This is a Marathon, Not a Sprint
Episode #10 of the course Overcoming social anxiety by Eileen Purdy MSW, M.Ed.
Cut yourself some slack—this overcoming anxiety stuff takes a little time. And if you fall off the horse, this is how you get back on and continue moving toward your goal.
If you’re like most people, you were ready to be done with your anxiety yesterday! I can totally empathize. But for sustainable, long-lasting change, the fact of the matter is that it is going to be one day at a time. And even when you don’t see changes happening, with practice and effort you can be confident that if you could look “under the hood” you’d see that you are retraining your brain and recalibrating your body.
James Clear frames it well: “It’s so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making better decisions on a daily basis. Almost every habit that you have—good or bad—is the result of many small decisions over time. And yet, how easily we forget this when we want to make a change.”
So often we convince ourselves that change is only meaningful if there is some large, immediate, visible outcome associated with it. But in reality, improving by just a little each day will create the long-lasting anxiety changes you’ve been craving.
As you continue on your path toward overcoming your social anxiety, occasional setbacks in your progress are most likely going to happen. You might be improving and feeling good about how well you are doing and then one day you get totally anxious and cancel last-minute from a date with a friend, just like you used to. Or you might be up for a promotion at work and be excited at the new opportunity and pay raise only to find yourself unable to sleep at night and tempted to take your name out of the running. When these things happen, it is tempting to throw in the towel and think you will never get better.
I wish they didn’t have to happen. But if they do, here are five steps to get back on the horse, so to speak.
1. Welcome it. When you experience a setback, greet it. “Hello, I was expecting you.”
2. Think of this setback as a hurdle and not a brick wall. The way you reframe your experience will help you tremendously.
3. Take five deep, slow, rhythmic belly breaths.
4. Say this mantra to yourself: “Even though I am still experiencing some anxiety, I deeply and completely accept myself.”
5. Realize every moment is a new moment to start again. And get back on that horse.
Now, if you find that despite regular use of the strategies in this course you are still experiencing a great deal of social anxiety, a few things should be ruled out as possible contributors.
• Reactions to medications
• Drug or alcohol use
• Lack of sleep
• Food additives/allergies
• Daily nutrition
• Lack of or too little exercise
• Lack of or too irregular a routine
That may seem like a broad-ranging list, but often we overlook some everyday variables that can impact us in unsuspecting ways. If you’re wondering if any of the above factors may be contributing to your anxiety, try addressing them more specifically while continuing with the strategies provided in this course.
Congratulations, you’ve reached the end of the course. As you continue forward in transforming your social anxiety, remember to keep trying things in bite-size pieces, keep taking slow, deep breaths, and take one step at a time!
“Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things” by Jenny Lawson
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