Episode 38 – Time Anxiety
“From dawn to dusk, I am working. Constantly rushing from one activity to another. Getting the kids out the door and me to work. In the afternoons, I’m running to get them to soccer, buying groceries, taking phone calls, checking emails. By the time my kids are in bed, I’m exhausted. All I can do is zone out in front of the TV.
I’m sure this sounds typical, like every other working mom, but my problem is…I feel like it’s not enough.
I work 14 HOURS A DAY, and then get annoyed with myself for “wasting time” at night.
The constant pressure and stress about being late and feeling like there is never enough time, is too much. Even on the weekends it is difficult for me to relax.
This may be typical, but it’s starting to affect my sleep and my ability to enjoy my life. I see my son starting to stress out about being late and I don’t want to pass this on to him. How can I shake this feeling that whatever I do, it’s never enough?” -Amy
It sounds like what you have is “Time Anxiety”. Time Anxiety shows up in 3 ways:
Current Time Anxiety
The daily feeling of being rushed. Fear of being late and disappointing someone. Fear of being early and wasting time. This panicky and overwhelmed feeling comes from trying to control something we have no control over. We think this makes us responsible, productive and reliable but it really just causes us to feel stressed and anxious. The underlying belief is that we must maximize our time or we are doing it wrong.
Future Time Anxiety
Worrying about what could happen in the future. These moms struggle to feel contentment in the moment for fear that “the other shoe will drop”. If I take a day to relax, more work will pile up. We love our kids so much we start imagining something bad happening to them or how we’ll cope when they move out of the house.
We are so afraid of feeling a negative emotion in the future (regret, sadness, loneliness) that we start practicing it now. The underlying belief is that being afraid of the future will somehow alleviate our suffering once the future arrives.
Existential Time Anxiety
The sense of time slipping away and our existence, as we knew it, ending. This can show up as a fear of death but also a fear of losing our looks, our youth, or our kids. Moms can also fear losing opportunities to get back into the workforce, switch career paths, try new things, take risks, etc. The underlying belief is that time is running out.
Parent Education Answer
Overcoming time anxiety is difficult because it shows up is so many areas of life! The best answer to how to reduce your stress around time, is to work with a life coach or therapist who has experience with time anxiety.
Step One – Accepting
Time stresses us out because we don’t have control over it and we think we should. Accepting that the passage of time is outside of our control and letting go of our fears is step one.
I had a lot of time anxiety before I found life coaching.
My biggest triggers were fear of wasting time, not getting enough done, and being late. I remember driving with my kids in the car and being so upset with myself for not leaving sooner, for taking the slower route, for not checking traffic.
I was beating myself up, in front of my kids. My oldest was already showing signs of perfectionism: not trying new things if he couldn’t be good right away, throwing fits if he lost a game, etc.
The lightbulb went on for me on this drive. I realized my kids were picking up on my habits and I didn’t like it. From that day on, I have learned to forgive myself when I’m late. It’s as though I believed stressing about being late made be a better person. If I was flustered, remorseful and apologetic, they wouldn’t think poorly of me.
I was so worried they would think I was disrespecting them, and it bothered me that I couldn’t control their perception of me, so I just disrespected myself.
Step Two – Undoing Fearful Thoughts
Undoing our fearful thoughts is step two. But if I tell you to stop thinking about how much time you have left here on earth, how you are going to regret wasting time and to relax around being late, suddenly time is all you can think about. You need someone else, outside your brain, to help you dissolve the thoughts that are making you anxious.
Letting go of the ILLUSION of control, shrugging your shoulders and saying “oh well, late again”, will make you feel vulnerable. No one likes feeling vulnerable, so we cope by taking control of how we spend our time.
I have a teenage client with time anxiety. Whenever she isn’t studying, she feels guilty and stressed. She struggles to relax, have fun, sleep because she perceives it has a slippery slope to failure. Stress is never the ticket to success, it’s just the ticket to more stress. Working hard with enthusiasm, joy, passion and love are much more effective emotions to work from.
Step Three – Overcoming Time Anxiety
The third step to overcoming time anxiety is to take a look at the thoughts you are thinking whenever you are stressed, and get clear on your VALUES.
What is most important to you in this life?
How do you define a successful day?
What emotion do you want to be rooted in while driving kids to soccer?
How will you know when the cost of the activity outweighs the benefit?
How do you want to feel in the mornings before school?
You really do have a choice and committing to your values, instead of your fearful thinking, will help you feel better.
Life Coaching Answer –
What gets in our way from:
- accepting the things we cannot control?
- dissolving negative thinking?
- committing to our values?
When we are scared, our brains think there is a REAL EMERGENCY. We don’t have time to look within and uncover our fearful thoughts and values!
Our sympathetic nervous system gets activated: hearts start racing, blood rushes to our extremities, body is tense, jittery and ready for action. This is not the time to try to analyze your thoughts and think about your values! Your brain thinks it’s going to die!
In order to overcome time anxiety, you’ll need to take a look at your thoughts in your brain when you are relaxed and safe.
If your anxiety is bleeding into nights and weekends, you may never have a time you feel relaxed and safe. If you did, the last thing you want to think about it is the stuff that triggers your anxiety!
Anxiety likes to stay hidden. It doesn’t want you to talk about it! So it will say things like,
“It’s not that bad.
“I’m no different than anyone else.”
“How is talking going to help?”
“I don’t have the money to hire someone.” or, the classic
“I don’t have time to deal with it!”
These all will feel true but it’s really just fear. Your brain will think talking about the anxiety will make it worse, but it won’t. We live in stressful times, in a stressed out country and learning to manage your fearful brain is SO important and worthwhile.
Supermom Kryptonite – Scarcity
Scarcity is an incredible motivator. When kids think there isn’t enough of mom’s attention to go around, they will fight and scream for it. When we plan to start a diet on Monday, we’ll eat extra calories on Sunday. You can use scarcity to your advantage but make sure you are using it, don’t let it use you.
I’m running out of time will always stress you out. Try switching it to, “I have plenty of time”.
Or use scarcity thinking to help you slow down and enjoy the moment. “I don’t want to miss these precious moments with my kids” can bring your attention to the present and out of future/past thinking. Being in the present moment always feels better.
Power Boost – “Oh, Well”
I was taking a parenting class specifically geared towards raising kids with “perfectionism, giftedness, and anxiety” and the teacher taught me these two magic words, “Oh Well”.
She said it was important to model using these words often with our kids.
“Your friend doesn’t want to play with you right now?” Oh well.
“You lost the game AGAIN even though you tried your best?” Oh well.
“Your sister is cheating and changing the rules?” Oh well.
But I found these words to be especially helpful for ME and my time anxiety.
“Late again”? Oh well.
“Binge watched an entire season on Netflix?” Oh well.
“Didn’t get anything accomplished today?” Oh well.
Try it out and see if it helps your inner perfectionist calm down and relax a little more.
Quote of the Day:
“Time you enjoyed wasting, was not wasted.” John Lennon