Set ‘Relief Dates’ to Quell your Anxiety: anxiety is a thief. It robs those who suffer with it of their time and attention. It steals their peace and joy and makes every day one to be feared rather than appreciated. Part of learning to overcome anxiety is learning to take your time back for yourself. It is making a conscious effort to set time aside for laughter, joy, happiness, learning, and all those things that provide positive nourishment for our psyche.

One way to think of these times is as ‘relief dates’. They are dates with the self intended to provide relief and release from the everyday and its stresses. Times like these are important for anyone, whether they have been clinically diagnosed with anxiety or not. But for the anxiety sufferer, time set apart is crucial.

Start by taking a moment to sit down and consider your schedule. How do you currently spend your time? What dates have you set for yourself? Any? Probably not. Most likely you’ll find that your time is allotted between a series of obligations and responsibilities, or perhaps avoiding obligations and responsibilities. The truth is that while we have to fulfill our obligations to work, family, etc., we must also fulfill our obligation to ourselves. That is to say, we must take time out to treat ourselves to something enjoyable, something positive, something constructive.

Now, find some space on your calendar. What dates or times are open just for you? Do you have a free Saturday afternoon? Maybe all you can find are a couple of Wednesday mornings? Whatever is available, reserve it for yourself. Circle it, ‘x’ it, or pencil in “me”. These are your dates with yourself. Try to find time at least once a week. If you can’t fit that much in, start with twice a month; the more regular these dates, the more relieving they will be.

Think about the things you like to do. What soothes you, excites you, or brings you joy? What have you been putting off or are too afraid to do? Maybe you wanted to learn to play a musical instrument, go to the library, or just sit in a coffee shop for a couple of hours and let go. Write in some of the possibilities for your time on these dates. You might put, “Go shopping”, “See a movie” or “Take a walk”. Anything that appeals to you and is practical during your free time is a good choice. This is time for you, so you can decide how to spend it. It is time for pampering, treating, and caring for yourself. Do what you enjoy.

Because the idea is to take care of you, it is best if you don’t share this time with others initially. Keep it for yourself. Down the line you may bring someone along on occasion, but right now you should consider just yourself. Involving another person means having to consider their opinions and make concessions for their needs and you are learning first how to consider your own. You may find that in time you want to share some of this time with someone you love, but it should be yours alone in the beginning. This ensures that you spend it doing something meaningful to you. For the time being, explain to family members and friends that you need this time to correct your anxiety and to nurture yourself. Let them know that in the future you may be able to devote some of it to them. If you don’t think they will understand, then it may better not to discuss it at all right away.

The final and most important instruction is to be reliable, keep your dates with yourself. Don’t let yourself down or stand yourself up. Really be there when you tell yourself you will. When one week or month rolls by, plan some more time for the following one. Continue to pursue your interests. Over time you will find that as your dates increase your anxiety will diminish. Your coping skills begin to improve as you spend more time nurturing your soul and less time feeding your anxiety. Whenever things get too stressful or tense, take this as a warning that you need some ‘me’ time. Schedule an ‘emergency date’ and go to the park or listen to a band, whatever relaxes you and can take your focus off the stresses of life. Keep in mind that every date you spend on yourself is one you took back from your anxiety. Make your time yours again.