Whatever time actually is from a scientific perspective, from my own, very human, point of view, time is something that has the power to cause me significant anxiety.
I can’t say for sure how I became this way, but for as long as I can remember now, I have found time to be a complex and confusing thing from which stems much stress and worry.
This is manifested in numerous ways:
- I hate being late so I give myself excessive amounts of leeway when going places. In the end, this only leaves me needing to kill time while I wait for other people to arrive or events to begin.
- I often stress over the amount of work I manage to complete in a day – this is something that has happened ever since I became self employed 7 years ago. If I don’t feel like my day has been productive, I am far more likely to develop a bad mood and, commonly, a headache in the evening. I think it must have something to do with “wasting” time, which is odd because I’m not even sure how I’d define a “waste” of time – I like nothing more than kicking back in front of the TV after all!
- I worry about the progress I am making towards my goals and whether I am on track or behind schedule. I don’t even have particularly concrete goals most of the time, but this doesn’t stop me from thinking about how I’m doing compared to some arbitrary yardstick.
- I have anxiety based around the future and whether I will have enough money to support myself and my family, even though I currently have no specific outgoings that I am struggling to meet. In fact, I am, for my age, fairly well off in terms of wealth, but I still feel troubled and have the urge to somehow increase my income.
- I get anticipatory anxiety that can sometimes be quite severe when I know that there is an event of any magnitude coming up in the next few minutes/hours. Even knowing that someone is going to phone at a certain time leaves me with palpitations, sweating and an overactive mind.
I know I can’t be alone in this respect, even if your time-based anxieties are slightly different to those above.
But, alas, you’re probably not that interested in my problems, you are probably here to find out how to tackle your temporal trouble and, in this respect, I can only preach one main solution: the now.
Wait! Before you click away, thinking you have read it all before, I implore you to stick with me for just a little bit longer. I have at least a couple of specific suggestions for you.
The first of these are some simple affirmations to address your fears:
Events in my life will unfold just when and how they are meant to. They will not happen early, they will not happen late, they will happen when they happen so there is no point in me worrying about them.
However much or little I have achieved today is of no importance, the only thing that I have control over is how I let it affect me.
Worrying about the future is a futile exercise because I cannot predict what twists and turns will come my way next.
Repeat these in your head or out loud the next time you experience any stress or worry related to the future.
Next are some more practical tips to cope with time based anxiety:
- If you know that you need to leave yourself a certain amount of time spare, say 15 minutes, before doing something or going somewhere, use an alarm on your phone, watch, computer or even your regular bedside alarm clock to alert you when you need to start getting ready. This should allow you to focus on the now and alleviate your need to constantly check the time every 2 minutes to ensure you are not late.
- If you have a dislike of being late for events where other people are concerned, pick one where multiple friends will be present and force yourself to turn up 15 minutes after the scheduled start time. This will help condition you to accept the fact that being late isn’t the end of the world and isn’t even putting anyone out. You’ll begin to realize that you can only arrive in the now and that trying to arrive in the future ahead of time is not possible. Don’t do this when you are meeting only one other person, however, as they won’t thank you for it.
- Practice paradoxical intention – an exercise created by psychiatrist Viktor Frankl. If you experience a particular physical symptom when you get anxious, instead of trying to reduce it, try your hardest to make it happen with utmost ferocity. So if your stomach churns with the thought of an impending event in time, say to yourself “I’m going to make my stomach churn like never before, so much so that I’ll probably be sick.” You should find that trying to force yourself to exhibit these symptoms actually hinders your ability to do just that because you are so focused on the now, that the thought of the future subsides.
- If, like me, you worry about having enough money or wealth in the future, change your thinking by writing down a list of all the things that you can be grateful for right now. If you repeat this exercise every time such anxiety arises, you’ll eventually come to realize that you always have a great deal of abundance to be thankful for and that, whatever happens in the future, abundance will still be present in one form or another.
I’ve still got some way to go before I overcome my time-based anxiety issues, and I know I’ve got to practice more of what I preach and actually use the tactics above which have, at various points, helped me.
I hope you now come to realize that you are not alone in experiencing this form of anxiety and that there are ways to tackle it.
If you’ve found this article enlightening or helpful, please do leave a comment below. I value each and every response I get.