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Structure & Anxiety

alec vanderboom

Structure Your Life without Anxiety

“We have found that the lives of many anxious people lack structure. Thinking of your life as having a “structure” may be unfamiliar. . . The uses we make of our time is what we call the “structure” of our lives; it is how we organize our lives. ..

The structure of your life refers to the routine, everyday activities of your life, or how you normally spend your time. As we will explain, a chaotic pattern both is caused by anxiety symptoms and contributes to worsening of anxiety. This chicken-and-egg balance of panic and structured living is important to understand, since often people who have lost a functional structure in their lives believe it is impossible for them to have structure again.

Structured living is often lost when anxiety hits because your feelings of panic are so overwhelming. They demand attention when they surface, and take precedence over any other plans that had been made. This giving in to a feeling-driven scheduling means that it is very hard to stick to any plans. Almost all people who suffer from panicky feelings recognize the dominant role of panic in making daily plans. For some people, this takes an extreme form and leads to avoidance of almost all activities. For others, it means that they are never sure if they will be able to execute a plan when the time comes. Once the anxious feelings become the focus of how you react to life, it is hard to live by any routine without being swayed by how you feel from moment to moment. When this happens the dragon is running your life, not you.

This feeling-based reaction to life is terribly harmful. It leads to instability and to being able to count on nothing, not your feelings, not your actions, not your schedule. Everything in your life is chaotic. All people, but especially people with anxiety problems, need structure to their living. The chaos that is caused by impulsive, feeling-driven planning undermines all structure and exacerbates the feeling of being out of control that characterizes anxiety disorders. We have found that the more choices you are able to exercise over how to spend you time-for example, if you are retired, work in your home, or are a homemaker-the more difficult it is to impose structure on your life. Employment and other obligations that are structured by external forces help keep you form focusing too much attention on your feelings.

(The Anxiety Cure, pge 147-148)