Until recently I hadn’t even heard the term “time anxiety”, but as soon as I did, I knew it was a name for something I have struggled with my entire life.
A habit built on strong foundations.
Being early is a habit that is deeply ingrained in my psyche. Growing up, Mum was always early. I am known for my early arrivals. Even hubby’s family tell stories of his mum arriving way too early on numerous occasions. It is no wonder that our boys are often the first to arrive wherever they go, whether it is school, parties or any other scheduled event. It’s just what we do.
And the arguments are strong for developing this good habit early in life. However, like any good habit, it can be taken to the extreme and become detrimental.
I didn’t even know this was a problem!
I was sitting at school one recent afternoon waiting for my boys. As I looked around at the other parents standing nearby I found myself wondering why they were there so early. Didn’t they have anything better to do than hanging around for half an hour waiting for the bell to ring? Imagine my shock when I realised the irony of these thoughts! To my dismay I realised that I had been arriving earlier and earlier each day, worried about getting a parking spot or being delayed in traffic. We live 2 minutes from the school! And yet I realised I had been leaving home 1 hour before the end of the school day.
So for this weeks Conquering Fears of Friday challenge, I took a baby-step towards getting this back under control.
At 2pm when I was itching to get in my car, I filled the time with household chores. At 2:25pm I left home, this time for the butcher and the bakery. After taking my purchases back home,
putting them away, and driving to school, I arrived at 2:40pm (and got a perfectly adequate parking spot). I resisted racing in to school straight away, and instead used the time to check my emails. At 2:55pm I strolled “casually” through the school gates. I was not the first to arrive, but I wasn’t the last either. And after the school bell rang at 3pm I still had to wait 5 minutes for the boys to amble down from their classrooms.
This was not a comfortable experience for me. I found myself checking the time constantly and my anxiety built with every passing minute. But I was able to control it, and use my time more efficiently than I had been.
I was thankful for the timer on my phone, setting the alarm to ring at the time I had decided to get out of the car. This allowed me to concentrate on replying to the backlog of emails without worrying that I would get caught up and be late into school. And I distracted myself with a list of little jobs that I had made, not only to pass the time, but also to make the best use of the minutes I was taking back!
Using a timer to signal the appropriate time to transition, and a list as a distraction tool are both strategies that I use regularly with Mr 9 and Mr 5. Now that I know how effectively they worked for myself, I will continue to apply them as I work on stretching my boundaries around how I manage my time anxiety.