to feel it. It can feel really comforting to fill your life up with helping others, being productive, reaching goals, and making your environment clean and orderly. These things can look like positive coping skills, but they are only positive and healing IF you also process and face the hard emotions you are experiencing. Often times, putting too much stock in outward perfections and tasks causes personal disappointment and pure exhaustion. It can even cause actual health issues and make other trauma responses like nightmares, flashbacks, and panic attack worse.

I’ve also seen this “busy-addiction” response play out as a fear of accepting being happy and embracing relaxation because they adopt the mentality that the positive feelings wont last . They live in a space where they are “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” People in this position often find themselves ruminating on what could go wrong, or even making subtle moves to sabotage themselves so they can feel in control of the seemingly inevitable crash to come.

Connecting and processing emotions does not have to be overwhelming and scary. Often just giving yourself a few minutes a day to meditate, journal, talk to a trusted and healthy friend, or therapist about your difficult experiences and emotions can be a huge relief. Your brain is stuck trying to process emotions and CRAVING the space to release the adrenaline associated with the traumatic events. Once you “feed” your brain what its craving, symptoms like panic, anxiety, hypervigilance, and body aches often start to resolve. If your experiences feel impossible to deal with it is time to get a therapist that is trained in helping you safely and effectively walk towards healing

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