How Being Too Busy May Be Causing Your 3pm Headache

How Being Too Busy May Be Causing Your 3pm Headache

How many times have you asked someone how they are and heard the automatic response, ‘I’m just so busy at the moment!’? How many times have you said this yourself? But how many of us realise that being busy may just be the reason for those 3pm headaches, or why our shoulder pain won’t go away?

In today’s society we pride ourselves on being busy. Leading a busy life has become like a badge of honour that we proudly wear. Being busy makes us feel accomplished, successful, worthy and fulfilled. But does it really, or is our busyness just a cover for something else?

In her book ‘Daring Greatly’, Brene Brown questions whether our addiction to busyness is actually a means of us numbing something that we don’t want to deal with (a bit like drugs, alcohol, food or shopping but without the same stigma!). In her book, she writes:

“One of the most universal numbing strategies is what I call crazy-busy. I often say that when they start having 12-step meetings for busy-aholics, they’ll need to rent out football stadiums. We are a culture of people who’ve bought into the idea that if we stay busy enough, the truth of our lives won’t catch up on us.”
Brene Brown

People keep themselves busy for a number of reasons. Whether it’s that they don’t like the feeling of being alone, are finding it hard to deal with the reality of a sick parent or are just scared of living a life deemed ‘ordinary’, there is always something deeper behind it. I know for me, in the year prior to my marriage breaking up, I kept myself insanely busy so that I didn’t have to deal with what was actually going on. It was far easier to fill my days with a list of things ‘that just had to be done’, rather than go home and deal with the real issue at hand. This may just something for you to sit and think about for a little bit.

But why else is busyness such a bad thing, and how does it contribute to physical pain that we may be experiencing?

Simply put, busyness equals stress! I don’t know about you, but I don’t know one person who leads a busy life that isn’t stressed to some degree. And there is only so much stress that our bodies can handle before it’s effects become damaging.

When we are stressed our bodies automatically jump into a ‘flight or fight’ response. This is the response that our ancestors used to experience when confronted by a bear at the entrance of their cave. In today’s world this response is activated due to numerous different reasons such as traffic jams, important meetings that we are running late for, deadlines that need to be met and social engagements that we really don’t want to attend. And it’s when this ‘flight or fight’ state doesn’t get turned off that we run into problems.

One of the problems with being in a state of chronic stress is that we get an ongoing release of noradrenaline from the sympathetic nervous system that tells our muscles that they need to tense up in preparation for action – such as high tailing it away from that angry looking bear. But if we don’t actually have any ‘real’ danger to escape from then the muscles stay tight and tensed and never get to relax again, because it is highly unlikely we will ever meet a bear coming out of a coffee shop. Does that make sense?

This then leads to the muscles being in a hyper-stimulated state, which in turn causes muscle pain, tension, tightness and stiffness. Cue those 3pm tension headaches, or that tendinitis in your shoulder that just won’t heal. Are you beginning to see how this all fits together?

This hyper-stimulation, in time, causes the muscles to become over-fatigued. Our muscle fibres are designed to contract and relax as we move about, but if they don’t get to relax they eventually go into spasm. It is also when our muscles are fatigued that injuries tend to happen. You may of known someone who bent over to pick up a pen and their back went out? This happens, because the muscles surrounding the discs in their back were too tired to protect them anymore.

Stress also contributes to us not paying attention to our body’s signals. When this happens we are more at risk of moving in a way that will cause injury. Our body actually sends us messages all the time when something isn’t right. It will tell us when we need to sit up, take notice and listen. But do we? Usually not. And often it’s because we have forgotten how to do so.

So how can we tune in to the messages our body is telling us, and how can we decrease the amount of busyness in our lives?

If you stick with me over the next little while I will be talking more about both of these things but for now (because I don’t want to overwhelm you even more!) here are two simple things that you can begin with today:

1. My free eBook, ‘Breathe, Feel & Ask’, teaches you a simple and quick practice that you can do in just 10 minutes a day to help you begin to tune into your body and it’s signals. I would really encourage you to download it by clicking here if you don’t already have a copy.

2. At the start of your day look at the tasks on your ‘to-do’ list and simply ask yourself, ‘what is one thing that I can take off the list?’. There will be one, I promise!

I believe that making small changes over time is the most important. Not many of us can overhaul our lives in a short space of time and be successful at doing so, but in time the small changes that we do make will always lead to huge shifts in the long term. Starting with something small is better than not starting at all!

So, now it’s up to you to make a commitment towards self-healing. If you can look at your ‘to-do’ list right now and take one thing off it, what would it be? Please feel free to share it with me in the comments below. And if you have any other tips for decreasing busyness in our lives then please share them as it may just help someone else reading this.

Yours in Healing & Health,


PS. If you know of someone who leads a busy life that may just benefit from reading this post then please feel free to share it with them.


  1. Exactly what I needed today! I can feel my stress levels at high today and how this impacts on my body. My answer is to leave work on time and go to Bikram Yoga – the heat and concentration will force me to be present and relax my muscles. I’ll be sharing this article with my community as it’s such an important reminder! Thanks Nicola! X

    • I’m really glad this article resonated with you Amanda … and I’m glad to hear that you were able to recognise that maybe you were feeling a little bit more stressed than usual and took some positive action to look after yourself xo



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