Time is a funny thing, isn’t it? At a party with friends it just seems to fly by, but stuck in a boring meeting, it’s almost as if it can’t move fast enough. Believe it or not, there’s much dispute among physicists whether time is even real at all or merely an illusion. Some physicists argue that time is an irreducible, fundamental, constant of reality. Others (such as Einstein) posit that there is no absolute time, no absolute space, and everything is relative.
Whether time is indeed ‘real’ or not, the notion of time-scarcity certainly is. In fact, it’s arguably one of the biggest stressors of our era. Think back to the last number of times that you have felt stressed. We bet that they almost all somehow involved the worry of ‘running out of time’. Finishing that report for your client by the deadline, collecting your kids from school right after the bell rings, getting to that meeting on time.
The problem is that time-pressure has very real implications for our health. When we are stressed, our body goes into fight-or-flight mode; Our heart-rate starts racing, our tummy feels funny, we start to perspire, and so forth. And that’s just the tip of the ice-berg. Sustained over longer periods, stress has a whole host of long-term negative health ramifications and it is a known risk factor in almost every disease and disorder. Originally designed to save us in physical combat, our stress response is unfortunately also triggered due to mere psychological dangers as well… such as running out of time.
So how can we overcome time as a source of stress in our lives? Well we can start by simply becoming aware of when it is indeed time that is causing our body to go into stress mode. It’s then useful to pause and have a little chat with ourselves to determine whether the pressure is warranted or self-constructed. In other words, asking what would happen if we don’t do whatever it is we need to do in the allocated time? We’ll either come to realise that it’s not the end of the world and we should just acknowledge now that we are going to be late, or we’ll realise that we need to take necessary action in order to postpone the deadline. Whichever way, we will discover that our life is certainly not in danger, and it’s definitely not worth the infliction we are causing ourselves in the process. So we can take a deep breath, and carry on.