Time Anxiety: The Feeling That 'There's Never Enough Time!'
How often do you feel anxiety over time? Do you feel pressured and rushed, anxious because there’s never enough time or because time seems to be flying by too quickly? Time and anxiety are cruel partners, getting in your head and causing worry, even panic. William Penn said it well: “Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” We want extra time, and when we feel it slipping, we become anxious. The notion that we’re not spending our time well can haunt us, plague us with guilt and cause more anxiety. Even if you’re strapped for time, read on for helpful information.
The Types of Time and Time Anxiety
We use time to measure things, but the numbers don’t remain objective. We assign meaning and emotion to them. Seconds, minutes, hours . . . centuries, millennia . . . eons. The human capacity for measuring time is incredible, but it comes at a price. Time causes deep-seated anxiety.
Different types of time impact anxiety and anxiety disorders.
Daily time. This is the epitome of “there’s never enough time.” It creates a sense of being rushed and makes us feel overwhelmed. We feel pressure, stress and anxiety.
Know the true value of time; snatch, seize, and enjoy every moment of it. No idleness, no laziness, no procrastination: Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today. -Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield
Herein lies the pressure and stress that cause anxiety. Just reading this take on time might make you feel panicky, like an anxiety attack is imminent.
Tomorrow time. What-ifs, thoughts about what might happen in the future, provoke anxiety and worry. What will tomorrow bring? What if what I do today isn’t enough? What if something bad happens? What if I fail? What if there’s an accident? What if…
Frequently, tomorrow time is intertwined with yesterday time. We worry about what will happen tomorrow because of anxieties and guilt over what we think we should have (or should not have) done or said.
The time of our past and time of our future cause angst and anxiety.
The what-if’s and the should-haves will eat your brain. -John O’Callaghan
Existential time. Existential anxiety is a global, all-encompassing anxiety that we all experience simply because we exist. Time can create a suffocating sense of panic when it comes to our very life or, perhaps more accurately, the end of said life.
Lost time is never found again. -Ben Franklin
The sense of lost time, of time slipping away never to return as we race ahead, nonstop contributes to anxiety, fear, and even panic.
Alleviating Time Anxiety: From Panic to Peace
The passage of time can indeed cause anxiety. Time feels out of our control, and the human mind doesn’t like that. Shifting our perspective and choosing our actions with intention can return your sense of control over your own life. With this return, anxiety shrinks.
Reducing time anxiety begins with some truths.
- Time exists
- We can’t change time.
- It will move forward, and so will we.
Accepting these truths rather than struggling against them is an important part of quelling anxiety. When we accept these, we can let go and move forward.
Next, implement some strategies.
- Visualize your happiness, and define what “time well spent” means to you in all areas of your life. Be thorough, and include the who, what, where, when, why, and how Never mind time or the lack of it. Just picture your quality life.
- Now, make room for these (don’t worry about making time—instead, create space). Where will you incorporate these into your life? Time will do its thing. You make the space in your life.
Anxiety happens when we’re so caught up in time and tasks that we forget ourselves, our values, our visions, and our who-what-where-when-why-how. Shift your focus onto these, and notice time anxiety fade. The idea that there’s never enough time will no longer cause crushing anxiety.
If we take care of the moments, the years will take care of themselves. —Maria Edgeworth
Peterson, T. (2018, February 22). Time Anxiety: The Feeling That 'There's Never Enough Time!', HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, August 7 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2018/02/theres-never-enough-time-and-that-causes-anxiety
Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC, DAIS
I've had a hard relationship with time for a long time. I remember having mental breakdown/anxiety attacks on the weekends in middle school because I worried about the weekend slipping away. It seems to have started after I lost my biological parents in middle school. Can grief and the impact of learning about death cause (existential) time anxiety? And I feel guilty and awful because my mind will "re-write" how I spend my time, and it's affecting my relationship sometimes. I can be perfectly happy and present, and then come evening, my mind is suddenly anxious and worried that I "wasted my day." It makes my partner feel bad, and I feel awful for how she interprets it as well as misunderstood--these are thoughts and feelings I don't ever want to have! Do you have or know of any resources or insights about death impacting mind development/development of anxiety about time?
I'm so sorry to read of your loss. You have made a very wise and insightful connection. Yes, grief and learning about death the way you abruptly did absolutely is linked to anxiety, including existential time anxiety (that isn't an official, diagnoseable type of anxiety disorder, but it is a recognized and legitimate concept). The loss of both parents impacts people at any age, but you experienced it at a particularly vulnerable life stage. It makes perfect sense that it is affecting you and your relationship now. One great resource that I am aware of (it is not affiliated in any way with HealthyPlace) is HealGrief.org. This is a large, reputable, and respected resource for people of all ages experiencing grief and loss. You don't have to have recently lost someone close to you to participate. This organization provides helpful information from mental health professionals, educational programs, and interactive support. You just might find others who are experiencing the same type of anxiety and be able to gain helpful insights and tips from people going through this in addition to professional information. Do know that what you are experiencing is very natural. It is frustrating and life-disrupting, but it is absolutely something you can work through even though it takes time (sorry for using the "t" word!). You don't have to be stuck in this indefinitely.
Hi! I did not know that time anxiety is a thing not until my bestfriend said that I have this one as she observed my actions and causes of my anxiety. I am obsessed in spending my time in the most meaningful way possible. I fear of wasting my time. All this time, I thought I am being a hardworking student since I always do my school works ahead of time specifically passed my school works a day before deadlines. To be honest, I prefer in doing school works alone because I have all my time and I have control in my own time. But since online classes started this pandemic, most of our assignments were group-based and I didn't realize that five of my groupmates were pressured because of me since I tend to always rush things. It is hard having time anxiety because I can't stop myself from doing things even though I know that there is a lot of time. I easily get bored when I have nothing to do and it frustrates me. My heart always pounding as soon as I open my eyes in the morning thinking that I might get late even if I have nothing important to do in my schedule. I always list my To-Dos with corresponding time and I hate it when it was not happen according to my plan. I'm glad that someone can understand me now.
There are definitely lots of people who understand you, including me! Do know that this anxiety (or any anxiety, for that matter), isn't necessarily a bad thing. Anxiety like this isn't always a problem to be fixed, especially when it isn't interfering in your life. Being aware of it, though, can help keep it from becoming a problem. Once you recognize it, you can catch yourself before anxiety symptoms become severe and practice being okay with slowing down, taking breaks, etc. You also don't have to completely change who you are! Just gradually make adjustments that help bring balance. :)
I have had a strange relationship with time over the years.. as a child, I had a lot of alone/free time not knowing how to spend it, as a teen, I was constantly criticised for wasting time, after marriage, waiting for my spouse was my pastime, and now in midlife, it's about loss of people, places, abilities, youth with the passing of time, along with a lot of alone time, and waiting for the spouse.. and transitioning into a stay at home dad has me feeling stuck and anxious at the time running by wondering who I am and what I like.. going off an antidepressant prescribed for sleep, and dealing with SIBO just adds to the adventure.. Yoga, meditation, exercise only goes so far and trying to get something going in the 3-4 hours I have while the kidn is in school has been a challenge. Where do I start?
It sounds like you are doing many positive things. You're right, though, that each strategy (the ones you mention and others, too) only goes so far. I'm wondering if you've ever developed a hobby or passion, something you do for yourself rather than in the context of others. This isn't wasting time -- it's a way of creating a quality life. You could take your time (no time-anxiety related reference intended) exploring who you are and what you like. A nice resource is www.viacharacter.org. You get to explore your character traits and strengths which will help you know how to start building interests. You can also peruse catalogs, magazines, and book stores/libraries to see what grabs your attention. Making a vision board (physically or with an app - there are several different vision board apps) can help you gather images and ideas, too. There is no single right way to explore your strengths and passions; The important thing is to simply allow yourself to figure out what excites you. The next step is to pursue those interests. (One possibility that you might hate, and that's okay: Do you have interest in cooking? You could help your SIBO and discover a passion by exploring nutrition, foods to prepare, how to prepare them, etc. But if that isn't an interest, feel free to move on to something else!). Remember that this is a journey, and the best part about any journey is the trip itself. Let your passion be gradually finding other passions. Have a fun and fruitful adventure!
Ever since I was young I had so much difficulty with getting to places on time. I found trying to organize a plan so hard that I didn’t even attempt to plan and would just live in the moment until 5 min before I was suppose to leave - waiting I guess for the Adrenalin to kick in so I could get motivated. Im 53 and looking back over my life it’s caused a lot of stress. I was not one to worry or have anxiety about time because of my ADD and hyper focus. Was always consumed in the moment. Horrible with transitions. It wasn’t laziness as I was usually in the middle of a project. It was hell when the 11th hour came and I screamed and yelled racing through traffic. My 35 year old daughter claims she has PTSD for various reasons - ones that weren’t caused by anything I did. Thinking how much stress I created for her during her childhood with rushing daily I’m thinking it most likely contributed. I still do this but others aren’t involved nearly as often. Not sure why I’m like this other than I find transitions so hard.
Please know that you most likely did not cause or even contribute to your daughter's PTSD. PTSD is a response to trauma, and having a parent who hates schedules and transitions is not traumatic. It might have been stressful at times, but it doesn't qualify for trauma. Listen to your daughter! :) You are in an excellent position: you have great insight into yourself and your actions regarding ADD, transitions, scheduling, and time. Looking back on the past with regret will bog you down and won't change anything. But with the insights you have, you can decide what you want to do right now and going forward. It sounds like your last-minute rushing isn't really bothering anyone, so if it isn't disrupting your life, you could let it be. Or, if you feel that it is making your life too difficult, you can decide to make some changes. This can be done in your way and on your own timeline.
I really struggle with this type of anxiety. It's awful when all you can do is plan plan plan and get cranky the minute your planned timetable doesn't pan out. It's so bad that even music in the mornings 'interrupts' my thought process and makes me irritable. I lost my God daughter when she was 4 and a half and then my dad when he was 60 and this has definitely been the trigger. I hope it eventually lessens and I'm going to try some of these mindful tips
Time anxiety frustrates me as well. I'm sorry to read of your losses. Losing loved ones can definitely trigger anxiety, irritability, and so much more. If there is a grief support group in your community, you might consider trying that. Support groups are safe places to be with others who are experiencing something similar. Some members just want to listen, others share experiences. Groups like this have been shown to be helpful and effective. If your community has a NAMI resource center, you can check with them to see if they know of grief groups in your area. (Grief groups aren't usually a part of NAMI, but each community is unique so some might.) If you don't have a NAMI, check your library for pamphlets, posters, and flyers. Community centers and therapy offices usually have resources/information, too. You can also check MeetUp .com for grief and loss group listings. If you use a service like MeetUp, it might be a good idea to investigate what you find before attending. As you work through your losses, it's likely that your anxiety will significantly decrease and be much less bothersome.
This is so great! I know...I'm pretty sure that I am feeling this stuff right now...My gosh.. this is so true! Thanks!
I just love having "my gosh!" moments like you captured in your comment. :) I'm glad you found something relatable and hopefully know that you're not the only one experiencing this type of anxiety.
This brings light. My anxiety is driven by time. From the time awake, my brain calculates my time. So I end up trying to follow this strict schedule, when things interrupt my anxiety is high, and my first response, is to be irritated and frustrated, because my plansare not going how I planned. It makes sense because I schedule time to do things with my children, andinstead of enjoying it, I am determiningwhen we shouldbe doing the next event. When the reality, Ishould be enjoying what we are doing. It seems easy to anyone, but, I need to recognize this and just go with the moment. Thank you!
I'm glad this was helpful! I'll add this that will hopefully help, too: it can seem easy (some people make it look effortless, but who knows what's going on for them in their head!), but it definitely isn't easy, at least not at first. Acceptance and mindfulness are effective, but because they're a shift in perspective rather than a fix applied to symptoms, they can take time and persistence. So be kind to yourself and just keep coming back to them gently rather than forcing them. Time anxiety makes the process feel more urgent. So accept that to and let yourself learn to be in the moment!
Thank you so much! I feel like someone finally understands what I've been going through for so long. I'm almost crying. Just so grateful for this article.
Believe me - I do understand!
Awesome read for sure. I struggle with this myself and will definitely be implementing the strategy mentioned above; visualizing what time well spent to me means.
I'm glad you found this helpful. Thank you for your feedback. Time anxiety can be brutal, but it doesn't have to crush us!