Overcoming Anxiety: Tip #30
Tip #30 may very well be the most valuable tip I could offer. While individual strategies are certainly important when working to reduce and manage anxiety, they only become effective with practice.
Many individuals may look for anxiety-reducing techniques, engage briefly in quite a number of them, and feel disappointed when they don't work. Anxiety is a struggle that requires work. It takes time, patience, and commitment to engaging in helpful techniques - not just occasionally, but consistently.
As a helpful experiment, I encourage you to read through the previous 29 tips, and pick out one that feels easiest for you to do. However, try to pick one that you are not already doing consistently. For the next week, try and be mindful of this one strategy, utilizing it at least once throughout the day (the more the better)!
For example, if you choose to practice Tip #2: Gratitude, perhaps you can make it a goal to write down 5 things you feel grateful for each morning, and then reread that list before you go to sleep. Challenge yourself for a full week to come up with five new items for this list each morning, and watch it grow! If you need help remembering to follow through each morning, maybe write yourself a post-it that you can put next to your bed, or by your toothbrush. If you're even more ambitious, think about an extra item or two you notice throughout the day that makes you feel grateful, and keep track in a small notebook, or on your phone. While you may keep your list private, feel free to share it with those closest to you (read it to them out loud) for an even greater appreciation.
Another example: If you choose to practice Tip #11: Step Outside Your Comfort Zone, think about one thing you can do each day that is new, or different from your usual routine - something that elicits some anxiety, but not enough to prevent you from doing it. Perhaps take a different route to work, sit in a new seat in class, or try a new activity. Think about your anxiety level before and after, and whether any negative consequences or fears of yours came true. And don't forget to give yourself a pat on the back!
Practicing new skills helps them become easier. Over time, they can become second nature, and you may wind up engaging in them without even thinking about it.
Think about learning the piano, or when learning to type on a keyboard. Initially, you may have had to look at, and think about, each and every key before you pressed them. Over time, however, you probably began to play and type faster, often without even looking at the keys, or giving them much thought. It's like your fingers began knowing what to do automatically; but remember, the only way you got there was with practice - and not just when the piano teacher came over the house :-)
Even if a particular skill feels challenging, or feels strange, my advice is to give it a chance, be patient with yourself, and remind yourself that you are trying. Many skills involve having you take a step back when you're feeling anxious, upset, frustrated, sad... and to do some self reflection - to ask yourself, "Am I engaging in all-or-nothing thinking?" "Am I comparing myself to others?" "Am I not making time for fun?" These skills can certainly be challenging, and may often require post-it notes or an alarm on your cell phone to remind you to pause throughout the day to ask yourself the above questions.
Whichever skill you choose to practice, and whichever skills you find to be the most helpful, remember to pat yourself on the back for trying them, and for embarking on the journey towards feeling better. Keep at it, and if you continue to struggle, remember a therapist is always there to help.
DISCLAIMER: The blog posts shared on www.StacySmithCounseling.com contain the opinions of Stacy Smith, MS, LPC, and do not reflect the opinions of any organizations or affiliates. While Stacy is a licensed mental health professional, all blog posts on her site are for informational purposes only, and are never a substitute for professional advice catered to your individual needs. Stacy Smith is not liable for any diagnosis, treatment plans, or decisions made based on the information presented on this website. Furthermore, commenting on posts does not mean a treatment relationship has been established with Stacy Smith.