A lot of my days with anxiety disorder start something like this: I wake up, then ask myself why I stayed up so late (again) the night before. I’m sleep-deprived, my eyes are bleary, and my thoughts are a grey, swirling blob of worry. I have a powerful feeling I’m forgetting something, or a lot of things (Reduce Morning Anxiety With These 5 Useful Tips). Then I groan loudly at the prospect of having to drag myself through another seemingly pointless day of my pathetic existence. This is often followed by a black wave of despair, and a strong desire to crawl back into bed — maybe forever. It is not easy to plan a day with anxiety disorder.
Good morning to you, too, sunshine. Now, here’s the good news: it gets better from here.
My Anxiety Disorder Requires a Daily Plan
Planning my day with anxiety disorder is lot like exercising. The exercise is not the hard part; the hard part is getting my butt to the gym. I have to make a supreme effort to not dive back under the covers, but, once I do that, the hardest part of my day is often over. Then, I can continue on and feel like an actual human being. Here are some of the things that help me structure my day:
- I try to set realistic daily goals. — I’m a card-carrying procrastinator (see Anxiety-Related Procrastination), but I swear I’m going to change my errant ways, eventually. In the meantime, I try to be realistic about what I can actually accomplish in one day. I tend to underestimate how long most tasks will take by about 100%. So, I make a daily list, then cut it in half. This gives me something realistic to shoot for.
- I know doing something makes me feel better than doing nothing. — Sitting around all day lets me avoid anxiety in the short term, but it comes at the price of my self-esteem. I need to do my best to be productive in order to feel good about myself. Even when I fall short of my goals, at least I know I tried.
- I do my best to take one thing at a time. — One of the trickiest parts of getting through my day is not getting paralyzed by anxiety. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, especially if I get into worrying about the future too much. Looking at the big picture can just lead to ruminating, which worsens anxiety and also makes me depressed. The only thing I can actually do anything about is right now, today.
- I push myself, but not too hard. — I picture planning my day with anxiety disorder like an egg. I need to hold onto it, but not too tightly. If I let go completely, the egg falls to the floor and smashes. If I squeeze it too hard, I’ll crush it. Either extreme ends up with the egg getting broken. I need to keep a firm, but relaxed grip on my mind and emotions to make it successfully through the day.
I Can Restart My Daily Plan for Anxiety At Anytime
Another thing that helps me is the idea of starting over. My day is not a linear sequence of time chunks that have to be taken sequentially. It’s a loose collection of moments and each moment is a potential opportunity to refocus. I know that I’ll fall short in some ways — my attention will wander, I’ll waste time, and I probably won’t get everything done that I had planned. Also, things are going to happen during the day that I didn’t anticipate.
Rather than declaring my day ruined and a total loss, I just start over. Maybe I need to take a break. Maybe I need to do something else for awhile. The point is, I can re-enter my productive flow at any point along its continuum and simply try again.
The beginning of my day may look hopeless, but I’ve learned through long experience that it isn’t. Once I get over the initial shock of waking up, I have a bunch of helpful tools to help me plan my day with anxiety disorder. When I reach the end of the day, I know I’ll be able to look back on it with satisfaction. I may not have done everything I wanted to, but at least I did something.