Are you suffering from ‘hurry sickness’?

Though not an airborne pathogen, hurry sickness might be spreading around your workplace if you’re not taking measures to protect against it.  

In this issue of The Pulse, we take a look at the phenomenon that is ‘hurry sickness’ – what it is, how it can hurt your work and personal life, and how to take steps to overcome and avoid it.  

What is ‘hurry sickness’? 

Don’t worry  – it’s not an actual illness. However, it is a psychological phenomenon that might concern you, your colleagues, or others in your life.  

Hurry sickness was first described by cardiologists Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman and popularized in their 1974 book, Type A Behavior And Your Heart. They, and later research from other scholars, have found that “hurry sickness” can accompany the broader Type A personality complex.  

It can be characterized by a pressing need to hurry through tasks, use every moment productively, and an overwhelming, persistent sense of urgency.  

Here are two definitions that can be particularly helpful when understanding this phenomenon: 

  1. A behavior pattern characterized by continual rushing and anxiousness. 
  2. A malaise in which a person feels chronically short of time and so tends to multi-task to the point of forgetting one of the tasks.  

How do you know if you have it? 

If you’re more of a Type A individual who feels a persistent need to get things done, it can be easy to mistake general business with hurry sickness. So, what are some signs to look out for? 

Although hurry sickness is clearly a symptom of anxiety, whether chronic or episodic, it doesn’t always present in the way you might expect anxiety to look like. This is partially because hurry sickness often leads to results or a ‘grind’ that our society has come to celebrate, despite its negative impact on our overall health.  

Here are some signs to watch out for: 

  • Irritability  
  • Hypersensitivity 
  • Restlessness 
  • Workaholism or nonstop activity 
  • Emotional numbness 
  • Trouble prioritizing the activities/values that matter most 
  • Lack of care for your body 
  • Escapist behavior 
  • Isolation 
  • Rushing through activities, whether that be speeding while driving, eating quickly, etc.  
  • Making mistakes while during work or household tasks because you were hurrying through them. 
  • Frequently trying to fit more into your schedule.  
  • Endlessly running through your to-do list in your head.  

By itself, one or two of these symptoms may not mean much. However, when you put many or all of them all together, look at your work-life balance and current stressors, it might tell you that you’re dealing with hurry sickness.  

Is it that bad? 

You might be thinking, “so what? I get a lot done.”  

Maybe that’s true. Still, there are some emotional and physical consequences to pushing through hurry sickness.  

From the constant, nagging worry that you’re running out of time, to heightened anxiety, tearfulness, feelings of guilt, and trouble concentrating and relaxing, hurry sickness can take a big toll on your mental health. Long term, this can result in lowered self-esteem, increased feelings and outbursts of anger towards yourself and others, as well as general difficulties making and maintaining meaningful relationships.  

The physical effects of hurry sickness often stem from a lack of time devoted to self-care. As Healthline states, “relaxation and alone time might be the first ‘unnecessary’ activities you scrap when you feel busy, but many people with hurry sickness also start to ignore things like hydration, balanced meals, physical activity, or sleep.” 

This can result in: 

  • Trouble sleeping 
  • Changes in appetite 
  • Fatigue 
  • Headaches 
  • Stomach issues 
  • Decreased immune health 
  • Potential heart health issues 

How to overcome hurry sickness? 

The obvious answer to combatting ‘hurrying’ is to slow down – but that’s easier said than done. Here are some strategies Forbes suggests: 

  • In the morning, wake up with enough time to have a set breakfast.  
  • Plan to arrive places five minutes in advanced, so you never feel late, and you have time to take a breather.  
  • Count to five before answering your phone.  
  • Cross out the lowest priority item on your daily to-do list.  

Other strategies include: 

  • Taking a daily walk. 
  • Make use of mindfulness apps and videos.  
  • Prioritize self-care and relaxation – even if it’s only for fifteen extra minutes a day at first.  
  • Learn your limits, set boundaries, and respect them.  
  • Ask for support.  

In conclusion… 

The psychological phenomenon “hurry sickness” is a combination of anxiety mixed with the hustle mentality of our working culture. It tends to affect those we would consider as having Type A personalities.  

Although these individuals tend to be high achievers and producers, the long-term impact of working through this feeling can be detrimental.  

Slow down and be patient with yourselves. For leaders, identifying which of your team members may be struggling with this is also important.