As I think about my many years of struggle with anxiety, worry, and fear, I've come to realize that all that getting tangled up in the struggle distracted me from focusing on what I love and enjoy. It kept me from even thinking about it because I was so exhausted constantly dealing with anxious images, feelings, and thoughts.
Now I recognize that struggling with these guys is pretty useless for two reasons:
It is draining to get into this battle, a fight where there is no winner because I am fighting against myself, and
Procrastination, worry, fear, anxiety, and even people pleasing have actually been helpful at times –
Procrastination had helped me when I wanted to act impulsively; say or do something I would later regret, or get into some venture that would never work.
Worry has motivated me to contact someone because of a misunderstanding, or because they seemed down.
Fear has helped me to avoid a dangerous situation.
Anxiety has motivated me to action because of an upcoming deadline.
Even People Pleasing has helped me to find common ground and mutual benefit and to engage more people of diverse opinions to work together for a common goal.
But I still have to focus and refocus on my goal, on what I love, and then move my hands and feet toward that with my full attention. Here are a few strategies:
Excuses – I’ve taken the time to identify what my usual excuses are and use them as cues to get started. Here are a few of my favorites:
“I’ll do this later when I have more time.”
“It’s not that important.”
“This is too complicated for me to tackle right now.”
“I’ll probably fail, why bother?”
“It will take too much energy. I need a nap.”
Predecision – I am taking more time to write out my ideal scene; to think about and visualize what I love and then name the small steps it will take to get there. It helps to make the goal, project, or task less daunting.
Preplanning – I am taking more time to identify the time, day, and place where I will take action; get started.
In this way, I occupy my mind and thoughts with what I want to do and the specific small steps it will take to get there. Focusing on the details of what I want to do gives me energy and is so much better than getting into a tug of war with my worries and anxious thoughts. I drop the rope and free my hands and feet and mind to do what I love; live the life I want to live. Taking time in the Predecision phase to think about and write down my goals and sub-goals is something I still want to put off. I am more of an action-oriented, doer. The problem is that when I jump into something, I find myself quickly overwhelmed with the details of the project, feeling lost and frustrated, because I didn’t stop first to think through all the steps. That is why preplanning is so useful.
Just “jumping in” has become another cue for me to step back a moment and take the time to think through what this project will look like when I finish before getting started. In fact, I tell myself that taking this moment to name my goal and write a sentence that clearly identifies what the finished product will look like IS getting started.
Now I can notice my worries, anxieties, and fears without becoming distracted or derailed by them because I can quickly shift my thoughts to something I love.
The authors of The Mindfulness and Acceptance Therapy Workbook for Anxiety give this advice:
“It may be possible to have anxiety and not be drowned by it if and when you decide to willingly experience anxiety just as it is and give up your struggle with it. . . Focus on what you can control to keep moving forward in directions you care about.”
Take small steps.
Start over and over again.
Focus and refocus your attention and intention on your goals and dreams; on what you love.
The Mindfulness and Acceptance Therapy Workbook for Anxiety; John Forsyth Ph.D., George Eifert Ph.D.;
Getting Things Done, David Allen.