Wholeness Healing Today

Urgency Addiction

I was recently talking to a mentor who used the term, “Urgency Addiction” as he quoted Steven Covey. I found it intriguing as we are living in a society that operates quite well using a sense of urgency for daily living situations. I am very aware of the sense of urgency that we live by as it becomes obvious and apparent when I am teaching my Mindful Approach to Living course. This course addresses this very thing. We begin the process of going from a “stress reaction” life to a “stress response” life. The first step is to become aware of your habitual stress reaction.

I like the idea of taking this a bit further. What does it mean to be addicted to that “sense of urgency” and what are the effects of being in a sense of urgency on a regular basis? Even if we are not addicted to the urgency reaction but fall into the pattern easily, it is worth bringing the pattern up and evaluating how we may, in fact, be living in it. Steven Covey coined this phrase in his book, First Things First. He defined the urgency addiction as a “self-destructive behavior that temporarily fills the void created by unmet needs.” (Klein, 2019) Like any addiction, we use a vice to fill in emptiness and voids. Emptiness can  be uncomfortable. If we are unaware that we are uncomfortable, we may jump right into filling that void with a sense of urgency.

Western culture rewards working hard, being dedicated to our job and even workaholic behaviors. We admire someone who gets things done and is committed to the job. But where do we draw that line? If you have learned to operate best under pressure and adrenaline rushes, you may also like the sense of urgency which gets you motivated and moving. Some of this is probably normal. We have times when we do have to jump into a sense of urgency. However, if we become addicted to the pattern, then we are doing ourselves, our jobs, our finished products, our bodies, and those around us a big disservice. Living like this can and probably will be very destructive in the long run.

When we engage the thought and sense that this task must be done right now and it is an urgency, we start our stress reaction. Brain chemicals begin being produced immediately and start being dumped into our system as we “rev” up to get going. We get going and the adrenalin rush kicks in, giving us that sense of excitement and energy. We kick into using all our resources to get the job done.

This stress reaction is great when needed. Remember in primitive times, man needed the stress reaction to survive as he went out hunting for food. Now, we might need it at times, but we can learn to manage our lives in a calmer way where we can have a “stress response” versus a “stress reaction.” We can make deliberate choices in how we are going to respond, pace ourselves, and finish the task at hand by being focused but deliberate (mindful). We might even do everything the same, but we have paused for a moment and made it a response versus a reaction.

Remember, there has been much conversation about what stress does to our mental, emotional and physical health. Putting our body into a stress state, whether deliberate or not, (conscious or not) still impacts the body. Stress dumps the chemicals into our system to get us activated. After we have completed the task, we need to have a time of calming the system back down. Without this (if we are addicted to it and moving on to the next urgency situation), our system gets depleted. Depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbances are some of the mental health issues that may happen. Physically, we have wear and tear on our bodies in so many different ways as seen in heart disease, stomach issues and headaches, to name a few.

Being proactive is a great method to manage this. Become aware of your sense of urgency and your sense of stress. Make choices to respond to a situation rather than your habitual stress reaction. Take time in your day for self-care to bring yourself back into balance. Use mindfulness to become aware of your own patterns. Add in physical exercise, healthy eating and time for fun to help manage the stress in your life. The good news is that it is very possible to become aware and manage this in a better way. The first step is to look at your patterns and assess if you get caught up in this “urgency addiction.” It is definitely a life-changing step, and one that can be addressed by just being aware.

Works Cited:

Klein, D. (2019, Jul 2). https://wellness.edu.au/urgency-addiction-the-new-corporate-disease/#:~:text=Covey%20defined%20urgency%20addiction%20as,more%20one%20repeats%20the%20pattern. Retrieved from Work Well Being: https://wellness.edu.au/urgency-addiction-the-new-corporate-disease/#:~:text=Covey%20defined%20urgency%20addiction%20as,more%20one%20repeats%20the%20pattern.


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  • Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
    Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner

  • Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, is the founder and director of Wholeness Healing Center, a mental health practice in Grand Island, Nebraska with remote sites in Broken Bow and Kearney. Her expertise encompasses a broad range of areas, including depression, anxiety, attachment and bonding, coaching, couples work, mindfulness, trauma, and grief. She views therapy as an opportunity to learn more about yourself as you step more into being your authentic self. From her perspective this is part of the spiritual journey; on this journey, she serves as a mirror for her clients as they get to know themselves—and, ultimately, to love themselves.


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