Opinion: The case for taking it nice and easy

Truckee's scenic Legacy Trail runs along the Truckee River.

Truckee's scenic Legacy Trail runs along the Truckee River.

File photo

If a half-century ago hard-working American citizens and affluent peers elsewhere suspected the extent to which modern technology would make many tasks go quicker and easier, they might have shouted “Go for it!” However, with even a glimmer of various painful realities now associated with high tech, the response, particularly in the United States, might have been more muted.

Compared to workers in other wealthy nations, Americans average more hours on the job and receive fewer paid holidays. The U.S. is also exceptional in having no guaranteed maternity leave and no legal right to sick leave or paid vacation time.

Such conditions contribute to “great discontent” among contemporary workers. Citing national survey data, a pair of writers noted, “Many are reflecting on what a quality job feels like, and nearly half are willing to quit to find one.” This grim reaction is hardly surprising considering that compared to other wealthy nations, the economic support the U.S. provides employed people is clearly deficient. Though discussed no further in this piece, readers might keep this reality in mind, appreciating that the relative lack of support undoubtedly exacerbates workers’ struggles, including some of those we now examine.

The immediate topic is hurry sickness, which is behavior displaying anxiety and an urgent sense of a “time crunch.” Ironically, the uninterrupted flood of technological innovation prompts people to speed up work and feel agitated with delays.

In this discomforting setting, multitasking prevails, with doing just one thing often feeling painfully insufficient. A writer concluded, “There are always more incoming emails, more meetings, more things to read, more ideas to follow up — and digital mobile technology means you can easily crank through a few more to-do list items at home, or on holiday.” Many feel overwhelmed. After all, they have limited time and energy, and the current barrage of tasks can appear endless.

Launching an attack

Sufferers of hurry sickness can take decisive steps to combat it — slowing down but not to the extent of sharply reducing output; appreciating, in fact, that job performance improves when the mind isn’t wildly racing ahead; taking a walk or simply breathing deeply, perhaps feeling energized and more creative in the process; and seeking therapy that can alleviate stress by developing greater understanding of the outlooks and behavior that have nurtured one’s anxieties. Mindfulness, which is unwavering focus on the task at hand, provides a foundation for much-needed constructive responses.

Chronic sufferers of hurry sickness tend to be future-oriented, concentrating on attaining their hard-driving ambitions, downplaying what they already possess, and finding mindfulness difficult to initiate. However, with a patient effort to grasp its contribution and get it underway, the immediate world can eventually appear less formidable, conveying a sense of a protective cushion from previous vulnerabilities.

Hurry sickness under siege: Significant rewards for staying the course

When the malady flourishes, precious ties to others can wither or even perish. A journalist noted, “Perhaps you don’t listen to your partner because you’re worrying about everything you have to do, or you snap at your children when they’re slow to get moving.” These might seem like minor misdeeds, but the upcoming analysis suggest otherwise. Let’s consider.

Recently research using results from 174 studies provided answers about sources of family happiness. They asked, “What’s the secret ingredient that makes a happy couple or family?” Their finding — “psychological flexibility,” which is individuals’ core of confident, consistent beliefs and values featuring a willingness to learn from engagement with diverse, sometimes opposing thoughts, feelings or experiences.

Coauthor Ronald Rogge explained “that being mindful and emotionally flexible in tough and challenging situations not only improves the lives of individuals, it might also strengthen and enrich their close relationships.” Does that statement have a familiar ring? Earlier we encountered critics saying that similar, challenging steps are useful in defeating hurry sickness. Rogge’s statement suggests that if people are capable of taking the constructive actions that both he and the critics advocate, they can obtain the cherished outcomes just described. In fact, some who are motivated might join efforts to curtail the malady.

Exposure to this research can prove valuable. While many people find hurry sickness nerve-racking and befuddling, an expansive, well-planned campaign fully informing them about it could inspire widespread recognition of the special rewards of close relationships and the means of obtaining them. Over time growing numbers might discover themselves enjoying a gentler, more contented way of living. If that occurs, the potential benefits could be huge.

Chris Doob is an emeritus professor of sociology at Southern Connecticut State University and the author of a variety of books involving sociology and sports.