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Conquer Anxiety, One Small Step at a Time

A solution-focused approach to overcoming fear, worry, and stress.

Key points

  • Identify triggers: What happens right before anxiety hits?
  • Examine your underlying beliefs and assumptions about your situation.
  • Experiment with deep breathing exercises, visualization techniques, and other tools such as journaling.
  • Gradually expose yourself to anxiety-provoking situations.

"It’s like I’m trapped in this endless battle going on inside my head… Constant worries and fears and ‘What ifs?’ and I can’t escape… It's like that movie 'The Matrix'—no way out. I gotta find a way out! There must be a way out… "

Fortunately, you found your way to this way of escape. We’ll lead the way with simple, easy-to-manage techniques from solution-focused therapy and self-affirmation Thought Shifter Declarations. Repeat the "declarations" below out-loud several times a day as you put them into action. Or even better, you can record them on your phone and listen and relisten to speed up progress.

We'll show you here 5 proven steps you can take right away to overcome anxiety and stress when it starts to come on like a flood. This will empower you with renewed inner strength and confidence. So, let’s get started:

Step 1: Identify triggers and patterns.

Anxiety is rooted in thoughts that are triggered by situations, events, or experiences that set off painful feelings. By pinpointing these triggering events, you’ll be able to figure out smart solutions to disarm those triggers.

  • Thought Shifter Declaration: "Let’s see… what was happening right before the anxiety hit?... What was I looking at? Who was I talking to?... Ah! That’s it!

Step 2: Examine underlying beliefs, attitudes, and assumptions.

Dig deep to uncover the underlying beliefs and assumptions that secretly fuel your anxieties. Objectively challenge the negative, critical, or irrational thoughts that can contribute to your distress. Replace them with healthy and empowering thoughts that counteract the anxiety triggers, enabling you to regain control over your thought life and emotions.

  • Thought Shifter Declaration: "Right now I choose to challenge any sick, negative or critical beliefs and attitudes, to give me empowering thoughts that fuel my resilience to regain my peace of mind… Ok, I’ll write them down now…”

Step 3: Assemble an arsenal and a toolbox.

Craft and assemble a collection of weapons and tools to fight anxiety. Put together techniques and strategies and tactics tailored to your unique and personal needs. Experiment with things like deep breathing exercises, visualization techniques, journaling, self-help books and blogs, and the tips and tricks we give you here. Discover what works best for you.

  • Thought Shifter Declaration: "I am committed to building my victory-over-stress arsenal and toolbox, equipping myself with effective strategies to overcome stress and anxiety… I’ll start a file or voice memo in my phone to keep them quickly available.”

Step 4: Design a small-step blueprint to fight anxiety.

Crafting small steps is a crucial aspect of overcoming anxiety. These techniques will guide you in planning, designing, and visualizing what these “baby steps” steps look like:

  • Break it down: Identify the major goal you want to achieve and break that down into smaller, manageable steps. Focus on one simple step at a time, being sure they are specific, achievable, and aligned with your overall objective.
  • Set realistic timelines: Assign realistic timelines to each little step. This helps you maintain a sense of momentum and accomplishment while avoiding overwhelming yourself with unrealistic expectations. As they say, “Easy does it!”
  • Prioritize and sequence: Determine the best order in which you will tackle the small steps. Consider how one makes the next easier, or harder, and any logical sequencing that will speed up your progress. Make it a chain reaction of power.
  • Visualize success: Create a vivid mental image of successfully completing each little step. Visualize the positive emotions, sense of accomplishment, and the impact it will have on your overall well-being. This quickly strengthens your motivation and propels you forward to expect even more victory over stress.
  • Celebrate milestones: Acknowledge and celebrate every achievement along the way. Each completed small step—even tiptoes—is a significant milestone that brings you closer to kissing anxiety goodbye. Reward your progress, express self-appreciation … give yourself a treat or a party.
  • Adjust and adapt: Remain flexible and open to adjusting and modifying your small steps as needed. Circumstances change. Be willing to creatively adapt while staying committed to your goals. Remember this: “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be broken.”
  • Thought Shifter Declaration: "I get free from anxiety one baby step at a time… Ok, let’s break this down to set off that chain reaction of power and peace… So, step 1 is . . . "

Step 5: Gradual exposure with confidence.

Deliberately choose—even if scary—to gradually expose yourself to common anxiety-provoking situations, allowing yourself to acclimate and embrace the feelings to build up new resilience over time. Start with only easy, little steps, progressively challenging yourself while providing a safe and supportive environment.

By confronting anxiety head-on like this, you weaken its grip on you and develop newfound confidence in your ability to manage the stuff that used to overwhelm you. You probably don’t like this advice, but hey, what do ya got to … gain?

  • Thought Shifter Declaration: "Yeah, this is scary, but challenges make me stronger… I can do this! Ok, I’ll do it anyway… Here’s goes!”

Crafting small steps empowers you to make consistent progress on your journey toward overcoming anxiety. By breaking down your goals, setting realistic timelines, and visualizing success, you create a roadmap for transformation. Celebrate milestones along the way and be adaptable as you navigate through life's changes. Build your confidence as you move toward what used to upset you and build courage and confidence in the process.

How does that old expression go? … “The journey of a thousand steps begins with that one single step.” And that “step” is what? Very small. Enjoy the journey, and especially the healthy destination.

If you found this blog post "I can do this!" practical, you might like our "Anxiety Attacks No More" also on Psychology Today. Check it out.

More from Charles H. Browning Ph.D.
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