‘of a state or situation requiring immediate action or attention’
Living life in a state of urgency takes its toll on the body and the mind. I know, I lived this way for years.
I expected things to be efficient, clear, on schedule and immediate. If they weren’t, I was impatient, irritated and critical.
Transportation, conversations, appointments – I didn’t want to wait. “get out of the way” and “hurry up” were common statements circulating in my head and almost escaping out loud.
I wanted the quick fix – to take away sadness, anger, frustration, fatigue and discomfort. I reached for food, relationships, stimulants, intense exercise and television – these were common GO-TOs for my ready fix.
Feed the urgency, find the fix. I unknowingly lived this unhealthy cycle for years.
How did I know it was time to stop living this way?
I believe life first sends you messages in a whisper and if you don’t listen, it starts to yell. Well, life screamed at me in a way that I had no choice but to stop dead in my tracks and take notice. A lifestyle of urgency had impacted my health, relationships and mental wellbeing.
My body was tense, which resulted in headaches and severe neck and shoulder pain. I was taking my friends and family for granted, not spending enough time and giving enough attention to the people I should. And most importantly, I wasn’t facing my fears of being good enough, smart enough, strong enough, of being alone. By avoiding these feelings I not only hindered my own growth but limited my ability to relate and feel compassion towards others. Hope and fear – we all struggle with the same stuff.
So, enough was enough.
How did I change?
Not overnight. I’m still working on it but I have come a long way. Here are 4 steps I still use to deal with the urgency:
1. Take notice.
The first step is awareness. Reflect on when the state of urgency hits you. What are your triggers? What do you reach for as your quick fix?
For example, maybe you get antsy when you’re alone and you reach for the television.
2. Call it out and accept it.
The next time your trigger hits, call it out and make it real for yourself. State what’s happening.
“I’m feeling frustrated at the traffic” “I’m feeling lonely” “I’m feeling bored” “I’m feeling impatient at this line-up”
We have hundreds of thoughts demanding our attention at any given moment – calling out a specific feeling or thought focuses our attention and awareness.
It also helps us face our fear. We often reach for distractions because we are afraid to face that which we’ve been conditioned to interpret as negative or weak: loneliness, insecurity, anger, sadness, hurt and fear itself. When we call it out, we can try to see it, make it tangible and workable instead of all-consuming.
Accept it. It’s happening, it’s already there – you’re not alone, you’re human. Love yourself enough to accept all parts of yourself.
It’s not the thoughts or feelings that are the problem; it’s our reaction to them.
3. Do nothing for 1 minute (….and then 2)
Once you’ve called it out, pause for one minute.
Wait one minute before doing anything – before calling someone, consuming something, criticizing, blaming – before reaching for anything. Then do what you need to.
Often, your reaction will be different when you call it out and give it some space.
Holding the space without reacting may feel challenging and uncomfortable. You’re breaking a habit and that takes discipline and time. Start small, start with 1 minute.
Focus on your breath. Slow down the breath, slow down the mind. Release the tension with each exhale and let the urgency for a quick fix go.
Next time give it two minutes. Then five…
4. Be prepared with a healthy substitute.
Have a healthy substitute in mind for the next time your trigger hits. Give it space and then allow yourself to shift to something that serves you well.
You can call a safe and trustworthy friend. Go for a walk. Stretch. Meditate.
Be deliberate, instead of habitually reactive.
Notice it – State it & Accept it – Pause with it – Shift it