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  • Lisa Atkins, LCSW & Deborah Scarborough, LCMHCS

Unlocking the Power of Time Management: A Path to Easing Anxiety and Depression


The Power of Time Management: A Path to Easing Anxiety and Depression

Hey there! Welcome to our corner of the internet. We see you, taking this step to seek help and improve your life – and that's amazing. Today, we want to have a heart-to-heart about something we all grapple with at some point: Time Management. It's a skill that often goes untaught, and as we journey through life, it can leave us feeling adrift. But fear not, for we are here to shed light on the inner workings of our brains, why you might think you're bad at managing time, and how mastering this skill can be a potent weapon against anxiety and depression.


Understanding Your Brain: The Two-Part Symphony

Our brains are like beautifully complex symphonies, but today, we're focusing on a specific section – the higher brain, or the pre-frontal cortex, located right behind your forehead. This part is the virtuoso of voluntary actions, responsible for the tasks you choose to engage in – speaking, preparing food, learning a new language, or working out.


On the flip side, we've got the lower brain handling all the involuntary stuff like hunger, thirst, and heart rate. It's a little less choosy, and more concerned with keeping you alive and comfortable. These two brain buddies share a common goal – the pleasure principle and the efficiency principle. They aim to seek pleasure and avoid pain, all while making life as easy and efficient as possible.


This ancient wiring served us well in hunter-gatherer times, but today, it sometimes leads us astray. It's not your fault if you struggle with time management; it's your brain trying to navigate a world it wasn't originally designed for.


The Higher Brain and Time Management

When we discuss time management or other self-improvement endeavors, it's mainly a conversation with our higher brain. This is where the magic happens, where planning, organization, and personal growth take center stage. But here's the twist – the lower brain never clocks out. It keeps generating thoughts, often tempting us with shortcuts, like "Procrastinate now, do it later," or "Indulge in some sugary goodness."


This is perfectly normal, and it's crucial to understand that your perceived shortcomings in time management are not indicative of your capabilities. It's simply your brain's natural response to its hardwired desire for pleasure and efficiency.


The Modern Dilemma: Anxiety Over "Busy" Schedules

In our fast-paced society, it seems everyone is perpetually anxious about their "time management," their never-ending "to-do" lists, and how overwhelmingly "busy" they are. Part of this angst can be attributed to our brain's resistance to meticulous planning. It craves spontaneity and freedom, often pushing us toward the "no plans" mantra.


But we want to share a secret – when you embrace discipline, plan ahead, and manage your time effectively, you often find yourself with more "free time." It's like magic. Yet, it can be challenging to convince your brain that meticulous planning is the path to freedom. In fact, we recalled a Sesame Street tune as we were writing this – Elmo singing, "Plan the play and play the plan!" The lesson here is crystal clear – planning sets you free.


Many of our clients never received formal time management instruction, and they often feel like they're "bad at adulting." In reality, they simply lack the tools and boundaries needed for effective self-management.


Your Time, Your Money: Managing Both Wisely

Time, like money, can be multiplied if managed with care. Yes, like a budget with limits, there are only 24 hours in a day, but planning can create more time. Just as you don't squander your money recklessly, treat your time with the same respect.


Let's talk about the "too much to do" sensation. It's your brain's quirky way of interpreting success. As life progresses, we accumulate responsibilities – work, family, self-care – and suddenly, it feels like we're drowning in busyness. But this is not a sign to cut back on activities; it's a call for an identity shift.


Shift your thinking from "I can't handle this" to "I am meant to handle this." Start thinking, "I, [your name], handle [task]" to reinforce your capabilities. You're not overwhelmed; you're accomplished.


Planning and Follow Through When You Are Experiencing Anxiety and Depression

Some people don’t like to plan because they know they have a hard time following through, especially when they are experiencing anxiety and depression. Time management is all about following through with commitments to ourselves and all about “having your own back.”


Plans are decisions made ahead of time. The reason making plans ahead of time, particularly when we are experiencing anxiety and/or depression is important and beneficial is because if we make a plan, we are usually making a commitment to ourselves when we are in a calm or optimistic space, and when we have our backs. Decisions made ahead of time protect us from poor decisions made from a place of emotion in the moment. If we are making a decision about what to eat, whether to drink or not, or buy that item that catches our eye, in the moment we may take action based on an anxious feeling, a depressed mood, or an urge rather than from our values. Planning ahead can protect us from that and is key to the power of time management for easing anxiety and depression.


Following through with our plans is another matter. We sometimes treat others better than we treat ourselves when it comes to time management. If we make a plan for lunch with a friend, we don’t stand them up or not show up, so why do we do that to ourselves? A plan is like an appointment with yourself and if you don’t show up, and you break promises with yourself, you begin to lose trust in yourself, and this erodes your self-confidence and self-esteem.


Quelling Anxiety: Make Decisions and Take Massive Action

Anxiety often creeps in when indecision lingers. Making firm decisions and following through can be your anxiety's kryptonite. Indecision wastes time, much like a college student changing their major five times and missing graduation. Or when you have no idea what to shop for at the grocery, Planso you wander kind of aimlessly and impulse buy and you find you’ve wasted both time AND money.


Don’t just decide you want to do this thing-decide how. Once you've made a decision, seize the moment and take massive action. This applies to grocery shopping, wedding planning, and life in general. The hard work pays off with immense rewards, and it keeps anxiety at bay.


You also have to follow those commitments. If you don’t follow grocery lists or wedding plans what happens? You blow your budget that’s what! Remember, honoring commitments with money is akin to honoring commitments with time. It's all about integrity (keeping promises when no one is looking), not just with others but with yourself.


Unlocking Extra Time through Enhanced Decision-Making Amidst Anxiety and Depression

These are the things we have found that create time. One is obviously planning, deliberately planning ahead of time how to use your time. Number two, making decisions strongly. One of the biggest wastes of time is indecision and changing your mind. Commit to that decision no matter how you end up feeling. You might feel doubt, feel scared, and feel like it is the wrong decision but stay committed and you will move forward.


The third thing that’s very important when it comes to making time is taking massive action. Instead of wondering how to do something, start doing something. Do you want to find out how to do it? Start doing it. You will immediately know whether it’s working or not. You can change your mind only in the sense of what you’re doing. You don’t change your mind in terms of the decision that you’ve made. Taking massive action creates results and makes time.


Honoring Your Plan in the Face of Anxiety and Depression’s Unwelcome Arrival

Honor your plan. Having a plan that you don’t honor isn’t useful. How do you do this? You make it mandatory for yourself. Most of us are not good at following through on our own plans and decisions we made for ourselves. Make it mandatory you follow the plan no matter how you feel.


When we make a plan today for tomorrow and we have anxiety or depression there may be a good chance that when tomorrow comes we will not FEEL like going through with our plan. This is because our survival brain kicks in and urges us to procrastinate or dictates fear and doubt to us. Our lower brain will suggest nearly ANYTHING else to us except what is on the plan. We’ll want to procrastinate, do it later in the day, and change it. This is when the negotiations begin and justifications enter our minds.


Here's what is important. If every time you want to do something from your higher brain, from your vision of your life then you don’t do it you will keep spinning in the life you currently have. But, if you make plans and follow through on those plans you get better at overcoming that survival brain. The survival brain never goes away, it is always telling you to run to and hide in the cave or you are going to die, but you get better at managing it when you make a plan and follow through. It’s like lifting weights to make our muscles stronger.


Practice Constraint for a Fuller Life

If you're feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and like you have too much to do, it might be a sign that you need to set boundaries around your time. When you plan something like, “I’m going to work on this thing for an hour,” and then you honor that plan, you have used that time so efficiently that you then give yourself an hour of time to relax. Many times when you don’t plan, it takes you two hours to do the same thing because you haven’t thought of it ahead of time. Therefore, you lose that hour.


Practical Tips for Managing Your Time:

Delegate Tasks

Don't carry the world on your shoulders. Share responsibilities with others when you can.


Say No

Politely decline new commitments that you don't have the bandwidth for. Way too many of us are people-pleasers. One of the best ways to save time is to say no.


Finish What You Start

Don't leave tasks half-done. Complete them before moving on to the next. So much of our life is spent in action; starting things and quitting before we finish. Honor your commitments to yourself and complete the things you start.


Eliminate Distractions

When working on a task, minimize interruptions and distractions. A distraction is something that pulls you off focus and agitates your mind. Our brains would much rather focus on Instagram than to keep working so plan ahead and turn off your phone.


No More Multitasking

Focus on one task at a time. Quality over quantity. One goal at a time, not four because your focus will be laser-tight on the one result you are working for. This will keep your brain from claiming, “I’m so overwhelmed, I can’t do any of them.”


Closing Thoughts on the Power of Time Management for Easing Anxiety and Depression

I hope this article has helped you break free from the shackles of feeling overwhelmed and incapable especially when you are dealing with anxiety and depression. If you need more guidance, explore our other blogs or visit our website at ahelpinghandofwilmington.com. We're here to support you on your journey to a healthier mind.


If the insights about your brain and thought processes resonate with you, follow us on social media and share this blog with your friends. And if you're looking for a compassionate partner to guide you through these transformative changes, check out our website for therapy options. Our team of experts specializes in anxiety and depression, armed with knowledge about the intricacies of the human brain.


Your journey to a new mindset begins now. Visit our website ahelpinghandofwilmington.com and take the first step toward a brighter, more organized future. You've got this!


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