Arachnophobia, no – spiders are cute and, here in the Netherlands, completely harmless. Acrophobia, no – heights are no problem for me. But when it comes to being late, I have a real phobia. I have something I like to call, ‘timephobia’. Now this word probably does not exist, but I do have a sincere fear of being late. What is the fear of being late called? Simply ‘Time Anxiety’ perhaps.
If I am running late for something, it produces an anxiety where I begin to feel my face flush, my blood pressure rises, my stomach flips and I become snappy and downright awful to anyone in my vicinity. Not something I am proud of, but it is so. It doesn’t help either that I need to ask the kids to put their shoes on oh about ten times before they actually do it. Getting out the door on time each morning for school and work is a real struggle (as we must be in the car by 7:30am). I can’t tell you how much I enjoy the school holidays – not having to rush in the mornings is a real relief.
Punctuality has always been important to me. Maybe this is due to being the oldest child and having responsibilities for my younger siblings from an early age, or maybe it’s just in my DNA. Either way, I am never late. Well, rarely.. and if I am late, it usually due to reasons beyond my control such as traffic etc. I have an internal clock that simply will not allow me to be late. Coffee with a friend? I’ll be 10 minutes early. A job interview? If I’m not there at least 15 minutes beforehand, I’ll feel panicked. I like to be early for everything. This can sometimes backfire, for example the last time I flew to London, I arrived at the airport 2.5 hours in advance rather than the suggested one hour. My flight was then delayed an additional two hours, resulting in a very long and tedious wait. But mostly I enjoy arriving early, as once I have arrived at my final destination, I can then relax.
As a mother of two school aged children, I feel like there is always somewhere I need to be and have little time to get there. On a relaxation scale, I can go from 0 to 60 in under ten seconds if I feel like I am running late. Every day with school runs, work, after school activities, I feel like I am constantly living by the clock. At night, I must have a visible clock by my bed. If I wake up during the night, I need to know what time it is and how much longer I can sleep before my alarm clock goes off at 6:30am. Usually I wake up one minute before my alarm even has a chance to wake me.
So why is this and what to do? Until recently, I’d never bothered to ask. But then my husband pointed out to me one day how agitated I had become when it became clear we’d be late to get where we were supposed to be that day. I realized not only how anxious being late made me, but also how out of proportion that anxiety had become. After some reflection, it became clear that I also have a fear of wasting time. I try to do everything as efficiently as possible. I still feel this is more of a positive trait rather than a hinderance, but my anxiety about being late on the other hand, needs some work.
Here are some simple tricks I found online that I am going to try:
- Be aware that it is happening. Take notice of any shifts in your mood when you’re getting ready to go somewhere. When you’re getting swept away by emotion, take a step back and recognize what’s going on.
- Reflect on the potential consequences. Usually when you stop to examine the consequences, they’re pretty minor and often even non-existent.
This school year I also plan to minimise the amount of out of school activities and playdates the kids and I take part in. Just one after school activity per child during the school week will be enough this year. I am going to try to keep my calendar a little more freed up outside of my work hours. Life is flying by way too quickly because we are way too busy. It’s time to take a step back and enjoy some quiet time.