12 MIN READ

Hurry Sickness

10 Ways to Overcome Constant Panic and Rush

 

You rush into work, late again after doing the school run and navigating through traffic. When you open up your computer, there are so many email and message notifications that you don't even know where to start.

Then you realize that you're late for a meeting. So you rush off, half walking, half running, and grab a seat in the meeting room. A few minutes later you realize that you're double-booked, so you make your apologies and dash off to join a conference call. Your day ahead looks just as hectic. So, while you're on the phone, you reply to emails marked "urgent," check your calendar, and reply to several messages.

There's no letup even after you arrive home. You somehow juggle cooking a meal, putting the kids to bed, and doing some housework, while preparing for a presentation that you're giving in the morning. And then, when you finally get into bed, your mind is still racing, worrying about all the things you still haven't been able to get around to and will have to tackle tomorrow.

Does this frantic sense of being always "on the go" seem familiar? Have you ever been unable to relax because thoughts are racing through your head? Are you constantly panicked about the sheer amount of things you have to do, and miss important details because of it? If so, you might be suffering from hurry sickness.

In this article and video, we look at what hurry sickness is, what its symptoms are, and how to overcome it.

Click here to view a transcript of this video.

What Is Hurry Sickness?

Cardiologists Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman coined the term "hurry sickness" after noticing that many of their patients suffered from a "harrying sense of time urgency." They defined hurry sickness as "a continuous struggle and unremitting attempt to accomplish or achieve more and more things or participate in more and more events in less and less time." [1]

People with hurry sickness think fast, talk fast, and act fast. They multitask and rush against the clock, feeling pressured to get things done and getting flustered by any sign of a problem. They're everywhere, too. Professor Richard Jolly of the London Business School found that 95 percent of the managers he studied suffer from the condition. [2]

What Causes Hurry Sickness?

You'll never find a hurry-sick person with an empty diary. Hurry-sick people are conscientious and work hard, but they struggle to acknowledge the limits of what they can take on. Consequently, they habitually commit to more than they have time for.

Also, our 24/7 state of connectedness means that we increasingly suffer from FOMO – fear of missing out – so we're reluctant to disconnect and slow down. We fret that a deal might fall through if we don't reply to an enquiry quickly. We worry about how it might look to take time off or to say no to a task. This need to stay available means that hurry-sick people remain constantly "switched on."

Once we've begun this cycle of panic, it's easy to get used to it, and even to accept it, even though it damages us.

What Are the Consequences of Hurry Sickness?

Being busy is usually seen as a virtue. But when busyness tips over into hurry sickness, the consequences can be severe. You lose the ability to stop and think, and you become less effective. Errors creep into your work, you lose sight of the "big picture," and the quality of your work starts to dip.

Hurry sickness increases your body's output of the hormone cortisol, which can cause long-term health problems, such as depression and burnout. It can affect your personal relationships, too. "Go-fast" working habits travel home with you, and they can make it difficult to give your best to friends and family. Your mind stays locked in a state of overstimulation, making you tired, anxious, and prone to irritability, but unable to relax.

Warning:

Stress can cause severe health problems and, in extreme cases, death. While the following stress-management techniques have been shown to have a positive effect on reducing stress, they are for guidance only, and readers should take the advice of suitably qualified health professionals if they have any concerns over stress-related illnesses or if stress is causing significant or persistent unhappiness. Health professionals should also be consulted before any major change in diet or levels of exercise.

10 Ways to Overcome Hurry Sickness

Although it can be difficult to find a way out of the chaos of hurry sickness, it is possible. Make it your goal to work smarter – not harder – by finding strategies that will create lasting change.

Let's look at 10 strategies that you can use to overcome hurry sickness, which we've grouped into action-oriented, acceptance-oriented and emotion-oriented:

Free Workbook Offer

Increase your productivity and reduce stress with this FREE workbook when you join the Club before midnight, January 31.

Find Out More

Action-Oriented Strategies

These approaches are useful when you're free to take action to change the situation.

1. Question why you're being asked to do something. If someone told you to jump, what would you say? "How high?" or "Why?" Your hurry sickness might be due to saying yes to people's requests too often, and taking on too much. It's important to question the rationale behind the demands made of you, so that you can politely say no to tasks that fall outside your job description, which other people are better qualified to do, or which you don't have time for. You'll then have space to do a better job of the things that really matter.

2. Be more assertive about what you take on. If you think your hurriedness is caused by other people not doing their jobs properly, let them know, but in a positive way. Give them clear feedback and clarify who's responsible for what tasks. This should help you to avoid taking on work that should be delegated to others.

3. Stop multitasking. The danger of juggling multiple tasks is that you spread yourself too thinly. Either you won't work to the best of your ability, or you won't ever complete anything. Instead, focus on one thing at a time. You'll do a better job and be in less of a rush.

4. Prioritize your workload. Prioritization is a crucial survival skill for getting through pressured times. It brings order to chaos, creates calmness and space, and reduces stress. Plan an order of work. Focus on the essential, and set aside – or quietly drop – the trivial. Eisenhower's Urgent/Important Principle is a great tool to use to do this.

5. Work on your time-management skills. There are only ever 24 hours in a day. Good time management allows you to put them to the smartest possible use by getting more done in less time. Switch your focus from activities to results, from hurriedness to effectiveness, and give dedicated, uninterrupted time to the tasks that matter. You can then target your attention where it's needed most.

Acceptance-Oriented Strategies

These approaches apply when you have no power to change the situation.

6. Slow down. Working flat out and struggling to relax isn't good for you or your work. We all need time to stop and think, to regain our perspective and take stock of our tasks. Simply taking regular breaks, even just to "stretch your legs," can help you to slow down and collect your thoughts. Toffler's Stability Zones can calm your pace, while relaxation techniques can help you to find peace amid chaos. Accepting only light projects for a while can also help you to "depressurize" and to take things more easily. When the time comes to increase your workload again, you'll be in a better position to deal with it effectively and calmly.

7. Stop and take a break. We mean it! Set your out-of-office notifications, ditch the laptop, and take a vacation. And if you're an active type rather than a beach dweller, don't cram too much into your itinerary! Switching off can be tough when you're used to being "on the go," but the benefits of doing so can be immense. A week or two of fun and relaxation will reduce your anxiety and allow you to reassess your priorities.

8. Seek support. Your manager, your colleagues and your family can all be great sources of support. Working with a strong support base and finding allies within it is a great way to share concerns and responsibilities, and to stop "busyness" becoming "hurriedness."

Tip:

If you constantly feel overwhelmed, it can also be useful to sort through the things impacting you by looking at what you can and can't control and influence, and how to accept the things that you can't. To learn more, read our article on how to reduce overwhelm using the Control Influence Accept Model.

Emotion-Oriented Strategies

This category of approaches is useful when the stress you're experiencing comes more from the way that you perceive a situation than the situation itself.

9. Stay positive. It's easy to get into a cycle of negative thinking when you're overloaded and rushed. Working with a positive outlook can help you to feel equal to the challenges that face you, and motivated to tackle them. Set realistic expectations, and try using affirmations, cognitive restructuring, and success programming to boost your positivity.

10. Improve your self-regulation. Our emotions run high when we're working against the clock, so managing them is important. Our articles on managing anger, developing patience, and using emotional intelligence can help you to manage your emotions better, so that you feel better able to cope with work calmly and effectively.

Hurry Sickness in Your Team

If you notice that members of your team have a permanent sense of urgency and anxiety, introduce them to the concept of hurry sickness, and alert them to the harm it can do to their health, their relationships and their career.

Be supportive, and monitor their workloads carefully. You can walk them through the strategies in this article so that they can select those that will help them the most.

Key Points

Hurry sickness is a mixture of anxiety and restlessness, and is often accompanied by a continual feeling of urgency. Its symptoms include high stress levels, declining quality of work, tiredness, and, eventually, serious health problems.

You can use the following 10 strategies to overcome hurry sickness:

  1. Question why you're being asked to do something.
  2. Be more assertive about what you take on.
  3. Stop multitasking.
  4. Prioritize your workload.
  5. Work on your time-management skills.
  6. Slow down.
  7. Stop and take a break.
  8. Seek support.
  9. Stay positive.
  10. Improve your self-regulation.

This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Subscribe to our free newsletter, or join the Mind Tools Club and really supercharge your career!

Show Ratings Hide Ratings

Ratings

Rate this resource

Comments (10)
  • Over a month ago charlieswift wrote
    You'll find the our podcast review of Cal Newport's "Deep Work" in our Book Insights section, and look out for our resilience resources based on Newport's work, too. - Charlie Swift and the MT Content team
  • Over a month ago Michele wrote
    Hello Steve,

    Great tip! I like the idea of scheduling distractions after you have completed important and focused work. It becomes a reward for finishing the task and provides time to do a mental reset. Thank you for sharing the name of the book. I plan to check it out and I'm sure others will be interested in reading it.

    Michele
    Mind Tools Team
  • Over a month ago Steve wrote
    One of the best strategies I recently learned is from Cal Newman, author of Deep Work. Schedule distractions to happen after you have spent a chunk of time doing "deep work"; that is, focused work on projects that really matter. Scheduling distraction time as a stress reliever is a great way to be proactive and reduce stress.
View All Comments