5 Strategies to Counter Hurry Sickness

Woman hiker resting after climbing in a hammock at sunset. Concept of slowing down, not rushing, lowering stress.

In the world of “self-improvement” or “self-help,” it’s (ironically) common to feel like you’re failing. There is just so much to keep up with! Keeping up with your appearance, your “self-care,” fitness, nutrition, sleep, keeping your emotions in check, and being open but not too vulnerable. It seems like the cards are stacked against you regarding being well. The cumulative effects of rushing to juggle all these responsibilities have been dubbed “hurry sickness.”

I definitely felt overwhelmed. One of the ways I have worked to “unclump” all of the things on my to-do list of well-being is by taking a hard look at my stressors and working to address them little by little. It’s not perfect, and neither am I. But I want to share with you something I’ve been working on for quite a while, and it has helped my nervous system immensely. 

I first realized how stressful rushing is for me after I had kids. I’ve always cut close by the clock when it was time to leave. Arriving somewhere early feels stressful to me, and so does running late, so I try to leave right on time. But then, if I forgot something (especially back in the day when I lived in a 5th-floor walk-up in Queens!) or the subway stalled, I was stressed.

Hurry Sickness Isn’t Inevitable

Young woman pouring coffee into cup while putting on shoes at home in morning- concept of hurry sickness, or the stress of rushing.

But if you’ve ever tried to rush with a baby or toddler, that’s a whole other level of hardship! It took some time for me to realize it, but I needed to make not rushing, as much as possible, an intentional priority. That meant I’ve had to call upon some significant planning and executive functioning skills. These things don’t come easily or naturally to me. But relieving myself of the anxiety of rushing to a large degree has done wonders for my nervous system.

If you find yourself rushing through life to hit your next mark, ask yourself if that spikes your anxiety and requires some time for you to recover. And remember, this is not a 100 percent all-or-nothing change. Making small changes to habits that affect your well-being can amount to big changes to your quality of life. 

Below are practical ways to think about your habit of rushing, to break free from the cycle of the relentless pace of life and the whirlwind of deadlines and demands.

5 Strategies to Counter Hurry Sickness

Calm office worker sitting at her desk near laptop folded fingers in mudra gesture take break resting at workplace- concept of not hurrying, not rushing, not stressing.

  1. Cultivate Mindful Pacing

    It can help to take a deliberate and conscious approach to navigating the demands of daily life. Rather than succumbing to the pressure to constantly accelerate, take intentional pauses throughout the day. This involves moments of reflection, a conscious deep breath, or a brief mental check-in. By incorporating mindful pauses, you can interrupt the autopilot mode of rushing and bring a sense of presence to your actions. This practice not only reduces anxiety but also fosters a deeper connection with the present moment.

  2. Set Realistic Expectations

    Rushing often stems from unrealistic expectations and an insatiable desire to accomplish more in less time. Instead, see if you can reassess and set realistic expectations for yourself. This involves a conscious evaluation of priorities and a willingness to acknowledge your limitations. This is easier said than done! But by setting achievable goals and breaking larger tasks into smaller, more manageable steps, the pressure to rush diminishes. Embracing a mindset that values progress over perfection allows for a more sustainable and less anxiety-inducing approach to daily tasks.

  3. Prioritize Time for Yourself

    The relentless pace of modern life can lead to neglecting your own needs, both physically and mentally. This involves setting aside dedicated time for activities that bring you joy and relaxation, whether it’s reading a book, going for a walk, or anything that brings you into the present, even for a few minutes. By nurturing your mind and body, you can replenish your energy reserves, making it easier to approach your next demand with a more calm and focused mindset.

  4. It’s Okay To Say No

    A significant contributor to rushing is the difficulty many people face in saying “no” to additional commitments. This is a skill, and requires a constant self-check in, and reevaluation of your priorities. Saying no is one of the hardest things for many of us to do, and it requires a willingness to decline tasks or invitations that contribute to your feeling of being overwhelmed. 

    By setting boundaries and learning to prioritize your own needs, you can create space for activities that genuinely align with your values and goals. Do we sometimes (okay, often) need to take on commitments that we don’t really want to do? Sure. That’s part of being an adult. But this shift to asking yourself if you really are needed for a task not only reduces the need to rush but also fosters a sense of empowerment and control over your time and energy.

  5. Reframe Your Narrative around Time

    The societal narrative that faster is always better perpetuates the culture of rushing. By making a conscious reframing of the way you perceive and value time, try thinking of time as a finite resource to be maximized. Consider time as a tool for intentional living. This involves recognizing the inherent value of moments of stillness, reflection, and connection. By challenging the cultural norms that equate busyness with success, you can shift your focus from racing against time and always in a hurry to savoring the richness of each experience.

Freedom from the Anxiety of Rushing and Hurry

Woman hiker resting after climbing in a hammock at sunset. Concept of slowing down, not rushing, lowering stress.

Incorporating these five strategies into your daily life requires a conscious commitment to change and a willingness to prioritize well-being over the relentless pursuit of productivity. I hope these pointers can serve as a roadmap for breaking free from the anxiety-inducing cycle of rushing, offering a path toward a more intentional, balanced, and fulfilling way of living. By embracing mindful pacing, setting realistic expectations, prioritizing your own needs, learning to say “no,” and reframing the narrative around time, individuals can cultivate a sense of agency over their lives and reclaim the joy that comes with living in the present moment.

Reprinted with permission from insidepsychotherapynyc.com
Alena Gerst

Alena Gerst, LCSW, RYT, is a psychotherapist licensed in Arizona and New York State, with a Master’s degree from Columbia University School of Social Work. Also a certified yoga teacher, she has a particular interest in the mind/body connection, with specialties including therapy for performers, women’s issues, and special needs parenting.

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