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Hurry Sickness

Running from one commitment to the next, trading time spent with friends and family for the ability to feel productive, you find yourself fantasizing about what it would be like to unplug from the world for a few days and just breathe.

This article is courtesy of HomeLife magazine.

The other day, I ran into a friend I hadn't seen in a while. "How are things?" Greg asked, as we waited in line at Starbucks. "CRAZY!" I answered. "But, good!" I hastily added, as if to assure both of us that while I was indeed busy, I had it all under control.

As I began rattling off the things that were going on in my life, an unmistakable flash of concern crossed Greg's face.

"Are you OK?" he asked. "You look a little thin."

"I'm fine," I assured him. "I've just been working a lot." And I had been. So much, in fact, that I hadn't eaten or slept well for longer than I could remember. The truth was I had unwittingly fallen victim to a newly named disease: Hurry Sickness.

Our Romance with Chaos

The term Hurry Sickness was coined by Dr. Meyer Friedman. Incidentally, this is the same guy who first identified the Type A personality; you know, the one that describes driven, overachiever types?

Even if you're not Type A, chances are you, too, have fallen victim to Hurry Sickness.

Just consider how frustrated you feel when the car in front of you is driving a few miles below the speed limit. Or you're in such a hurry that something as basic as going to the bathroom can seem like an unnecessary luxury.

Running from one commitment to the next, trading time spent with friends and family for the ability to feel productive, you find yourself fantasizing about what it would be like to unplug from the world for a few days and just breathe. Well, maybe that's not such a bad idea.

Hurry, Worry, and Fear

"Working at breakneck speed for extended periods of time does not enhance productivity; it reduces it," says Dr. Edward Hallowell, author of CrazyBusy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap! "When we work too fast for too long we get tired, become inefficient, make mistakes, and become unable to think clearly and sharply."

Living in such a chronic state of stress also can have a dramatic impact on our health, triggering problems like allergies, arthritis, obesity, diabetes, depression, anxiety, and, in my case, insomnia and loss of appetite.

There are other trade-offs to consider, too. With no margin for recreation, our bodies and minds stay in a constant state of overstimulation, making it hard to relax and just be content. Since time is money, we begin to make decisions about our relationships based on how they can serve our needs, rather than exploring how we can serve others. Eventually, our lives become more about surviving the day than about embracing life.

So, why do we keep this frenetic pace? I have a theory: We're afraid. Afraid of being still and facing the reality of our disappointments. Afraid that if we don't take care of something ourselves, it won't be done right. Afraid that if we set boundaries, we might let someone down.

More than anything, I think we live each day with the fear that if we say no to something, we might miss out on an opportunity critical to achieving our dreams, hopes, and purpose in life. And here is where we play right into the hands of our enemy: We're too busy to take time to hear what God is saying about how we are to live our lives.

The Antidote: Faith

If anyone could have fallen victim to Hurry Sickness, it would have been Jesus. Talk about a purpose-driven life; He was called to save the entire human race! Jesus certainly had the right to multitask, yet He didn't live as you or I might if we knew we only had 33 years on this earth. Instead, His life was an example of choosing substance over volume. He spent time away from work to be with God. He shared long, slow meals with His disciples. He even took His time when Lazarus died — a story where we learn God is often glorified the most when our plans and our timing fail.

In Jesus' life, we find the only true antidote to Hurry Sickness: faith in God. Too often, however, we assume responsibility for running our lives. Not only does this propagate fear and frustration, but it's literally an exercise in futility.

Proverbs 19:21 tells us, "Many plans are in a man's heart, but the Lord's decree will prevail." On a practical level, this means that, in spite of our best efforts at controlling our lives, God's plan will prevail in the end — whether we like it or not. It also means we can't mess up God's plans for our lives by saying no to something we don't need to be doing. Since God is a God of order, it means we don't have to live a chaotic, burned-out life to fulfill His calling for us. Such knowledge gives us permission to reset our priorities, putting relationship with God, family, and friends before all the things we think we must get done.

Hurry Sickness may be a reality of our culture, but it doesn't have to be a reality of our lives. As Christ-followers, we can choose to live lives that are set apart. We can actively seek to become more attuned to God's voice than we are to the ding of our e-mail. And we can learn to trust that we don't have to be in control of everything.

As we do these things, we come closer to reflecting the character of God. And maybe, in that place of choosing God's character, we'll find those moments to just be — to breathe in the air, the life, and the beauty around us, lift our eyes toward heaven, and worship the One who created it all.

Constance Rhodes lives in Franklin, Tenn. She is the editor of the book The Art of Being.