My mind goes through periods in which it is vulnerable to feeling a little cluttered; it fills up with erratic thoughts competing to be the centre of attention, somehow fighting with each other but also working together to form a barrier between reality and clarity.
This means that when I’m going through one of these times, I find it hard to carry through thought processes or focus on one thing. I get irritable or emotional ten times faster and my patience cowers in a corner with rationality, overshadowed by an overflowing, overwhelming monster, trampling any sign of productivity or routine in a temper tantrum.
I lose sight of what I need to get done that week, or even that day. I catastrophise easily. Suddenly everything is Something with a capital S: a big deal, a hurtling train of thoughts, a problem that needs solving now.
Taking a step back led me to the realisation that most of these things weren’t problems to solve individually, but symptoms of an anxiety surrounding time management, prioritisation and organisation. It is terribly easy to get caught up in living in fast forward, especially when everyone else’s lives are so visible, and accessible, at all times. Social media is a huge catalyst for what the internet is telling me is known as chronophobia: a persistent, abnormal and unwarranted fear of time, or the passing of time.
It seems there are lots of different aspects to this label, so for the purposes of this post, I’ll refer to my experiences as time anxiety. You’ll relate to this if you’ve ever had thoughts such as ‘it’s 5pm, I haven’t done enough today to justify how late it is‘, or if a feeling of guilt elbows its way in after an afternoon of down time, reading a book or having a movie marathon. A feeling of ‘I should maximise the amount of time I have‘, and a difficulty in getting yourself to relax.
Ironically, when I’m going through a week with this mindset, I get a lot less done. I have less concentration and too much of my energy goes into worrying about not making the most of my time, instead of making the most of my time. I can’t get myself to chill out, so my hyperaware mind goes into denial. In these moments, I desperately want to do something productive but I’m too stressed out and tired to do this effectively. Therefore, I’ll end up in the pit of procrastination, or stubbornly staying up too late because I’m still waiting to make the most of the day and can’t face it having to end.
Of course this is problematic, and very unhelpful. Which is why an awareness of these feelings and behaviours is a great place to begin fixing the problem. I don’t see this aspect of anxiety discussed much, or maybe it’s not as prevalent, but my visceral feeling is that a lot of other people have these sensations too. In a society where we’re expected to be in two places at once, successfully doing ten things before the hour’s up, I can’t believe I’m alone in feeling like this.
Our multitasking world, in which everyone always has to be switched on and available, seems like the perfect breeding ground for sensitive people to become anxious in relation to time management, and overstimulated to do something about it: to the point where they’re incapacitated with panic over the thought of having to decide how to carve up their time.
Although I still have days in which behaviours born out of time anxiety persist, I have become a lot better at noticing when these feelings are encroaching on my vision, like black spots before fainting, and generally manage to implement techniques to stop the metaphorical blacking out.
If people are interested, I’ll cover some of these ways of dealing with time anxiety in a future post. Let me know in the comments if this is something you’d like to read!
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