Never Enough Time
What is the one commodity we all cherish, never seem to have enough of, AND often mismanage, which ultimately leads to anxiety? …TIME! Bare with me as I travel back in time a bit… to mid-July. That’s when I received a back-to-school email from my kids’ principal who cheerily wrote…”Hi families, there are only 5 weeks left of summer before school starts again and we can’t wait to welcome back students!”… My immediate reaction was an anxiety-fueled desperation, “Wait, what? ONLY 5 weeks?” I instantly felt pressure. Full disclosure, this pretty much happens every summer where I worry about its upcoming and inevitable ending for weeks leading up to school. Upon reading this well-intentioned, but annoying email, I started taking inventory of what we did NOT accomplish during the summer. This summer, I’m beating myself up over the fact that we didn’t get my son, Gage, to a decent lacrosse camp. It weighs heavily on my mind. (Even though I did schedule a camp but it got canceled due to lack of enrollment.) Still, I berate myself as if that will somehow help the situation.
Give Yourself Credit!
You would think that if I spend all this time and energy beating myself up over what we did NOT do… I would also take stock of what we DID. Nope. I sure don’t. Not without immense effort anyway. I seem to conveniently overlook the incredible experiences Gage had at ski ramp camp in Park City, Utah, where he practiced jumping into a swimming pool on skies. I also overlook the time he spent at a Texas summer camp sailing, waterskiing, and scuba diving. I am laser-focused on what I did NOT do. So… instead of simply being in the now, enjoying the present moment, and enjoying the time we have left, I’m wasting time and energy with SO MUCH WORRY. I would tell my kids or a friend in this situation (without blinking), that there is no sense in worrying twice. But, clearly, I’m not the greatest at taking my own advice.
Well, after several days of this unnecessary anxiety spiral, I decided… ENOUGH.
Reframe Your Thinking
After busting out my quickest tools for curbing anxiety: breathing, meditation, and tapping (EFT or Emotional Freedom Technique), I decided to reframe my thinking… we STILL have several weeks of summer LEFT!! I reminded myself of the fact that we are going to see my family during that time and watch my sweet niece get married. We will be able to hike together as a family in our gorgeous mountain town. We will also rest and recharge. I decided I’m not feeding my own negative thoughts of time being limited and fleeting. It creates this desperate, frenetic energy that is all-consuming. Instead, I’m choosing to use phrases like, “Time is expansive. Time is abundant. There is plenty of time.” Did you know there are 1440 minutes every day? Wow, imagine what we can do with all of that time! This immediately releases pressure, like pulling the lid up from a boiling pot.
Understanding Your Time Anxiety
What is your relationship to time? Do you often slip into that dysfunctional “lack” mentality like I do??
The first step towards change is awareness. Simply being aware of and acknowledging your time anxiety is KEY. After you recognize the issue, you will want to dig a little deeper and identify which type of time anxiety you have.
There are the three main types:
- Daily time anxiety – This is when you feel like you never have enough time day-to-day.
- Future or anticipatory time anxiety – This is when you’re constantly worried about what will happen in the future based on what you do today.
- Existential time anxiety – This is when you feel anxiety about bigger issues like your life’s meaning, your legacy, and inevitable death.
Which one sounds most like you??
I often feel like I only have so many hours in the day and can’t get everything done. That’s daily time anxiety. (By the way, 8 hours of work does not mean 8 hours of productivity. Studies show that most people have (at best) 2.5 hours of truly productive time per day.)
So, now that you better understand your issue, what can you do to make it better?
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I’m sharing researched information and what works for me. But if you need help, please seek help from a doctor or psychiatrist. You can also find helpful resources here.
How To Deal with Time Anxiety
Now that you’ve acknowledged your relationship with time and what you struggle with most, you can start to find ways to deal with your time anxiety.
I suggest starting with strategic reframing of your thoughts. Remember to say things like, “I have plenty of time,” versus “I don’t have enough time.” Those shifts seem small, but they are actually HUGE! If you start to feel very anxious make sure you have some tools at the ready to help ease the pressure. For example, you can try hypnosis, meditation or EFT / tapping. I think it’s also helpful to identify one to three things that are important to accomplish in any given day and then focus on those things first. You’ll always have a sense of accomplishment if you get those key tasks done.
Remember this is a process that takes…well… time (pun intended)! Your thoughts and behaviors do not change overnight. Be patient with yourself. Also remember that worry and anxiety do not accomplish anything. Your list won’t get shorter because you are stressing out.
Interested in more of our We Need to Talk About Series? You can find additional thought-provoking topics here.
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