How is your relationship with time? If time feels like your enemy, and you find yourself standing at a lift pressing the button repeatedly, or feeling stressed just trying to leave the house, it’s maybe time to improve your relationship with time.
Being constantly on the go, cramming more and more into your day, and feeling like you never have enough time creates stress, anxiety, insomnia and fatigue. You find yourself becoming more irritable and quick to anger, and then breaking down, tearful from frustration and exhaustion. Longer term this can show up in the body more seriously in a range of illnesses. Conversely, the absence of stress is shown to have a big impact on longevity and living a life with few health issues.
1. Notice the signs
Do you begin to feel a tight squeeze in your stomach? Or do you start to speed up? Doing everything impatiently? Notice how cortisol starts to flood your body when you begin to feel rushed. Awareness is the first step in changing this habit. Creating a new habit takes time, and training, like strengthening a muscle.
2. Be present not patient
The great spiritual teacher and author, Ekhart Tolle, finds it amusing that people frequently remark how patient he is. He responds with bemusement: ‘I am just present’. Impatience saps your energy. Bring yourself back to the present moment and focus on one task at a time. Studies show that multi-tasking is an ineffective way to get things done anyway.
3. Notice when you find yourself apologizing
Do you find yourself apologising for not texting someone back, for not getting dinner ready, or forgetting an appointment? When life starts to get overwhelming, guilt quickly follows. So listen when you start to find yourself saying sorry, that guilty feeling is showing you it’s time to scale back or get some help.
4. Put your phone (and watch) in another room when you’re getting ready
Every time you check the time you’ll probably feel your stress levels notch up a little higher. It doesn’t actually make you get ready any quicker, and just induces a sense of panic. Then you find yourself further side-tracked by text messages and notifications. By leaving your phone in another room and only checking it when you are ready to leave, you’ll bring more peace to the process.
5. Give yourself a break
Larry Dossey, the American author and physician, came up with the term ‘Time Sick’ to describe the physical manifestation of illness from battling against time. His method of treating patients is to change their relationship with time by prescribing daily quiet reflection through meditation and prayer. A restorative mind-body practice such as Yoga or Pilates can help you take better control of your SNS (sympathetic nervous system which activates the fight or flight response. Fresh air and walking do something magical to your brain too.
6. Accept your limits
Letting go of Superwomen mode is hard. It can be difficult to accept that you need to do less in order to feel calmer. Decisions need to be made about what’s important to you in this season of life. It’s ok to choose work if that’s your priority right now. It’s equally ok to focus on rest, cutting back on socialising and having time alone if that’s what you need. But being able to identify your priorities and sticking to them means accepting your limits.
7. Use affirmations
Saying a mantra to yourself when you start to feel rushed can help take control of time anxiety. Try God’s (the universe’s etc.) timing is perfect. Or, I have control over how I feel, and I choose to feel calm. Or even, I have all the time I need.
8. Look at what you feel obliged to do
Notice when you say ‘I must’. There are very few ‘musts’ in life other than breathing and eating. But somehow we convince ourselves we are obliged to do certain things, and end up feeling overwhelmed or resentful about these. Think about your what you really want to achieve in your life, and whether these obligations align with this. Have a look at my post on ways to live a simpler life for more strategies: https://lumahealth.co.uk/blog/2019/8/16/17-ways-to-live-a-simpler-life
9. Drive at the speed limit
Evidence shows that driving faster makes a minimal difference in how quickly you get somewhere. But speeding up and constantly changing lanes will definitely ramp your stress response. Put on some music or a podcast and change your focus to enjoying these rather than where you’re trying to get to.
10. Arrive 5 minutes early
Aim to get everywhere 5 minutes early rather than just arriving on time. Rather than worrying about just making it, you’ll be available and present for what you’re about to do.
11. Get time in perspective
The cover of a punk album from my cool older sister’s record collection has always stuck in my mind: Time flies and aeroplanes crash. As a kid I didn’t understand what it meant, but finally it makes sense. Will these things we’re rushing about for and shortening our lives through stress, actually matter in the end?
12. Get out of your comfort zone
Not feeling rushed and stressed may feel very strange if this is not your usual habit. Comfort zones are not always comfortable! It will take some practice to become accustomed to this new state of mind. Business becomes an identity. Notice how being ‘un-busy’ makes you feel. Do you feel less successful? or even lazy? Remind yourself that your worth is not measured by your productivity.