Alright, let's talk small steps!
If you've been following me for any amount of time you already know that I believe that there is so much power in the small steps.
When we're working to recover, we're often looking for the big things that will help us to get there. And not just the big things, but we're often seeking out the one thing that will do it. For example, once I find the medication that will help me... Or, once I find the tool that will work.
And although medication can be super helpful, and is for many people, it's not the long-term (and only) solution. And unfortunately there isn't one magical tool that's going to lead to the healing you're seeking. I know how easy it is to fall into this way of thinking because I fell into this trap so many times! I felt so desperate, and tired, and sick of struggling. I would think, There has to be something that I'm missing. There has to be something that will work that I haven't tried. And having this mindset is what kept me stuck for so long.
It's truly about consistently taking small (healthy) steps! The small steps are what helps you to change your response to anxiety and to your anxious thoughts, and in turn these things help you to change your relationship with anxiety. The small steps are what has the symptoms, panic, and fears showing up less and less. They are what leads to more courage, more confidence, and to a stronger belief and knowing that recovery is possible for you.
So let me share some of my favorite small steps with you! All of these small steps helped me to recover, and I still use all of these often!
- Define your why. Why are you working to recover? Knowing and reminding yourself of your why will keep you pushing yourself even when things get hard. Are you working to recover so that you can... Travel the world, experience more peace, become a better partner or parent, live out your dreams? Think about this and write down your why somewhere and remind yourself of it often!
- Carve out 10-15 minutes of your day to face something that you've been avoiding, or to do something that scares you. Yup, it's going to be hard and scary, but facing them is how you push past the things that are currently leading to anxiety, the symptoms, panic, and fears.
- Celebrate your wins. It’s so important for you to recognize all of the amazing work you're doing. It's so easy to get caught up in what's not going well and the hard stuff, but you have to choose to acknowledge what's going well. Ask yourself, What's something that has gone well this week? And take a moment to really acknowledge your wins and also to celebrate them. This will also help to remind you of your strengths and abilities for working through the hard moments.
- Take time to rest. Rest doesn't mean you're lazy, and it doesn't erase any of your progress, or lead to setbacks. Rest is a part of the recovery journey. Remember that constantly pushing yourself won't help you to heal faster. Set aside time to rest!
- Focus on what you have control of. Here are some examples of things that you have control of:
What you tell yourself (your self-talk).
How you respond to your thoughts and to challenges.
How you act on your feelings.
The actions you take.
When you ask for help.
- Give yourself kind messages often. I give my 3-year-old daughter at least 20 kind messages a day. And you know what, my needs (and yours) are no different than hers! I need to hear that I'm doing a good job and so do you! We deserve to hear kind messages! Give yourself a kind message each day, afterall, you’re doing a great job!
- Unfollow accounts on social media that make me feel bad. If certain accounts often lead to you feeling bad after viewing them, chances are it’s a really healthy move for you to hit the unfollow button! You are in control of what information you take in on, make sure you’re making healthy choices.
Speaking of social media…
- Disconnect from social media. There’s lots of helpful and entertaining stuff on social media, but too much of it just leads to overwhelm and even anxiety. Allow yourself to fully disconnect from social media at least once a week.
- Do one thing you enjoy every day. This is so important. Just because you’re working to recover doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be living your life. It can be something super simple. For me, it’s making sure that I get outside and take a walk in nature every day. Set aside even 10 minutes each day to do something that you enjoy.
- Say no (this includes to yourself)! We’ve all been there, just one more thing doesn’t seem like such a big deal in the moment, but just one more thing can lead to stress and overwhelm, and ultimately to anxiety. It’s okay to say no to others and even to yourself. Saying no isn’t selfish, it’s healthy!
- Make sleep a priority. This is huge! Your body and mind are working hard and you need to get good sleep. I found it super helpful to get on a sleep schedule. This means that I go to bed at the same time every night and I wake up at the same time every morning, weekends included.
- Allow yourself to acknowledge your anxious thoughts and feelings and give yourself space to feel them. Rather than trying to fight, suppress, or avoid your anxious thoughts and feelings, make space to acknowledge them and to feel your emotions. And acknowledge and feel them without judgement. It’s okay to feel anxious, or scared, or upset. Allow yourself to feel your emotions so that they can pass more quickly and with less tension.
- Practice mindfulness. Whether it’s a breathing exercise, meditation, or just pausing and paying attention, practicing mindfulness can help you to get more in the present moment and away from the anxious thoughts, symptoms, panic, and fears.
- Acknowledge when you’re using an unhealthy coping mechanism or making an unhealthy decision. This is a big one. How many times have you reached for an unhealthy coping mechanism or made an unhealthy decision that you know wouldn’t support your recovery? When you do, it’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up! Simply acknowledge when you make an unhelpful decision and see it as an opportunity to make a healthy one next time.
- Journal your thoughts. Writing down your thoughts and feelings can help to release them from holding space in your mind. I’m a big writer, and I’ve found that it’s a super healthy and helpful way for me to release the thoughts and emotions that I find myself unnecessarily cycling through and holding onto. Keeping a journal by your bed to write down your anxious thoughts can be especially helpful if you find that you’re often anxious before bed.
These small steps may seem insignificant and no-so-powerful, but it’s truly the small, healthy steps that lead to healing. The more you take consistent healthy action, the more progress you’ll make!
Keep taking healthy steps. You are absolutely capable!
And if you'd like my help in changing your relationship with anxiety so that it no longer leads to the symptoms, panic, and fears, check out my online course, Pushing Past Your Anxious Thoughts!