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Build A Schedule to Reduce Anxiety

May 24, 2020 George Abitante

One of the most challenging aspects of COVID for me has been recreating a schedule to reduce anxiety for myself. Although I've been fortunate to keep my job, I've discovered that a lot of the structure I enjoyed in my life was the result of activities and obligations that have evaporated in the last two months.

At first, I didn't mind the lack of structure too much, but I've found over the last few weeks that my days seem to run away more quickly than usual, and I feel as though I've been left behind by the calendar. With the future very much still in flux, and changes in our day-to-day life happening at a faster rate than ever, I realized I needed to incorporate more structure into my days so that I could feel more comfortable with so many external uncertainties. To achieve this, I set out to rebuild my schedule to reduce my anxiety and increase my sense of progress over time. 

Building a Schedule to Reduce Anxiety

This section heading "Building a Schedule to Reduce Anxiety" sounds much more positive than my initial attempts at restructuring my day were. I spent a week or two just grappling with what I could do outside of work to introduce more structure into my life.

One striking realization I experienced was that having my work life and home life completely overlap made it hard for my body to know when it was supposed to relax. Since I do most of my work in my living room, that space became a confusing area that sometimes served as a workspace and other times as a relaxation space. This not only made it harder to relax there, but it also made me feel like the boundary between work and relaxation was much flimsier than usual.

This experience clarified that I wasn't simply struggling to create new structures for my time, but also to generate new physical structures in my home. While this added complexity to the problem, it also helped broaden my thinking, and actually helped me identify a good strategy to address both the physical and temporal structure I was lacking. Below, I will describe the process I used to improve the structure in my life, and I hope you find it helpful as well. 

Creating Your New Schedule to Reduce Anxiety

  1. Find your time. This was the easiest step for me because I'm a morning person through-and-through. When my morning starts off well, I feel more energized and effective throughout the day, and I know I don't have many competing obligations early in the day. Now, the best time of day for you may not match mine, but by examining which part of the day both feels important to you and has few conflicting obligations, you can find an optimal time to implement your daily schedule and reduce anxiety. Protecting this time is crucial for generating a rejuvenating routine, so identifying the best time of day for yourself makes a big difference. 
  2. Find your activity. This step was a lot harder for me because at first, I felt like I needed to do something out of the ordinary to start my day. After some failed attempts, I noticed that there was something I enjoyed doing every morning already: making coffee. I already made coffee nearly every morning, but I often did so without fullying focusing on the process, and I didn't have a set time when I did so. My solution was to make coffee brewing the first thing I did once I woke up, and to focus on making coffee to the exclusion of everything else. This mindfulness really helps me get into the flow of the day and also introduces a consistent structure into my daily life. You may have a lot of activities you enjoy, and I would suggest finding one that easily meshes with the optimal time you identified. 
  3. Find your location. This step will be made more or less difficult depending on the activity you choose. For me, brewing coffee made it easy to find a location because all of the equipment I use is already in my kitchen. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, the kitchen is a space where I never work, so it provides a clear physical separation from my workspace in a way that I don't necessarily get from other activities. Your optimal location may be a completely different part of your home (or even might be outside your home), but it should be in some way separate from the spaces you use for other tasks. 

These three steps helped me identify a new routine that has improved the structure of my daily life and made my days more relaxed. There are many ways to find a new schedule to reduce anxiety, but I think developing a protected time, activity, and location provides valuable insight into what you need.

Thanks for reading, please share your strategies on how you use your schedule to reduce anxiety in the comment section below!

APA Reference
Abitante, G. (2020, May 24). Build A Schedule to Reduce Anxiety , HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, November 30 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/treatinganxiety/2020/5/build-a-schedule-to-reduce-anxiety



Author: George Abitante

George received his Master's degree in Clinical Psychology from Northwestern University and is pursuing his PhD in Clinical Psychology at Vanderbilt University. Find him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @AbitanteGeorge.

Lizanne Corbit
May, 26 2020 at 1:05 pm

This is all wonderful. I particularly love the note on "find your activity". This is a beautiful example of how something that seems so small can be the perfect anchor to ground us and build a routine around. Now more than ever, creating structure and routine is so beneficial. Excellent suggestions. Take care!

May, 26 2020 at 1:21 pm

Hi Lizanne,
Thanks for another great comment! I like the term "anchor" a lot - finding an anchoring activity that sets up the rest of your day for success is a great approach!
George

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