You lead a full life. Work, family, friends, homes, and even emails, texts and phones add to the time crunch. You know that stress. There's too much to do and too little time. Where is your clone when you need it?
Today it's easy to become a time-checker, watching your phone or watch and setting frequent alarms to stay on schedule. In an effort to alleviate time stress, you may even ignore obligations but later panic and feel shame about your growing to-do list.
Here’s the thing: If you worry a lot, “time” itself may be your anxiety trigger and you don’t even realize it. Unfortunately, your nervous system does recognize this trigger and physically reacts to the added time stressor many times throughout the day.
What can you do when the “reality” of time causes undue stress?
I’ve come up with three ideas that simultaneously help you to re-think time and calm your body so you can get stuff done and still feel great.
1. Realize that time is relative
In his 2008 best-selling book The Big Leap, Gay Hendrix talks about his practice of using Einstein time rather than Newtonian time. When I first read this concept I was both intrigued and a little shocked.
As you know, Einstein knew that everything was relative, hence, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Hendrix explains that he uses this “relative” nature of time to his own advantage.
I suggest you use this reality mentality as well, to promote calmness and keep time in perspective. (For more about Einstein and the physics of time, this article is fascinating).
Here’s how to use Einstein time to calm.
First, imagine the last time you were doing something you love to do. You may have been alone or with someone you adore.
Breathe and feel the good sensations you had when you were enjoying this time. Notice how in your mind, time just flies by when you’re having fun. An hour can feel like ten minutes.
Now, shake off that feeling, breathe and recall a time when you were doing something uncomfortable or difficult in an uncomfortable setting. Maybe you had to change a flat tire in the summer heat or maybe you had to spend time with a person you dislike while doing something you loathe.
Feel your body and notice how time slows down during these moments. I recall sitting in a hot high school classroom in June, feeling tired and uninspired. I remember blinking my eyes in amazement as the wall clock appeared to stand stock still. Got the feeling?
You can use these body sensations to change your relationship to time.
Rather than feeling always behind the gun, unable to catch up, you can notice the relativity of time and use it to your advantage.
When you feel anxious about having insufficient time, remember that the experience of time belongs to you. Change your experience, change time.
Breathe and practice belief statements that will change your perspective and relationship to time. For example: “I make time.” “Time belongs to me.”
I use these statements when I catch myself in old stressful patterns throughout the day. When the frenzy starts inside, I remind myself that my experience of time is alterable and mine. How do you want to experience time? That is what matters.
2. Use time wisely with compassion and love for yourself and others.
Have you ever watched an old episode of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood? Talk about slow, conscious pacing! Even as a child, I would sometimes feel like it went too slowly. “Come on, Mr. Roger’s, get to the puppets! The Land of Make Believe is my favorite part!”
The wonderful Fred Rogers clearly understood something about slowing down and utilizing time.
I love this quote from him, “Imagining something may be the first step in making it happen, but it takes the real time and real efforts of real people to learn things, make things, turn thoughts into deeds or visions into interventions.”
Notice how he says “real” here – real time, real efforts, real people. So much time is wasted each day doing things that do not feed us or those around us.
If you catch yourself treating time badly in this way – taking it for granted because it appears to betray you when you need it, I encourage you to take yourself and your time more seriously. And remember, seriously is not the same as anxiously!
When you slow down and calmly use the time you have in meaningful ways, time feels more friendly.
It’s a virtuous cycle: As time feels more friendly, you calm down. As you calm down, you use time better. As you use time better, it feels more friendly and so on.
3. Remember time for the gift it is.
In the 2017 book, The Soul of Money, Lynn Twist explains the importance of our mind’s perception of resources.
She says it best:
For me, and for many of us, our first waking thought of the day is “I didn't get enough sleep.” The next one is “I don't have enough time.” Whether true or not, that thought of not enough occurs to us automatically before we even think to question or examine it. We spend most of the hours and the days of our lives hearing, explaining, complaining, or worrying about what we don't have enough of… Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we're already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something. And by the time we go to bed at night, our minds are racing with a litany of what we didn't get, or didn't get done, that day. We go to sleep burdened by those thoughts and wake up to that reverie of lack… This internal condition of scarcity, this mind-set of scarcity, lives at the very heart of our jealousies, our greed, our prejudice, and our arguments with life.
There is something so profoundly true in Twist’s words. Each day you have twenty-four hours to feel about as you wish. No one can take that away from you. It takes some conscious effort to look at the gift and abundance of time. But how important is that? It’s everything.
Take a moment this week to consider how you perceive your precious time. Breathe deeply and become aware of both your thoughts and the sensations in your body.
As you adapt in a calm and thoughtful way to time, you befriend this beautiful, free and abundant resource.
How will you use your time this week?
More help for worry is right at your fingertips: Calm Your Worries: Unlock Your Secret Code to Lasting Stress Relief and Self-Confidence