The start of the new year often brings big ambitions.
It’s 2024: time to exercise and eat bettersaid a nagging voice, somewhere deep in your brain. What if we learned to knit?
It’s enough to make anyone anxious.
For those who already suffer from anxiety, these increased expectations can be even more distressing. Especially because research suggests that many of us don’t follow through on our New Year’s resolutions.
So we asked several psychologists for resolutions specifically tailored to people with anxious tendencies. And we’ve broken them down into small steps so you can note your successes along the way.
But don’t feel like you have to follow these tips just because it’s January.
“It’s okay to take stock of your life at any time and say, ‘Hey, what can I do differently?’ ” said Regine Galanti, a psychologist and author in Cedarhurst, New York, who specializes in treating people with anxiety disorders. “It’s about changing our lives to look the way we want.”
1. Decide to face one of your fears.
Research suggests that directly confronting the things that make us anxious can help break a pattern of fear and avoidance.
You can do this with a therapist – a process clinicians call exposure therapy – or you can do it yourself.
Start by asking yourself, “How is feeling anxious preventing me from living the life I want?” or “What would my life be like if I were calmer?” » said Dr. Galanti.
For example, you might answer, “I would travel more often if I were less worried” or “I would talk more often if I weren’t so anxious.”
Then, instead of waiting until you feel more relaxed, map out steps you can take right now to reach your goal.
Dr. Galanti suggested breaking your fear into smaller pieces that are easier to tackle and creating an action plan to help you stay accountable and track your progress.
If you’re afraid of public speaking, for example, you can start by taking notes for a toast. Next, practice out loud. Then try saying it in front of two friends.
You can work up to speaking in front of a small group. “It’s like climbing a ladder,” Dr. Galanti said. “I can’t jump to the top.”
Some people may need to do each step multiple times, she added.
Little by little, each new task will start to seem easier. If you’re stuck, “try to avoid things that bother you,” Dr. Galanti said. Instead, break this step into smaller steps.
2. Decide to focus on your values rather than your anxiety.
It may seem counterintuitive, but telling yourself to be less anxious is “a signal to your brain to focus more on the anxiety,” Dr. Galanti said.
Feeling some anxiety is a part of being human – so there’s no point trying to banish the feeling completely. “It’s more like, ‘If I’m feeling anxious, then what?'” she added.
So rather than focusing on your anxiety, think about the personal traits you value. Total serenity probably won’t do the trick.
“Does anyone really want their tombstone to say, ‘He was calm’?” said David Tolin, director of the Anxiety Disorders Center at the Institute of Living in Hartford, Connecticut.
How do you want to be remembered? As a caring spouse? A loyal friend? A hard worker ? After identifying the characteristics you value, he says, do something meaningful to embody them.
For example, if it’s important to be generous, consider volunteering in your community, even if you’re eager to get out of your comfort zone.
3. Decide to seek a different perspective.
Imagine a man arguing with his wife. He begins to worry that she no longer loves him and becomes convinced that she secretly wants a divorce.
Catastrophizing – the fear that a situation is more risky than it actually is – is associated with anxiety disorders.
Angela Neal-Barnett, a professor of psychological sciences at Kent State University, suggested thinking about what worried you last year. It is likely that the worst case scenario did not occur. Maybe the amount of worry you devoted to a particular problem wasn’t worth it. Or maybe you surprised yourself by successfully overcoming a difficult situation. What is the most important thing you have learned?
Write down your observations so you can refer to them if excessive worry or fear begins to resurface.
Another strategy is to approach a trusted, less anxious friend and ask them what they would do.
4. Decide to take care of yourself.
That doesn’t necessarily mean luxuries like massages or a personal trainer, experts say, but the bottom line: Are you getting enough sleep? Are you eating nutritious foods? Are you moving?
Dr. Neal-Barnett recommends filling in the blank: “When I’m anxious or fearful, my self-care routine is…” The list can include relaxing things like calling a friend, practicing deep breathing, or taking a walk outside and getting some water. ‘air.
“Anxious people have a really hard time getting rest,” Dr. Neal-Barnett said, but it’s “one of the best things you can do.”