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Constant Demands of Urgency Culture

Over the last two years of pandemic-era restrictions, there has been a rise in something called urgency culture. When stay-at-home orders were put in place in March 2020, there was a widespread notion that many folks were free and available at all times to respond to any and all requests—whether personal or professional—and urgency culture reflects an expectation to be on demand at all times. It’s similar in many ways to grind culture, which says we must always be doing, leaving little time for resting. But the reality is, that folks actually aren’t constantly free and available, so urgency culture has caused not much more than stress, especially for those who are prone to people-pleasing habits. Furthermore, your free time is not synonymous with your availability, and learning to embrace that nuance is key.

The truth of the matter is, we don’t need to get back to people immediately. The idea that we should be in constant communication can be toxic in relationships. Here’s how to break free.

Urgency culture is the societal expectation to always be available or “productive”. It brings your body into chronic fight or flight and can create a lot of anxiety into our relationships.

Urgency culture in relationships looks like:

  • Expecting someone to get back immediately
  • Feeling like you have to respond to someone immediately
  • Being available 24/7
  • Feeling guilt or anxiety around not responding
  • Making impulsive decisions

Technology has shifted communication in a big way. We can feel pressure to be in constant communication or give immediate responses. Just because we have new ways to communicate doesn’t mean we have to be in constant communication. Having clear boundaries is necessary

Unlearning urgency culture in relationships means:

  • Not expecting a response from someone within a certain period of time
  • Getting back to people when we feel we have the energy and capacity (having boundaries)
  • Not assigning meaning to how people communicate
  • Being aware that everyone has a different level and style of communication
  • Giving yourself time and space to make choices around invites, etc.

Society has a lot of ideas around what people being in touch with us means. For example: “if they cared, they would call.” In reality, everyone communicates differently and it’s not a direct sign of how they feel about us, personally. 

Some reminders for coping with urgency culture:

  • Become conscious when your nervous system needs a break from communication
  • Understand you do not have to reply to anyone right away (especially if they have a request) you can take space to reflect
  • If you find yourself anxious over a response, find ways to self soothe. Take a break from your phone, go for a walk, call a friend, journal about your feelings
  • Don’t expect everyone to share your own beliefs about how much you should be in touch
  • Let people know it’s not a good time: it’s perfectly ok to be in a space to chat with someone: “I’m having a down day and appreciate you reaching out, I’ll be in touch when X”

Until we can fully dismantle urgency culture, we can gather the tools needed in our lives to resist it on an individual level. So, start practicing boundaries with others, but most importantly, with yourself.

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