Since you are going to start the process of ERP from the next section, it is important that you understand a small crucial aspect. This merits a separate chapter because I did not want this important aspect to get lost in other chapters.
Exposure and response prevention is like setting time aside to study everyday so that whatever is asked in the test is doable. Mere response prevention as and when an obsession hits you is like trying to respond to the questions in a surprise test, without adequate preparation. To make this work, you will need to set time aside for your self-administered ERP sessions. You could start with an hour or even thirty minutes every day. But you need to decide on a fixed time that will be specifically reserved for ERP. That is a non-negotiable time, which you will not use for anything else but your ERP.
Doing your ERP session has to become a discipline like eating is. We eat three meals a day at specific times. Or we should. No matter what happens, we are taught to make time for these meals. Similarly, no matter what happens, make time for your ERP. Your day’s schedule has to expand to incorporate ERP. ERP should not be done when some time is left over from whatever your day asks of you. The rest of your day’s activities should be done in the time that is left after ERP is done. If there are activities that you have to forego, let them be anything, but your ERP. So, in sum, set time aside for ERP every day and stick to it.
There is no ideal recommended time but doing ERP for two hours every day will be better than doing it for thirty minutes a day. You can decide the duration that works for you. You can also decide on what time is good for you. Do you want to do it in the morning when you are fresh? Or do you want to do it in the evening when the day’s tasks are over?
There are different schools of thought on this though. Some people think doing your exposures in the morning is the right approach because you may be too tired at the end of the day and may have neither the willingness nor the energy to do your exposures. The argument against morning exposures is that you experience anxiety first thing in the morning and your OCD may threaten to ruin the rest of your day.
Intuitively, this may be the right thing to do for two reasons. One, you get the most difficult task of the day out of the way right in the morning and leave yourself with no excuses to not do the exposures. Two, the thought that the rest of your day will be ruined is Jay’s thought to stop you from doing your exposures when you are fresh and mindful. Under ideal circumstances, you should choose mornings to do your exposures.
The other school of thought is to do your exposures at the end of the day. You are already tired and stressed. Doing your exposures at that time may only raise your tiredness and stress by a few notches. It is like returning home from work and finishing a household task that may make you sweat further before going for a shower. Since you are already sweaty, doing that additional task may not be too much more to take on.
However, the flip side is that Jay may convince you that you are too tired to take up anything extra and ‘how about picking it up tomorrow?’ The temptation to not add more stress can be high and you may not do your exposures at all. Hence, you need to decide what works best for you without letting Jay make excuses for you. Whatever you decide, you need to incorporate ERP into your lifestyle and hence, make it a permanent fixture of your to-do list, at least until you recover. It is similar to deciding when you want to go to the gym. Some people prefer going in the morning, and some, in the evening. There is no right or wrong way, just your way. However, make sure that you are making time for your exposures and sticking to it.
Determine the time for doing your exposures now and set an alarm on your phone right away. If you keep it for later, you may never end up doing it. Do it now!