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  • Sara

How Planning Out Your Week Can Reduce Anxiety

Updated: Sep 12, 2022

Have you ever felt like your evenings after a long workday are spent in one of two ways? -- either you’re working late and feeling worried about what you’ll walk into the next day, or you just want to zone out and watch television for hours until you finally fall asleep? Both of these habits are reflections of an inability to calm our mind at the end of a long workday and find enjoyable outlets to spend your time in a healthier way. Either your mind wants to ruminate in a constant state of stress to the point that it’s difficult to sleep at night or you’ve chosen to distract yourself from these racing thoughts by doing something completely unrelated.

What if there was a healthier and more fulfilling way to spend your evenings? What if you could find a routine that left you feeling better before you went to bed and rejuvenated when you awaken the following morning? There are, and it starts with developing go-to habits for when you have "one of those days."

I set out on a journey to learn how to have a more relaxing evening routine, and this is what I learned. It's all about balance. If you can create a routine that is well-balanced between social commitments and spending some time alone to rejuvenate, this can can you feel less stressed, more relaxed and, overall, more fulfilled overall.

For me, finding a balance with occasional social evenings, evenings to myself, and evenings with my partner created a more level-headed version of myself. My evenings stopped revolving around me trying to forget about my worries in an unhealthy way and instead switched to focusing on finding more joy in my free time. The way that I found balance was by planning my week ahead of time to decide how I wanted to distribute the three. Some weeks may have more of one category than another, but I at least include one night for each thing. This way, I’m alternating enough to fulfill each of the basic humanistic needs.

Here is an example of what this would typically look like. Sunday and Monday evenings are generally my evenings to myself. I like to spend those evenings doing some self-care activities, catching up on chores around the house, or exploring new activities. Tuesdays and Thursdays are most often the nights that I dedicate time with my partner where it is just the two of us spending some quality time together. It’s important to note that we dedicate this time together despite having four children. We’re able to spend time as a family until they go to bed; then it’s the two of us for a couple of hours. Friday and Saturday nights are generally my social nights where I am spending time with friends, and I keep Wednesdays as a wild card to gauge how I am feeling halfway through the week. Again, some weeks look different than others, and the schedule doesn’t have to be rigid. In fact, keeping it too rigid may induce more stress, so I don’t recommend it. The point is that I am being respectful of my time and making sure to get a little bit of each thing that brings me joy throughout the week.

If you find yourself feeling stretched too thin, look at the way you spend your free time and consider if you need to plan it differently so you’re guarding your own needs. Practicing mindfulness and setting boundaries are great ways to reduce anxiety levels. These simple self-care techniques can reset the brain and help you be more productive overall. Some deep breathing activities to consider are:

The 5 fingers exercise.

A body scanning exercise.

Grounding activities.

"Belly" breathing.

Lion's breath.

There are also many others that you can incorporate if you're looking for something that is a better fit. You can easily find a treasure trove of breathing exercises online.

Here are some questions to consider as you're developing a routine...

What about my current situation is stressful/unfulfilling?

What do I wish I could do more of?

Who do I wish I could see more often?

What is missing from my evening routine that I want to make sure I do for myself?

What am I doing that I want to eliminate from my routine?

After answering these questions, you might consider writing a journal entry, charting activities in a calendar or documenting your intentions in some other way that's easy to reference as your getting started. Eventually, you should be able to commit it to memory and the changes will just come naturally.

If you're feeling "off" at the end of the day and want to switch things up to feel more centered and less stressed, consider creating a new routine. Feeling better might just be as simple as changing your habits!


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