One of the main strategies to reduce your anxiety level is to de-clutter your life. The first step to doing so is to examine what you’re doing and start doing less.
How do you feel about that last sentence? Does it make you anxious just thinking about doing less? Are you worried that you’ll choose the wrong thing, that you’ll make a mistake and drop something urgent? Are you arguing with me, even now, countering that you’d love to give something up but you just can’t, that everything you’re doing is important?
If so, take a deep breath and calm down. Those are your anxieties talking. They’ve hijacked your brain and are in full defense mode. They’re not speaking from the truth; they’re speaking from their false perceptions.
DE-CLUTTER YOUR THOUGHTS
Before you are ready to get rid of the clutter in your life, you need to get rid of the clutter in your thoughts. This isn’t something that will come naturally to you; quite the opposite, you’re going to need to wrest control of your mind back from your anxieties. You’re going to need to value your peace of mind, your sense of self, and truth more than you value your anxieties.
You may think you don’t value your anxieties, that all you want to do is get rid of them, but consider something for a moment. We tend to hold on to the things we value. If you didn’t really value your anxieties on some level, you wouldn’t have held on to them this long.
TRACK YOUR TIME
How you spend your time tells a great deal about what you value. Try keeping track.
First, think about your typical monthly activities. For a 30-day month, write down how many hours you spend sleeping, working, getting to work, taking care of household chores, fulfilling family obligations, etc.
Next, think about what you do with your “discretionary” time and just how much time that actually is. For example, during a 24-hour day, most people spend a third of the time sleeping, a third of the time working (for most days), leaving a third of the time. I’d like you to monitor what you do with that other third – that discretionary time.
Ask yourself some questions:
- How much time do I really have for myself?
- Which activities are ones that I have deemed important?
- Which activities are those other people have required me to do?
- For each of the activities listed, decide whether you like doing it. Is it an activity that brings you pleasure? Why? What do you value about the activity?
- For each activity listed, think about stopping it tomorrow. What is your immediate reaction? Can you see yourself in the future not doing this activity? Does the thought of stopping this activity make you anxious? If so, why?
- Are there any activities you would like to give up but don’t feel you can? Which ones? Why do you feel obligated or compelled to continue doing them? What do you think would happen if you stopped?
- As you looked over your list, were you surprised at how much or how little time you’re actually spending in a given area? If so, which ones and why?
It can be startling to see how you really spend your time. Think about what this says about your anxieties and your priorities.
SOURCE: Chapter 9 in Dr. Jantz’s Overcoming Anxiety, Worry and Fear: Practical Ways to Find Peace.