Ever feel like there isn’t enough time? Ever looked at your calendar or watch and wished for more time? Or had a panic attack from lack of time? If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, then you may be dealing with time anxiety.
Time is a very limited resource, neatly divided into hours, days and weeks. Also, hours are further broken down by work schedules, meetings, family and leisure. It can become overwhelming very quickly if you have to deal with this daily. It becomes even more difficult if you live by a calendar. The pressure to be on time for every event on your calendar and schedule can lead to reoccurring feelings of unease and even dread at the passage of time.
Signs of Time Anxiety
Time anxiety has several symptoms and signs and these are some of the most common:
1. Constant worry about lateness
Although it is quite natural to want to be early or on time, however, time anxiety can easily make being on time a preoccupation. You might spend hours going over your planner and schedule, checking the quickest route to destinations and even set several alarms ahead of scheduled events. While this might seem healthy, it distracts you from tasks and can even hamper productivity. Finally, after all your efforts, if you turn up late even by a few minutes (even if it doesn’t matter) you might feel irritated, angry or sad.
2. Always in a hurry
Time anxiety can trigger a need to rush from one place or task to another. It does not matter if there is nothing to get done, sometimes these feelings just arise. To explain this feeling, imagine waking up on a day off or weekend thinking you are late for your job or a meeting. That heart-pounding, sweaty, anxious feeling is an example of what it feels like.
3. Constant worry about missed opportunities
Dealing with time anxiety can make you worry about missed opportunities and timelines. Major events like marriage, holidays, education or career achievements can feel delayed or late. You can start worrying that you would never catch up. In the long run, this fixation can cloud your judgment, make you feel like a failure or an underachiever even when you have achieved these goals or even better goals.
4. Uneasiness about uncompleted or half-finished plans
You notice anxiety from uncompleted plans even after achieving most of what you set out to. The single unticked box in your to-do plan can be the trigger to a panic attack at the end of a long day. It gets intrusive enough that spending time on something like a vacation feels like a waste of time. When you finally tick that last box, it is unsatisfactory as end up feeling like there was still more you could have done.
Sources of Time Anxiety
Time anxiety is hugely a sign of other underlying issues. Some of these issues include:
· Fear of leaving a meaningless life
For many people with time anxiety, this is the major cause of the problem. Time is always moving and making the best of what little time you have can become a preoccupation. This leads to anxiety when you feel like you aren’t creating value or doing something worthwhile with your time.
· The need to please
The fear of being late one way or the other stems from wanting to please others from a stern but loved teacher, to employers or clients. You might worry so much about offending people that you become preoccupied with your schedule around them and timing. When you have to make choices concerning others, you get anxious about making the right choice for fear that you would have no time to fix mistakes. Finally, the fear of offending a loved one or parent can push you to obsess over how you use your time.
· General anxiety issues
Anxiety as a whole can affect several areas of your life, including panning. For instance, social anxiety can be the root cause for time anxiety too. A research conducted in 2020 indicated that anxiety often includes split attention and obsessive behaviour. All of these are anchors that time anxiety can latch on to.
How to Handle It
Dealing with time anxiety can help you live a better healthier life. It is sure going to be a relief living life without the constant awareness of time going by. Here are a few ways to deal with time anxiety-
- Find or create a new meaning for your life. This would give you other things to focus on and you’d feel less stressed as time passes.
- Imagine the worst-case scenario and focus on that instead. This would take away from the distress of losing time. Also, remind yourself that you can always call ahead or explain.
- Cultivate mindfulness, it would help you focus on the now instead of what would happen later. While mindfulness sounds easy, it could be very difficult for most people.
- Get professional help from a therapist. Just like every form of anxiety, time anxiety might call for professional help. Do not be ashamed to see one. The therapist might just uncover the root of your anxiety and set you on your path to a healthier, happier life.
Time is constantly going by no matter what we do. We cannot control its passing so wishing for more time or worrying would do no good. So take some time to enjoy what time you do have and be as productive as possible.