WHAT IS HURRY SICKNESS?

By: MIGHTY PURSUIT TEAM

Do you feel like you’re always in a rush? Always hurrying?  Even when you have nowhere to be? Perhaps you’re suffering from the latest illness ravaging our society. No, not Covid or the flu, but hurry sickness.  Before you laugh, this is an actual, real issue.  Stanford psychologist Philip Zimbardo defines hurry sickness as "a behavior pattern characterized by continual rushing and anxiousness; an overwhelming and continual sense of urgency.” He continues that it is: "a malaise in which a person feels chronically short of time, and so tends to perform every task faster." Harvard professor Leslie Perlow put her own spin on the condition, labeling it “time famine.” The chronic feeling that we are short on time makes us believe that we need to pick up the pace and go faster. In-turn, this causes us to feel like we are in a chronic state of stress and anxiety. In other words, hurry sickness is like running an endless marathon without water or rest yet still clinging to a hope that you'll catch up with the rest of the pack. How do you know if you have hurry sickness? Here are a few symptoms.

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SYMPTOMS OF HURRY SICKNESS

While hurry sickness extends across many areas of life, one could argue it is most easily identified in the most basic of our daily tasks. No matter what we’re doing, we live trying to save time everywhere we can. Even if it’s mere seconds or minutes. Ironically, our efforts don’t end up making much of a difference anyways.

Switching lines at the grocery store

Look no further than the grocery store. Even when you don't have anywhere you need to be, you’re scanning all the lines to see where the shortest line is. You don’t want to spend a second longer on line than you have to. So you switch lines, only to endure the tragedy that person behind you on the original line checked out before you.

Switching to the fast lane

For those that have cars and/or live in the suburbs, there’s a tendency to want to switch to the fast lane because you can’t stand sitting behind the car going exactly the speed limit. Everyone knows you can go five over without getting caught, right? As you’re slowly passing them, you try to make eye contact to express your displeasure.

Walking while it's red

To city dwellers, or those that live in walkable neighborhoods, it’s the stop sign. It’s not green yet and cars are continually still passing, but you see a small window of opportunity where you won’t get hit by a car. So you go for it, because you can’t waste another second if you don’t have to. This is basically the entire city of New York.

It (seriously) irks you to wait for the train

If you live in a city with underground transit, you’re quite familiar with the feeling of running through the streets to catch the train that is coming in two minutes. Only once you get to the station, the doors on the train are just closing. You missed it by 15 seconds. Even though you have nowhere to be, now you’re pissed. This means you’re going to have to sit there and wait a whole 7 minutes for the next one.

You can't stop multitasking

This is particularly relevant if you feel like you have a big workload. You can’t stop trying to do two things at once, because it gives you the feeling and rush that you are accomplishing more. The irony is at the end of the day, you look back and realize you got less done, and the output wasn’t as it could have been if you stuck to just one task.

Answering emails while taking a poop

In efforts to maximize every second, pooping in peace is now out of question. We need to use that time to catch up on emails and get as much work done before we have to wipe.

This might be a funny topic to talk about, but it actually has real-life consequences. The more we feel an increased sense of urgency, especially chronically, the less we feel a sense of inner peace. Relationally, the less present we are with the people that we love. Constant hurry can be incredibly damaging in our ability to properly care for our romantic partners, kids, family and friends. We become consumed with always thinking about the next thing we have to do, or the fact that there’s not enough time. We miss out on all of the moments that make life special. Not to mention we start loathing the chronic state of stress and crankiness that we find ourselves in.  We might just be developing words for this phenomenon, but it’s fair to wonder, where did hurry sickness come from? How did it become so hard to wait in line at the grocery store? For a coffee?  For the train that’s coming in.. 7 minutes?

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ORIGINS OF HURRY SICKNESS

When you get sick, you might suspect someone gave it to you. You were perfectly fine yesterday, so the illness didn't just come out of nowhere. In a similar way, hurry sickness has an origin and it is contagious. From a historical standpoint, hurry was not always the norm. Prior to Edison's invention of the light bulb, people got up at sunrise and went to bed when the sun went down.  What else was there to do? However, as America (and the world) became more technologically advanced, so too did people's lifestyles.  Ironically, companies began inventing "time saving" devices that actually ended up sucking up our time more by making it easier to do other stuff.  Think about your smartphone. It saves you from having to pull out a map, do math in your head, or manually typing in someone's number every time, but it also sucks you into a litany of other tasks and distractions. The Industrial Revolution and rise of technology that enabled us to be working 24/7 (think: laptops that we can open at any time and be connected to our work email). But of course, technology alone does not force us to do anything.  Often it is the mindset around it that does. There are attitudes about how we can attain success being pushed all around us. We see TV ads about choosing the right investment, so you can be the richest. All of this leads us to believe that we are chronically falling behind, and we need to catch up.  But this hyper-fast pace has not always existed, and has not always been the gold standard. Knowing the root causes of hurry sickness helps us remember and understand that this is not something hardwired into us or biologically programmed.  Ironically, with all the technological advances we’ve made in the area of convenience, we still live as if we’ve never had so little time. And unfortunately, this takes a measured toll on our health and wellbeing. Studies have shown that cortisol (stress hormone) production increases when under a state of hurried panic, which further triggers and accentuates anxiety.  According to the Cleveland Clinic, inflated levels of stress can lead to issues like undereating or overeating, which affects your metabolism in the process.  I'm sure all of us can relate to scarfing down a muffin or cup of coffee on the way out the door, but when that becomes the norm it has serious repercussions on your body.  Moreover, living in a constant state of stress has been linked with increased hypertension (high blood pressure).  Even beyond just social and productivity ramifications, science is consistently showing us that a lack of balance and rest in our lives can lead to severe health consequences. 

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REMEDIES FOR HURRY SICKNESS

So how can we change? How can we rid ourselves of our hurry and learn to live life in the moment? By looking to the one who did it best and becoming like him. For someone who became the most recognized figure in all of human history, we tend to forget that Jesus only spent three years in the public eye. That must have meant he had to hurry to get everything done, right? Nope. Time and time again, we see that Jesus was present to the person and moment at hand. He was interruptible. Through his example, we learn that it is possible to have packed schedules, but still not be in a hurry.  Because he had his priorities in order, and had intentional boundaries and rhythms in place, he was able to be attentive to the people in front of him. He was able to love well. Even if he was on his way to something important, he still made time for people who stopped him along the way. Here are six simple practices that will transform your relationship with hurry, and rewire your brain to operate differently.

Stopping for interruptions

If you live in a city, chances are you will constantly see people on the street that are likely less fortunate than you. They might interrupt you on a walk, or ask for money. Like Jesus, we can take this as an opportunity to be interruptible. If you can help them out with money, great. But even just asking them about their day or having a five minute conversation is something that will fill their soul. It will make them feel more human, and like they are seen. Simultaneously, it teaches us to operate differently. The five minutes you spend talking to someone, and showing a random act of kindness or love will not make any sort of dent in your productivity that day. We all have five minutes.  What better way to use that time than to free ourselves of hurry sickness, while also showing another person kindness?

Intentionally inconvenience yourself

One of the most fascinating treatments for hurry sickness is what author John Mark Comer calls slowing. The basic principle is if you“slow down your body, you’ll slow down your life. In the Ruthless Elimination of Hurryhe advocates for driving the speed limit, intentionally getting in the slow lane, and coming to a full stop at stop signs. Each of these disciplines, yes disciplines, slowly train our bodies to un-hurry.  Comer also suggests getting on the longest checkout line at the grocery store. Why would we do such a thing?  “It’s wise to regularly deny ourselves from getting what we want, whether through a practice as intense as fasting or as minor as picking the longest checkout line.That way when somebody else denies us from getting what we want, we don’t respond with anger. We’re already acclimated,” Comer writes. By intentionally inconveniencing ourselves, we become more patient people. We learn to be satisfied when we don’t get what we want and also discover the beauty in delayed gratification.

Leaving your phone outside of the bathroom

The world isn’t going to stop if we don’t answer emails when we’re pooping. And plus, the downsides of continually engaging in this habit far outweigh the upsides. When we first start trying to implement this practice, it might feel weird. We’ve become so wired to productivity and doing something every second, that pooping without a device might feel unnatural. Try to push through the discomfort and resist the temptation to grab your phone so you can experience the freedom on the other side.

Mindfully eating

As Harvard puts it, “Mindful eating focuses on your eating experiences, body-related sensations, and thoughts and feelings about food, with heightened awareness and without judgment.” Often we are in such a rush that we just wolf down our food and go about our day. Sometimes we even do this on the run, just so we can be as productive as possible. To mindfully eat means to stop, pause and enjoy our food without doing anything else. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, it’s to intentionally take enough time to enjoy the sensations and the taste, without distracting ourselves on our phone and trying to answer emails.

Daily and/or weekly check-ins with loved ones

There is much say about the intersection of love and hurry. Hurry inevitably makes us cranky, irritable and stressed.  Living in this constant state of hurry makes it virtually impossible for us to become people of love. In our stress, suddenly our world shrinks. All we can see is what is in front of us, and we become ignorant to the needs of others around us. The people that we are called to love the most — our friends, family, kids, spouses, significant others, our neighbor — become invisible to us. And when we do interact with them, we find that our irritability often causes us to act out in ways that are unloving to others. When this becomes our daily lives, we are missing the entire point of life itself. Knowing about ourselves, and knowing that life itself is about love, we need to be far more intentional with the people around us. We prioritize and make time for what’s important in life. Even if you don’t feel like you have a ton of time on your hands because of the nature of your schedule, we need to make time. Check-in with your spouse. Your kids. Your friends. Your family. In our hurry, time can easily pass us by, and we look back realizing we haven't had many meaningful interactions in weeks or months.

Single tasking

This not only comes down to prioritizing, but reevaluating the effectiveness of multi-tasking. If you have a laundry list of tasks in front of you, consider what’s most pressing. Even in the most demanding jobs, some items have sooner deadlines or urgencies than others.  Comer, writes, “I’ve come to realize the obvious: multitasking is a myth… multitasking is just sleight of hand for switching back and forth between a lot of different tasks so I can do them all poorly instead of doing one well.” In a culture that constantly is engaging our focus to be split in multiple directions, this might seem counterintuitive. But much of the science aligns with Comer, as author Cal Newport writes: “Something I’ve noticed is that many modern knowledge workers approach their work like a multi-threaded computer program. They’ve agreed to many, many different projects, investigations, queries and small tasks, and attempt, each day, to keep advancing them all in parallel by turning their attention rapidly from one to another — replying to an email here, dashing off a quick message there, and so on — like a CPU dividing its cycles between different pieces of code.”  The problem here, as Newport explains, is that our brains are not like computer processors. “When you switch your brain to a new “thread,” a whole complicated mess of neural activity begins to activate the proper sub-networks and suppress others. This takes time. When you then rapidly switch to another “thread,” that work doesn’t clear instantaneously like electrons emptying from a circuit, but instead lingers, causing conflict with the new task.” In other words, multitasking actually makes you less productive, even though it gives you the illusion that you’re accomplishing more. If we are to begin eliminating hurry from our lives, we would do well to recognize our limitations and embrace single-tasking. 

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

None of these things are time intensive, and practicing them will not detract from your schedule. Consider what we are costing ourselves by NOT taking these steps towards eliminating hurry in our lives. This doesn’t mean it will be easy to stop operating as we have been. For some of us, our plate might always be full, depending on the responsibilities that we have. But that doesn’t mean we have to be in a hurry. We can accept that we’re going to have long days, but still learn to be present in each moment.  Hurry sickness isn't a random accident, but rather a byproduct of choices we make in our lives. Which means it requires an intentional reordering of our lives, which pays off over time. For more, click here to visit our Rest Hub.

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