Some of my fondest memories growing up took place in my family’s dining room when we got together at the end of the day to quickly get homework done and then share a meal together. Every night, it was the same routine. My mother would whip something up for dinner while my father helped my sister and me with math problems at the table before we ate and talked about our day. I distinctly remember and appreciate the thought of my parents as they sighed when the house phone rang when we finally sat down to eat.
“Who would be so rude?” Darn telemarketers.
It was a sacred time in my life because things were simply easier as a child, and maybe the world was a much less complicated place as well. These days, I do a job that I love, but it requires a lot of multi-tasking to keep up with the volume. Add in school and a social life, and any spare time is considered a novelty. Lucky for me, most of my friends are doing the same—so coffee dates at Starbucks where our eyes glaze over textbooks are perfectly appropriate. Without my iPhone, I would be far less connected to the real world because my time is that limited. I keep up with my family on Facebook, stay organized using list-making apps and calendars, check all my email accounts in one place, and get multiple notifications throughout the day on anything from traffic to the weather.
Sometimes though, I wonder how we used to get things done before these technologies existed. Looking up from my books at the same Starbucks, I notice everyone staring into their phone or talking into it. If these things were supposed to make our lives easier, than why do we all seem so rushed and stressed? Not too many years ago, we would have shuddered at the idea of being interrupted by a call.
Coined by Meyer Friedman, also known for identifying what it means to have a type-A personality, hurry sickness is “a behavior pattern characterized by continual rushing and anxiousness; an overwhelming and continual sense of urgency.” It makes people feel chronically short of time, so that they tend to perform every task faster and get flustered when encountering any kind of delay. When we invented washing machines to clean laundry or the microwave to heat up a pre-packaged meal, the idea was to give us more spare time. Unfortunately, it has created continual stress by making us feel like we can constantly come up with something more to do because we keep buying extra time. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that all this time-saving is killing us faster. Physically, mentally, and/or emotionally we can only take so much and begin to fall apart. We’re just not built to endure continual stress, so blood pressure is elevated and affects the heart and our mood changes as we become frustrated and exhausted.
According to Psychology Today, you might suffer from hurry sickness if you have ever caught yourself doing any of the following:
- Moving from one check-out line to another because it looks shorter/faster.
- Counting the cars in front of you and either getting in the lane that has the least or is going the fastest.
- Multi-tasking to the point of forgetting one of the tasks.
- Accidentally putting your clothes on inside-out or backwards.
- Sleeping in your daytime clothes to save time in the morning.
Seventy-five percent of the general population experiences at least “some stress” every two weeks. Those with hurry sickness feel this way all the time. Stress management works differently for everyone. You might enjoy blowing off steam by exercising or talking to a friend, but some prefer counseling or other means. If you feel like stress in your life is becoming unbearable, schedule an appointment with your doctor to explore different options.