How to Manage Time Anxiety and Live in the Present
I always thought by 25 years old I’d be married and having my first kid. I’m currently 28 years old and getting married this year and do not even feel close to ready to having a kid… maybe when I’m 30? I’ve always struggled with time anxiety but as I get older, I have found peace with time. However, I know that isn’t the case for everyone!
Sometimes it feels like there isn’t enough time in the day to get things done I want to. Or not enough time in the month to attend all the events I want. Or not enough time in the year to go on the trios I want. That mindset quickly turns into not having enough time in LIFE.
If you’ve ever felt that way before, you’re not alone! Time anxiety is a real issue and can cause a lot of emotional distress. So, let’s talk more about time anxiety and how you can live in the present!
What is time anxiety?
Time anxiety is when you worry that there isn’t enough time or have negative feelings about the passing of time. It can cause fear, stress, or even more generalized anxiety.
Time anxiety can come up for people who are ultra-productive, they may feel that they are never doing enough with their time. Or that time doing something like eating lunch or taking breaks is wasted time.
Time is something we all want most. More time to work on goals. More time to be with loved ones. Ultimately, there is only so much time.
For many people, that is just a way of life and it’s okay. For others, the idea that time is literally running out can cause a full-on breakdown.
Time anxiety can affect many parts of your life as there are different types.
Types of time anxiety
I’m sure you have felt these types of time anxiety at some point in your life (I know I have). So, let’s talk about them and what the differences are.
Daily time anxiety
This is when you feel that there aren’t enough hours in the day. You worry you need to make better use of your time. You might skip lunch to keep working or cancel plans to be more productive.
This is the type of people who create to-do lists with 30 things on them and feel that they HAVE TO get them all done in one day.
I have felt this one recently! On the weekend I felt like I had endless things to cram into my 2 day weekend. I worried and stressed about relaxing because I had “so much to do.”
Future time anxiety
This is when you worry about tomorrow’s issues—thinking about if you’ll have enough time for all the tasks you need to do tomorrow or in the future.
You worry about failing or embarrassing yourself.
This is the type of person who struggles to fall asleep at night because their mind is already running through tomorrow’s to-do list (I’ve been known to do this lol).
Existential time anxiety
This is when you worry about deeper life meaning and whether you are making use of your time on earth.
You might worry about running out of time. Maybe you stress about following a life timeline you set for yourself.
People will ask themselves if they are fulfilling their purpose or if they’re living fully.
I definitely struggled with existential time anxiety when I was constantly worrying that I wasn’t on track in life according to a made-up timeline I created for myself.
The impact of time anxiety on present you
When we are kids, there is a big focus on the future. “What do you want to be when you grow up” is a common question we ask little ones.
When they dream of all the things they want to do, there are no worries about time. They have all the time in the world; their whole lives to grow up and reach their dreams.
They have no problem dreaming about the future but also being 100% present.
Somewhere between then and adulthood, we start to worry more and more about time. We focus less and less on the present moment.
There is a whole life being lived right before our eyes but we worry about tomorrow or what will happen in 10 years or if we are living to our potential.
Part of it is because we become more aware of our morality as we age. Time is finite. It will eventually end for all of us.
However, there are two ways to look at that.
One is to stress about it and worry that you never have enough time which leads you to overwork yourself and live in a state of fear.
The second option is to accept it. Accept that your time here is limited but let that push you towards happiness, fulfillment, enjoying your free time, working hard when it’s time to work, loving fiercely, and being present every day.
How to manage time anxiety
It may seem hard now but you can get your time anxiety under control. Now, I’m not a mental health professional so if your time anxiety is causing you a lot of distress, it’s best to talk to your doctor!
These are some tips and tricks for managing time anxiety on your own which may work for some people, but others might need more specialized support!
So, take these tips and use them as you’d like but remember that everyone is different!
01 – ask yourself, “so what?”
This can be a fun little game whenever you are worried about anything.
Let yourself go down the negative rabbit hole. Every time you have an answer, ask so what again.
Eventually, you will end up in the worst possible scenario OR you’ll realize that you’re overreacting.
Most of the time you are overreacting. Showing up late to something really isn’t a big deal. Not being married by 25 is not life-altering. Stressing about tomorrow’s to-do list and how you won’t have time to do everything isn’t going to change anything.
02 – practice some form of mindfulness
There are many ways to be more in the present. Mindfulness is a great way to get away from time-related stressors because it forces you to focus on the here and now.
Time anxiety thrives in the future. Whether the future is 2 hours from now, tomorrow, or 10 years.
Being mindful is all about being in the here and now. Acknowledging things happening right now.
Here are some ideas on how to be more mindful day to day.
Some popular ones are meditation, breathing exercises, and walking in nature!
03 – determine what “time well spent” means to you
If you asked 100 people what “time well spent” means to them, I bet you’d get a ton of different answers.
There is no right or wrong answer!
Some people think spending time with family is time well spent. Others would say being in nature. Others would say learning something new. Or maybe some would say backpacking across the world.
We are all unique people. Figure out what time well spent means to you.
This could really help when you feel like you’re wasting time. You can remind yourself that time is not wasted when you’re doing a, b, c.
You don’t always need to be “productive” (maybe look at what that means to you too).
04 – journal about your relationship with time
Journaling is one of my favorite ways to get clarity and understanding. Sometimes writing things out can really help get you to the bottom of your worries.
Some prompts to get you started:
- What do I worry will happen if I don’t get things done on time?
- Do my life goals really need to be achieved by certain times? Why or why not?
- What is my biggest fear in regard to time passing?
05 – create more time for meaningful tasks
This might since silly since you are already struggling with time and now I want you to create more time… like if you could that would be the answer to all your problems haha.
But what I mean is to set aside time blocks for things that are important and meaningful to you.
Step one is determining what those things are… step two is actually doing them.
For example, I find reading to be an important activity to me. It’s relaxing, I get great joy from it, and it fills my cup.
When I’m reading I don’t feel like I’m wasting time. It feels like time well spent because I was doing something that feels good to do. I make time in my schedule regardless of what else is going on because of how it makes me feel!
06 – audit your time
I’m a big fan of audits! It’s eye-opening and creates a lot of feelings. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s not so good.
The first time I did a time audit, I cried. Not going to lie.
But I needed to do it in order to stop feeling like I never had time to do anything.
Get a piece of paper, draw a big circle, and fill it out like a clock.
Start filling in the chunks of time that you know you’re doing something (work, commute, meals, activities, etc.).
Then look at all the time in between and ask yourself what you are REALLY doing with that time.
Are you watching TV? Scrolling on your phone? Or is that time filled up with actual things? Could those things be done in a smarter way?
When I did mine I cried because I realized I actually don’t have much free time. Work and commuting take up a lot of my time every single day and that broke my heart.
However, it made me realize that if I want that to change, I need to do something. I either need to get to work during the times I do have free or I need to cut out things that aren’t serving me.
It helped me with my daily time anxiety because I started to understand where my time was going and adjusted my expectations accordingly.
07 – change your mindset by interrupting negative thoughts
This is a good way to change your mindset about pretty much anything.
Every time you notice yourself thinking something or worrying about something you don’t want to, just cut in on your own thought.
I will sometimes say in my head (or even out loud), “stop!” I cut myself off. I end the thought.
I then make the conscious decision to think the opposite.
So, if you’re worried about never getting married and dying alone, stop your thought! Then say to yourself that you will find someone because there is someone for everyone and you won’t die alone because you have friends and family that love you.
Even if you don’t believe it, just correct the thought. Eventually, you will start to believe in and you’ll notice the way you think and react will start to change.
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Time anxiety affects everyone in some way. Some people struggle with daily time anxiety, others with future time anxiety, and some others with existential time anxiety.
Questioning your relationship with time and getting to the bottom of your fears and worries is one of the only ways to really stop the anxiety.
There are many ways to manage time anxiety as we discussed above, but ultimately if the stress is too much and it’s really affecting your daily life, it’s best to talk to a professional.
Time is, unfortunately, running out for all of us. It can be scary when you think of it like that.
However, time is also precious and is a gift that we shouldn’t be wasting by worrying!
Try to live in the present and allow yourself to dream without timelines. Think back to 7-year-old you… full of wonder, hope, and excitement, not worry and dread!
And remember, we are all just floating around in space together so it doesn’t need to be so deep. Just do what you can and enjoy doing it ❤️