“Time is a gift, given to you, given to give you the time you need, the time you need to have the time of your life. ”
― Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth
If there is one theme that has been coming up for me most strongly over the past few weeks, it is time. The passing of time, the feeling that there’s never enough of it, the sense that I’m somehow running out of time, like it will disappear or dissolve before I have the chance to accomplish the many things I hope to accomplish in a day, a week, a month, a lifetime.
Last Friday we celebrated the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, the time when the yang energy is at its peak – bright, expansive, warm, active. What this means, of course, is that from now until the Winter Solstice on December 21st, the days will get gradually and continually shorter, the sun will rise later and set earlier, the hours of daylight afforded us will consistently decrease.
Contemplate that if you want to feel the impact of time’s seemingly scarce nature.
I have always had a complicated relationship to time: wanting more of it when there are things to get done or I’m basking in the loveliness of an intimate moment with friends or a significant other, urging it to pass more quickly when I’m in the midst of a task of which I’m not fond or anticipating an upcoming event about which I am teeming with excitement.
Time is tricky. When we want more, there’s never enough; when we wish it would fly by, it drags its feet.
Or at least that’s how it feels.
Over the past month, I’ve been working specifically to heal my relationship to time, to ground myself more strongly in the present moment instead of losing myself in a future that does not yet exist or a past that has already, well, passed. As a person who often wishes there were ten more hours in a day or wants things to be a certain way RIGHT NOW instead of taking the necessary time to evolve, reconciling with time has been a somewhat challenging task.
Here are a few helpful tips I’ve discovered along the way to help you stay present, to make time your ally instead of your enemy, and to recognize that while life is, indeed, short, you still have plenty of time.
Feeling overwhelmed? Like time is racing by? Stop and breathe. Focusing on deep breaths for as little as two minutes can help you slow down, feel centered, and bring you back to the present moment. There’s a reason why deep breathing is recommended for everything from anxiety to stress to pulmonary and cardiac illness: it works. Better yet, it’s free, simple, and can be done anywhere, at any time.
When I carve out time to exercise, I always feel like I have more hours in the day. Why? I can’t really say. Maybe it’s the boost in mood, the enhanced energy, or the increase in productivity. Or perhaps it’s just that moving my body helps alleviate anxiety in general. In any case, physical activity is a powerful tool for helping you stay present, bringing you into your body, and giving your brain a reboot in order to reduce stress.
3. Get Outside
Ever notice how time passes differently in nature? There’s no sense of urgency or need to hurry when you’re in a forest or on a beach. Time moves at a leisurely pace, it seems. The natural world has no agenda or schedule to impose; things happen organically, at exactly the right pace, with no pressure to move more quickly or accomplish more in less time.
Go out into nature. Immerse yourself in the ease with which life moves when given space and freedom to do so.
4. Stop Comparing
Do you ever feel like everyone else is so much more productive that you, getting more done in less time and with less effort? I have absolutely felt that way. And, sometimes, when I see myself at 30 and compare my life to those of other people my age, the sense of time passing me by, of not being where I should be at this age, can feel heavy and overwhelming. Comparing your life to the lives of those around you can do that to you.
So, STOP. Seriously.
Your path is your path and life take shape differently for each of us, with things happening at different times and in different ways for everyone. If you waste your time comparing yourself to others and wishing your life was more like theirs – or believing, perhaps, it “should” be – time really will get away from you.
5. Practice Gratitude
You knew I was going to say it. Practice gratitude daily. Appreciate your life as it is right now. Be grateful for everything you have and the unique journey that brought you to this precise moment in time.
Celebrate the things you have so far accomplished: the small victories, the big successes, and even the times you have failed or faltered for the lessons you have learned along the way. Pause to say thank you, to notice all that is good and glorious in your life, to acknowledge all that time has thus far bestowed.
You are exactly where you are supposed to be and you have plenty of time to get where you’re going. Slow down and enjoy the ride. It will be over before you know it.