Most of us suffer anxiety now and then when we feel we have more things to do than time to do it in.
But some of us are more obsessed with thoughts of time than others – and it can actually be a sign of a psychological issue that needs dealing with.
Here are five statements about time that can mask emotional and psychological issues, along with tips on how to manage if you have one.
1. “I never seem to have enough time”.
We all put things off now and then. But if you have such an issue getting things done and setting priorities that your life is suffering, it’s likely you suffer from chronic procrastination.
Is chronic procrastination really a big deal? Absolutely. It can mean a stalled career, an inability to maintain relationships, money issues, and secret shame, all of which can lead to anxiety and depression. It’s also linked to addictions such as gambling, internet addiction, or alcoholism, all of which just deepen the shame factor.
Why do you always need more time no matter how busy you feel? It might be that you have just never learned how to recognise and set priorities and goals. Or you just were never given a good role model of time management. This can be something a few sessions with a good coach can sort.
It’s more likely, though, that your inability to get things done is connected to low self-esteem or negative thoughts that have created a low mood cycle that makes it hard to get ahead. These are things a CBT therapist or counsellor is better equipped to help with.
If your procrastination is causing you depression over just the occasional bad mood, and you feel you suffer ‘fuzzy’ thinking, it could be that a trauma is behind your procrastination. It’s hard to get things done if you are in a state of emotional shock or your mind is hijacked by post traumatic shock disorder (PTSD). If this sounds like you, it’s a good idea to book a session with a counsellor or psychotherapist. Sometimes the very act of sharing a traumatic experience in a trusting environment can greatly alleviate your lack of focus.
Still feel it’s something else? Look into Adult ADHD, which has symptoms that are slightly different than ADHD in children and is a rising concern.
2. “I don’t have time for my friends/family/a relationship”.
We all are given the exact same amount of days, hours, and minutes. And yet some of us manage to have really big jobs, happy families, and great relationships, when some of us have a regular job but feel so busy we decide we can’t invest in relationships. Is it really a time issue?
Generally it’s more of an intimacy issue hidden behind workaholism (and don’t brush this off as ‘not you’ without first reading our popular piece, “7 Surprising Signs You Fear Intimacy”).
Studies constantly back up that human connection is a biological need that is necessary for us to thrive. If you think you don’t need intimacy in your life, it’s more likely that at some point you learned connecting with others is dangerous.
Take a good long look at the relationships you do have. Are you really your authentic self around these friends, partners, or family members? Do you feel they truly know you? Can you trust them? Or do you feel misunderstood and lonely even in their presence? Do you have real, in person relationships, or do you rely heavily on the internet and social media for a sense of connection?
If you are suffering an intimacy issue, you are not alone. It seems the internet and our modern pace of living has made more, not less of us, feel unconnected and alone, with the UK recently voted ‘the loneliness capital of Europe” by the Office for National Statistics. (If you are feeling lonely, read our piece on the How to Overcome Loneliness for some practical exercises you can try today).
Truth is you aren’t even sure you really know what good intimacy is? Read out piece on authentic relationships for the other side of connection altogether.
3. “My partner/family/friends never make enough time for me”.
Always need more time than others give? Feel low and upset because the person you love doesn’t give you the attention you feel is your right? It could be that you are suffering from codependency.
Codependency entails seeking validation from others instead of from yourself, meaning your identity, self-esteem, and moods become reliant on what others think of you.
Typical signs of codependency include putting the other person’s needs before yourself, lacking boundaries, not showing good self-care anymore, and perhaps showing obsessive behaviour like constantly spying on your partner (read more signs in our article on the Great Codependency Hoax).
The truth is that the only person who can truly validate you is yourself. If that seems hard, it can help to work through how your low levels of self-esteem started with the support of a professional. He or she can also help you troubleshoot your concept of what a good relationship is.
If you are in a relationship where your partner really does ignores you, it’s likely also codependency. Codependency can involve personal boundaries becoming so low that you allow abuse, whether that is physical, mental, or emotional. Codependency also involves making yourself a victim, so if you feel powerless to leave someone, it’s time to seek help.
4. “Time is going so fast and I don’t know what I’ve done with my life”.
If you tend to always feel a failure, perhaps you are seeing your life from someone else’s viewpoint other than your own. For example, if your parents had expectations of you you didn’t live up to, you might totally overlook the success you have had.
Try the power of changing your perspective and see if it helps. You might discover you’ve done an awful lot of wonderful things you just haven’t been able to see clearly.
Another tool that can really help if you feel your life is racing by is to take time daily to journal about what has gone right and what you are grateful for. By writing down what accomplishments each day has bought, no matter how small, you can start to see how much you really get done. By also recording the things you are grateful for, life can seem much richer and less like a speeding blur (if you’d like tools to remind you to do all this, read our piece about ‘apps that can help you move forward‘ ).
If you constantly have dark thoughts that your life has been pointless and you are useless, it’s likely you are suffering from depression. Start to pay attention your inner dialogue. Is it almost all negative? Is there a lot of doom and gloom about other things, too? Do you tend to also put yourself down a lot? Low self-esteem is one of the most common signs of depression (for other signs, read our comprehensive guide to depression including how to find help).
5. “With time, this, too, will pass”.
In some ways, this expression is wonderful wisdom. Time really can help us to see others perspectives, forgive, and start new relationships or projects that have us forgetting what came before.
But on the other hand, it is also a saying that can be used to ignore or deny true trauma and/or emotional pain. Burying painful emotions instead of processing them does not mean they pass. Instead, it too often means they fester and pop up again years later in the form of anxiety, low self-esteem, or full blown depression.
If you constantly think about something or someone from the past in a way that makes you feel low or bad about yourself, if you often suffer unexplained fatigue or social withdrawal, or you simply feel you can’t seem to ever get ahead in life or think straight, it might be that you are suffering from emotional trauma. This requires deep self-reflection and exploration to process and release. Self-help books can be a wonderful start, but if the thoughts and emotions you are having are stopping you from moving forward in life, it is advisable to seek support.
So are you saying therapy can help me get on top of time?
It’s an interesting question and the answer is really…. yes! It can.
Emotional trauma can be like trying to hold a beach ball under water – it eats up all your focus, thoughts, and thus time without you realising it. When your minds is clear, and your emotions balanced, you tend to get things done more easily, have less conflict in life, and have more time to do things.
So speaking of time, if you needed yet another reason to take time for you, and seek the support and help you need? You now have it.
Do you have thoughts about the way time is connected to psychological conditions you’d like to share? Or you have advice on any of the conditions mentioned above? Share below.
Pictures by Hartwig HKD, Alice Popkorn, JD.