I realised something this morning: I worry about time.
I worry my time is running out – both in the sense of getting things done each day, and how long I get to live on this planet.
Sometimes it’s conscious worry, like “Ack, I have 10 minutes to cook lunch before my client calls!” (I’m a freelance copywriter).
But mostly, it’s unconscious worry. I just always feel up against the clock. The hands are ticking, tick, tick, and I’m pushing, push push. A fruitless attempt to freeze time, so I have a moment to breathe. A moment to pause. A moment to just be.
Even in my so-called downtime, me-time, I’m fretting about how long my relaxation is taking – and what I need to do next.
You know in savasana (corpse pose) in yoga? That’s supposed to be like meditation, reconnecting your body and mind after practice. My mind is always racing, plotting the next steps – what comes after class. Playing it all out in my head. Even if hubby and I are simply grabbing brunch, I’ll visualise it all. Oh, and I’ll also play a loop of the rest of the day – all the things I need to do, and how and when I need to do them.
Type As and time anxiety: it’s a personality thing
My guess is this is a Type A trait. We always need to be doing something. In fact, a psychology website actually describes Type As as “time urgent”.
Here’s what it’s like inside a Type A mind:
“Type A personalities experience a constant sense of urgency: Type A people seem to be in a constant struggle against the clock. Often, they quickly become impatient with delays and unproductive time, schedule commitments too tightly, and try to do more than one thing at a time, such as reading while eating or watching television.”
“Type A individuals tend to be very competitive and self-critical. They strive toward goals without feeling a sense of joy in their efforts or accomplishments. Interrelated with this is the presence of a significant life imbalance. This is characterised by a high work involvement. Type A individuals are easily ‘wound up’ and tend to overreact. They also tend to have high blood pressure (hypertension).”
Now does that sound like a personality type to you, or an accurate description of how some people experience anxiety?
The two seem interwoven, no?
Well, turns out science agrees. Several studies have shown a link between Type A personality and stress.
Side note: Personality tests and such can often make one feel they are a certain type, stuck to repeat certain thoughts and behaviours. But in my experience (and working with Cognitive Behaviour Therapy), I believe we can reshape ourselves whenever we bloody well like!
Can I freeze time in my mind?
That’s what I would LOVE to do. Either stop time itself (out of my control, I know) or discover a way to take my focus off the imaginary clock in my mind.
There must be something I can do to unwind my mind a touch.
Ah, but see. There I go adding another task to my endless to-do list: “find how to unwind…by 5pm today.”
That’s a typical Type A trait, too:
“These are the folks who are known to be driven and achievement-oriented. They’re competitive and can be rather intense and high-strung. They set lofty goals, and they put high demands and expectations on themselves to achieve them.” (source)
Must. Achieve. Goal. Of. Not. Worrying. About. Achieving. Goals.
Something tells me I won’t be ticking that one off the list anytime soon.
So here’s what I’ll do instead:
Take time out
But here’s the catch: when you’re an anxious Type A, typical relaxation techniques like meditation can be really frustrating. The thought of sitting in a silent, dark room to focus on your breath is torturous.
That’s why my relaxation list below includes exercise (the more intense the better) – to get a hit of those sweet hormones while feeling like I’m getting shit done. And the meditations are short and a little stimulating.
Here’s why my time-out list looks like:
- Morning and afternoon meditation. Keep it short, and use music or a guided practice to stay focused.
- Yoga. Something stimulating like Iyengar keeps me moving, while relaxing my mind.
- Daily sweat session. I love the Sweat app, and try to use it to do Kayla Itsines’ workouts three times a week.
- Leaving my phone at home when going for a walk or seeing friends.
- Keeping a buffer between activities, to avoid moving onto a new task before processing the previous one.
- Breathing before responding. Count 10 breaths before taking action on anything.
- Ending my day at a set time, say 6pm. Then spending the evening any way I wish.
- Having one unscheduled day a week to just go with the flow. I love spending Sundays this way.
- Listening to music. This helps me be mindful (as I can focus on the tunes) without silence. And it’s fun!
- Free journalling. Also known as expressive journalling, the first thing I do each day is scribble 3 pages in my journal. It’s utter crap on the page, but that’s the point. High energy, fast paced, frazzled thoughts thrown down on paper. Never to be seen again!
- Remember to connect. When I’m busy getting things done, I neglect my friends and family. So I actually schedule in social time – and even have a goal each week for how many times I’ll connect with people. Super nerdy!
How about you?
I’d love to hear from you. What are your experiences with time anxiety? What do you do to take your mind off the clock? Pop a comment below.
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