Time Anxiety: The Feeling That 'There's Never Enough Time!'

Thursday, February 22 2018 Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC

Time anxiety, or the idea that there's never enough time, can be suffocating and paralyzing. Discover how time anxiety causes us to worry or panic at HealthyPlace. Discover a plan to reduce time anxiety once and for all.

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




Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety, Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 steps, and five critically-acclaimed, award-winning novels about mental health challenges. She speaks nationally about mental health, and she has a curriculum for middle and high schools. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

View all posts by Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC.


Time Anxiety: The Feeling That 'There's Never Enough Time!'

February, 22 2018 at 4:20 pm

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.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

February, 23 2018 at 11:05 am

Hi Lee,
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!

June, 10 2018 at 11:28 am

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.

June, 26 2018 at 2:50 am

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!

June, 30 2018 at 10:01 am

Hi Melissa,
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!

August, 15 2018 at 11:06 am

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!

August, 17 2018 at 7:52 pm

Hi Aireen,
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.

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