It’s the time of year when many of us are making plans and thinking about our goals for 2019. But when you’re struggling with Anxiety, thinking even a few minutes into the future, let alone months, can be very distressing.
However, during recovery I learnt the value of having manageable, short term goals; they give you focus, they give you hope and they help track your progress and build your confidence. I’ve shared five examples of goals suitable for Anxiety recovery below.
Reach out for help
If you aren’t already getting professional support this has to be the most important goal on the list. Telling someone you’re struggling can be so difficult but it’s absolutely vital. Recovery is very difficult without professional and personal support, and take comfort from the fact that healthcare professionals will have heard similar struggles many times and won’t judge.
If you’re in the UK, the NHS restrictions sometimes mean you really have to advocate for yourself but I promise it’s 100% worth it. If your GP doesn’t offer you the care you’d expect, request someone else. If the waiting list for therapy is long, force yourself to call and chase. It shouldn’t have to be this way but, sadly, it is sometimes the squeakiest wheel that gets the grease, so be squeaky!
When you do access therapy be honest with them. Again, they will have heard all this before and won’t be shocked. The first time I told my therapist about my disturbing intrusive thoughts I was terrified but she didn’t even raise an eyebrow, and better yet gave me great skills for coping with them.
I know it’s difficult sometimes but the sooner you reach out for help, the sooner your recovery really begins.
Face your fears
You’ve probably heard the expression “feel the fear and do it anyway.” Corny as it sounds it’s a really important part of Anxiety recovery. Our anxious thoughts are largely irrational and the reactions we have to the benign situations that fuel our irrational fears are simply a product of excess adrenaline. Our natural “fight or flight” responses have got out of balance and recovery is simply us training our brains to get the balance back to normal levels.
Every single time you avoid a place, task, thought or situation because you feel scared or anxious is reinforcing the false message to your brain that there is a real threat there. By contrast, every time we intentionally face that fear, no matter how it makes us feel, we’re diluting the anxiety and proving to our brains that there’s nothing to worry about.
I know they feel incredibly scary and uncomfortable but panic attacks cannot harm you so try to face your fears no matter how horrible it feels.
It’s often easier to do this in stages. For example, I found I felt most anxious when at home alone with my baby son, so I avoided it at all costs. This left me exhausted, dependant on others and with really low self-esteem. I slowly began exposing myself to those fears by building up the time I spent alone at my own pace. With every experience my confidence grew and my fear diminished slightly.
Begin a daily to do list
As I said, thinking too far ahead is often difficult for those of us suffering from Anxiety. But having a plan for each day is really important.
Early morning can often be the worst time of day for anxiety sufferers as the day stretches on long and frightening ahead of us and you wonder how you’ll get through it. By filling your time with simple, manageable tasks the day can feel a lot less intimidating.
For example, I would use mundane activities – such as household chores – and essential baby care – such as feeding – to break up my day. Each evening I’d write a very brief list of what I wanted to achieve the next day (feed baby four times, put washing on, cook easy dinner) so by time morning arrived I had a plan to get on with. I didn’t feel good doing these things, I still had constant intrusive thoughts and anxiety attacks that made simple tasks difficult, but I would force myself no matter how long the tasks took or how I felt doing them. It beat being frozen to the bed or chair worrying about doing them.
If we’re encouraging ourselves to do tasks that make us uncomfortable or invoke panic then we’re likely to be left exhausted afterwards. Unfortunately, exhaustion is a side effect of recovery because we’re challenging ourselves and working so hard on changing our thinking etc.
If we’re exhausted we need to refuel and the best way to do this is to carve out time for self-care every day. Self-care means something different to everyone but you can find lots of examples in the posts linked below. For me, it’s often something creative but repetitive such as colouring.
Read more: Self-Care Posts
This last goal may well be the most difficult of them all but also the most important.
As humans we’re often predisposed to see the negative in things. This was really useful to early man as he had to constantly fight for survival and be continually searching for food, shelter and safety. Unfortunately, modern life doesn’t require that much pessimism but it can be tricky to learn this.
Hope is an incredibly powerful emotion, and a big part of Anxiety recovery. Positivity is also a pretty quick fix – you can turn your mood and emotions around almost instantly with a change in thoughts and attitude. This skill takes time to learn and lots of practice but is so valuable, in life as well as recovery.
I hope these simple goals are helpful, especially to those feeling dread about the new year. Please feel free to share with anyone else you think would benefit and remember you can message me any time for a chat via my Facebook page or email firstname.lastname@example.org.