Time Anxiety: Breaking the Should and Time Relationship
I realized a few months ago I have Time Anxiety. Yes, it’s a thing (see Psychology Today link below). I never realized or admitted it was anxiety. For years, I named it frustration.
Do you have anxiety over time? Here I show you how I’m learning to:
Expose the underlying Fears
Stop Transference by conducting Value Checks
One way the feelings whelm up inside like uncontrollable lava is when I approach a machine for a project and it doesn’t work properly. Instead of working on the project, I find myself spending my time to fix the machine like a sewing machine or a computer document.
Seems like this sort of thing would be no big deal. The longer it takes the more impatient I become. My frustration over dysfunctional machines or equipment can very quickly erupt to loud language and shaky hands. I was faced with a different situation a few months ago which forced me to look at the reasons, the causes behind my time frustration.
The Situation: It’s Not Even My Life
I was with someone who wasn’t adhering to the measures of time. Her treatment of time constraints appeared to be very lackadaisical. I tried all my positive thinking techniques, all the thoughts that would lead me back to my Enthusiasm.
I kept telling myself, “It’s not my life. This has little to do with me.” Nothing was effective. My thoughts created these uncontrollable feelings deep within and I realized it wasn’t frustration, it was pure anxiety. Under the awareness of anxiety and awareness of attempts to change my thoughts was not correcting my feelings, I knew I had to look deeper within to see why and what was instigating these feelings especially since the behavior was in another person’s life.
First response I ruled out was judgement. I wasn’t judging her for her behavior or decisions. I’ve been guilty of judging others in the past and this felt way different. This wasn’t that lip curling, “Yuck.” This was more of an anxiety because I was fearful for how she was going to pull off getting out on time. I had to think through more thoughts, more memories to find the source of my inward reactions.
While driving two hours to see my mother, I had time to process. That’s when I remembered my frustration over dysfunctional machines and equipment. I’m sure to the outsider my reaction to this dysfunction appears like I am angry. I often thought I was angry, too. Can one really get angry at an inanimate object? Does that even make sense? No, not really.
On this drive the underlying causes became more apparent. It was the time factor. Anxiety builds when I think something is taking more time than it should.
Should? What relationship would “should” even have to time, or time with should? I constructed these time “shoulds” based on fear.
Fear that I would not be capable of fixing the machine, equipment, or problem.
Fear there would not be anyone to help me.
I admitted to myself these were feelings of being incapable, inadequate, and helpless.
I have done a lot of recovery work over the years on my low self-esteem, but right when one thinks they’re on the road to recovery something else pops up and glares at us. Fearing being incapable, inadequate, and helpless were a few of those hidden remnants of low self-esteem. I have other time anxiety strains like how long it might take to read an article or a book. I know this stems from being labeled a slow reader when I was a child in school. Still, this all does not explain why I had anxiety over my friend’s treatment of time.
By the time I hit my mother’s front door, I was ready, eager, needy to uncover what the hell happened. While talking it through with my mother (who is a licensed LMFT) I realized I had performed transference. My anxiety is so strong that I transferred my feelings of time strains to this girl when she did not pick up that time stress like a torch. That’s when I knew I had to do my work within myself. When I can handle my stress over the concept of time, I will improve my quality of life and no longer feel the need to transfer.
Time Anxiety Research
Once at home, I began researching time anxiety and that’s when I learned it was a real thing. First article (really good article I encourage you to read) I clicked on was by Alex Lickerman M.D. posted on Psychology Today. Here he talks about how he discovered the underlying worry creating Time Anxiety is perhaps our fear over feelings we are not living a meaningful life. Other work I am applying is repeating the thought “It doesn’t matter how much time this task takes. Most important aspect to me is to accomplish this task.” Along with deep breathing techniques, this re-routing of my thoughts is helping a lot. I also remind myself I am capable of solving this problem and I will find a way to solve it one way or another regardless how much time it takes.
Getting to the Zone
I’m amazed how much time it takes to complete tasks, even tasks and projects I love and enjoy. Sometimes there is no way to foresee challenges that need be solved or interruptions which might interfere.
On the flip side, I’m often amazed how little time it takes to complete a task. In the past, I have put off tasks in the thought that the activity will take too long. I waited until I could carve out a block of time to complete the project only to discover it took a fraction of the time I anticipated.
Or I waited to start projects I love out of this time anxiety only to find I’m in the zone when I do start and time is no longer an issue for me. My waiting to approach a task or project is often seen as procrastination. Perhaps it is, but procrastination is a whole other rabbit hole topic – an adventure I am not taking you on today.
Today, I know I am a person who values time. I am that person who is generally on time or even early (disregarding a few irresponsible moments). Dr. Demartini talks in more detail about our Highest Values. Through my personal work, I am aware my value of time is my own and I don’t have to transfer that value to someone who does not have time as one of their Higher Values. I realize I have made time too high a value to the point of robbing me of my personal Enthusiasm.
We all know there isn’t enough hours in the day to accomplish all we want, so we adjust. We prioritize our activities. We begin a task and get done what we can before that next meeting, or having to go to work, or running that essential errand.
The trick is to not let anxiety bubble up and overflow.
Art of delegation can also come in handy and be life transforming. For now, I am learning to focus on accomplishing my tasks, greeting related challenges enthusiastically, and building what skills I can along the way - absent of the time/should stress relationship.
I invite you to do the same. Click on the links and articles, be conscientious of your thoughts, expose the fears, re-route those thoughts, prioritize, delegate, breathe, and get into the zone. Tell us about your time anxiety triumphs in the comments below and Get Free with Me!