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August 6, 2000

How to Break Your Hurry Habit

Break free of your fast-forward lifestyle by figuring out just WHY you're always in such a rush

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When entire days slip by because you're in a constant frenzy of activity, you might chalk it up to being a go-getter. But more often than we think, we create this stress because, in reality, we're avoiding issues like fear of rejection or low self-esteem.

The result: You feel like you're chasing something, but you never quite catch up. There are four "hurry personalities" — the pleaser, the overachiever, the avoider, and the dreamer.

Which type are you?

THE PLEASER

DO YOU...

  • agree to pitch in even when your plate is full?
  • sacrifice your own needs to help others?
  • find it fulfilling to have people depend on you?
  • make it a high priority to be a good friend, wife, daughter, employee?


You could be a PLEASER

"I try to make everyone else happy."
—Nataki, 25, paralegal

"I often feel like I'm doing a juggling act. One friend wants help moving, another asks if I can pick up her car from the shop, then my boyfriend wants quality time. I always say yes because I want to be a good friend and girlfriend, but I end up feeling drained."

To slow down, find a sense of self-worth from the inside.

HEALTHY FIX: "Nataki is a typical people-pleaser — she needs to develop a 'positive selfishness,'" says Dorree Lynn, Ph.D., author of Getting Sane Without Going Crazy. "Clearly, she has trouble saying no, which is why she's always overcommitted. In trying to do everything, she spreads herself too thin and becomes so overwhelmed, she's unable to give any single pursuit her full attention. It's a habit that promotes constant feelings of anxiety. Taking care of herself has to become Nataki's top priority. In doing so, she'll feel balanced and invigorated, and ultimately she will have more to give to others.

"The first step is to start saying no. Nataki should tell everyone she's taking a break for a month, and during this time-out, she should examine why she's saying yes to all of these people. It's possible she's doing it to win acceptance as opposed to simply wanting to pitch in. Prioritizing will help her sort things out: She should make an A-list of the three things — people or activities — she enjoys most, and put everything else on a B-list. For the next few weeks, she should concentrate on doing only the A-list entries — she'll begin to notice that cutting out the excess helps her feel more centered; it will also make it easier for her to decide which B-list entries she wants to keep or dump. This new focus will give Nataki a calmer, more confident — and less hurried — sense of self."

THE AVOIDER

DO YOU...
  • never get anywhere on time?
  • think you work best under pressure?
  • secretly feel insecure about your skills?
  • have trouble accepting authority?


You could be an AVOIDER
"I'm never, ever on time for anything."
—A.J., 39, magazine editor

"I'm always running late — doctor appointments, lunch dates, personal-training sessions. I have a problem getting to work on time, too. I wake up at 7:30 — plenty of time to get ready — but then I waste time sipping coffee and watching TV, and some days I don't get to work until 10:30. I think I run late because my parents always forced me to be early. I guess it's my way of rebelling. But, at the same time, I hate the way it makes me feel — I'm always anxious and sweaty, worried that people will yell at me for keeping them waiting."

Spreading yourself too thin promotes constant feelings of anxiety.

HEALTHY FIX: "A.J. needs to address her inner issues," says Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D., a social psychologist at DePaul University in Chicago. "Avoiders like her put off certain activities because they really don't want to do them. On some level, she must be getting some satisfaction from being late — it's her way of asserting her independence." But there is probably more at play. To break out of her passive-aggressive pattern, A.J. needs to identify when she's most likely to run behind, then examine those scenarios closely to see what's really making her late: Is she angry? Maybe she's mad at her friend and it's keeping her from getting to their lunch date on time. The same goes for the doctor and trainer — could she be irritated by their manner, or do they always make her wait and she resents them for it? Is she overwhelmed at work? Maybe her tardiness is really a way of avoiding new responsibilities. Once she has identified the source of her discomfort, she can work on changing it. That may mean resolving interpersonal conflicts, asking her boss to help her prioritize her work, or simply finding a new doctor or trainer. Addressing the hidden stressors will help relieve the anxiety that's behind her lateness, and she'll start getting to places on time and feeling good about it.


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