In today's world it can be harder to get away from work than ever. Even when we are not at work physically it may be on our mind, just a phone call away or we may be working from home now so it's constantly with us. This can make it hard to relax and lead to feeling of being constantly busy or hurried.
This feeling of being overwhelmed and constantly busy is not just a symptom of the modern-day though. The term 'hurry sickness' was first coined in the 1950s by Meyer Freidman a cardiologist.
Dr Freidman noticed most of his at-risk patients displayed a 'sense of time urgency' and theorised that people who are constantly in a hurry and chronically busy were more prone to heart attacks.
Consider the following symptoms of hurry sickness, how many of them can you attribute to yourself?
Ten Symptoms of Hurry Sickness*
- Irritability: Are you easily irritated? Quick to snap, get mad or frustrated at even the little things, particularly with and at loved ones. Do you take this out on others?
- Hypersensitivity: You take everything as a slight or the wrong way. A simple email or comment might set you off and ruin your day. What may once have been minor issues are now major events. This may make you angry, anxious or depressed. What happened to that relaxed easy-going person you remember?
- Restlessness: You can't sit still for long, relax or take a break. That book never gets read, you struggle to even get through even a couple of pages. You can't relax and focus. You jump from one idea to the next. You overly multitask, watching TV while checking emails, you're too harried to really slow down.
- Workaholism (or non-stop activity): You can't stop, won't stop, or don't know when to stop working. There is always something more to achieve, do or accomplish. At the end of the day, you've given your all and what little time you may have for the family they are definitely not getting the best of you.
- Emotional Numbness: Empathy may be out the window by now. You can't sympathise, feel others pain, or even your own. You're just a little numb.
- Out of Order Priorities: You're chasing fires, rushing around reactively. You're super busy, yet you are achieving nothing. You've misplaced the important things that need doing, maybe for days, possibly for years!
- Lack of Personal Care: We all need exercise, healthy food and good sleep. This can easily go out the window. When you lack these core things you may be getting sick more regularly and feeling tired and lethargic frequently. You might put on weight and become overly reliant on stimulants like coffee, energy drinks, sugar and alcohol.
- Escapist Behaviours: You probably know it's not great for you, but you're so tired you zone out and distract yourself via binge TV watching (Netflix), constantly scrolling through social media, overeating and drinking.
- Slippage of Spiritual Disciplines: Religious or otherwise. Those things that make us feel better and give us energy whether it is praying, yoga, meditation fall by the wayside. These should be the first go-to when you are feeling overly hurried and stressed.
- Isolation: You might feel disconnected and isolated from others and yourself. You're so used to being busy and stressed that even quiet time is overrun by a rampaging mind. Whether alone or even with friends and family you may be a 'million miles away' stuck in your own head.
So what are some things we can do to help reduce and relieve this hurried life?
Relax (Hammock Time!): Seth Haber of Trek Light Hammocks says in his company story; "You should spend 10 minutes every day in your hammock unless you are too busy and then you should spend an hour." I love this quote as a simple ten minutes of relaxation every day can make a huge difference to your mental health and well being. It might not seem like much, but taking the time out from distractions and lying back in that soft hammock embrace you'll literally and figuratively feel a weight being lifted.
On the other side, if you can't spare a simple 10 minutes a day then you are too busy and really need to make a conscious effort to take some time out. If you have no time to relax, then most likely you need to relax more than anyone.
Learn the signs of excess hurry and stress: By just knowing and being aware of these symptoms allows you to take action to reduce and relieve these symptoms. When noticing these symptoms though, it's important to not try and 'fix' everything at once, which is likely to add more stress to the fire. Break them down, set small goals; maybe aim to finish work a little earlier every day, take a walk on your lunch break rather than eating over your laptop. Schedule in a personal call, rather than another Zoom meeting. Tackle things in smaller chunks to make life more manageable not even more stressful.
Simplify life: More things are more things. More things to stress over, break, go wrong, need fixing, need replacing, need updating. Try being more considerate of what you really need vs want and purchase. A more minimalist life can also be a much more relaxing and time friendly life. Maybe try a little Marie Kondo, clear up the clutter and get rid of those things that don't bring you joy.
Slow down: This involves taking both a more conscious effort not to rush and setting things in place to help you achieve this. Try and not pull your phone out in the supermarket checkout line or whenever you are waiting for something. Get to you doctors, dentists, parent-teacher meeting 15 minutes early and just wait. Dumb down your smartphone; remove unnecessary apps or use wellbeing settings to limit time spent on certain apps. Set a grey-out time in the evening when all apps are blocked from use and your phone is effectively a brick or just turn it off at a set time every night. Avoid multitasking, it's proven to be less efficient than single-tasking anyway.
Seek help: You may be used to trying to do everything yourself, try and avoid that. Lean on others, make use of the free health services and free phone helplines we have available in New Zealand. Connect with others. You'll probably find a lot of people feel they are in a similar position and talking with others is always a good starting point.
Do The Things You Love: Get back to doing the things you love. The things that you work so hard to accomplish may be taking away from the things you love. Whether it's date night, long bike rides, surfing, music, reading or playing with your kids. Consider the time-trade off you are making as you hurry about and the work-life balance you would rather have.
Have any other solutions? Let us know we'd love to help people feel just a little more relaxed everyday.
Know someone that could do with more relaxation in their life and less hurry, then perhaps keep us in mind next time their birthday or Christmas rolls around and give the gift of relaxation.
*From the Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer