Are you always in a hurry? It’s safe to say that most people are in a rush much of the time thanks to the demands of modern life. The events of 2020 allowed many to slow down and stop for the first time in years — an unexpected reprieve from the constant go, go, go.
But, with daily life returning to some normality (thanks to the “COVID normal” situation in Australia) the busyness is most likely back and flourishing. If you’re always on the move, you might be experiencing something called ‘hurry sickness’.
Described by Forbes “as a malaise in which a person feels chronically short of time, and so tends to perform every task faster and to get flustered when encountering any kind of delay,” the term was coined by cardiologists Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman.
While not a medical term, “hurry sickness” does encompass how many people live their day-to-day lives, with a constant sense of urgency spurring them on to get more done during the waking hours — no matter how small the task.
How to recognise hurry sickness
Hurry sickness, in its most basic terms, is multitasking. And, while there’s nothing wrong with multitasking for efficiency, it can become a problem when it infiltrates every part of your life.
“We’ve come to know this habit as multitasking,” Rosemary K.M. Sword, author and co-developer of time perspective therapy, told Healthline. “Many people who’ve incorporated multitasking into their life are proud of their ability to do more than one thing at the same time.”
Doing more than one thing at a time might be necessary for work, but doesn’t need to be carried on into other areas of your life. Healthline points to a number of scenarios where hurry sickness can manifest in your life. Rushing through tasks to the point where you make mistakes so you have to do them again is one example. As is feeling irritable when you face delays, or constantly trying to perform time calculations in your head to see what else you can fit in.
How do you feel when you’re waiting for a takeaway order? Impatient? That’s another example of hurry sickness. Instead of patiently waiting to receive your coffee, the wait time can feel like an inconvenience due to the other things you need to do.
It can also feel like an undercurrent of anxiety that permeates your day. Healthline explains: “Perhaps stress and worry creep up when you think of everything you have to do. Or maybe you quickly become anxious when you find yourself stuck in traffic, early for an appointment, or waiting for something with nothing to do in the meantime. Hyperaware of the seconds ticking by, you fixate on all the things you could be doing with the wasted time.”
How to slow down
It’s hard to take a step back and slow down when your brain is programmed to be constantly on the go. It can also feel difficult to take a break when your to-do list is seemingly endless. But, in order to give hurry sickness the heave-ho, it’s necessary to push back on the urge to rush everywhere and complete every task quickly.
— Stop multitasking
Yep, we’re serious. It’s OK to multitask while you’re at work, as you obviously have deadlines to meet but in your everyday life, try to avoid multitasking. When you’re cooking dinner, just cook dinner. Don’t also try to do another three things at the same time. Practising mindfulness at the same time can also allow you to connect with the activity you’re engaging in, rather than thinking about what else you could be doing.
— Figure out your priorities
You can’t do everything so learning to prioritise what’s important is helpful — in both your personal and professional life. This means learning to say no to the things you just can’t do and putting more of your time and energy into the things you can. Prioritising rest and relaxation is also super important and helps you to slow down and recharge.
Resting looks different for everyone — what you find relaxing is different to someone else so find what works for you and do it.
— Take time away from your phone
Technology allows us to constantly multitask so spending time away from your phone will help to stop the cycle of hurry sickness. And, while you can check your emails from the bathroom, you probably shouldn’t be doing that as it doesn’t allow you any time to switch off.
Instead of mindlessly grabbing your phone, Forbes recommends counting to five before reaching for it, which helps to make you “more conscious and aware” about your phone use.