Tip #109: Make a plan.
The why: So, now you’ve completed the steps in the previous post, you have your goals. You feel better for knowing what you want to achieve. You have direction in this journey to overcome anxiety.
But how do you reach them?
The next part of the exercise is to make a plan of how exactly you’re going to get to them.
This may seem like quite a daunting task, so as a tip, ask yourself this question: “What needs to be true for x to be true?”
For instance, if one of your goals was: “My goal is to be able to go to a party and not have to leave because of a panic attack.”
What needs to be true for the goal to be true?
Well, you need to be able to talk to people in social situations without having a bad panic attack, you need to be able to walk into a social situation full of unknown people without having a panic attack, you need to feel comfortable and confident enough in social situations to know you’ll be okay, you need to be able to be in a crowded place without having a panic attack.
Okay, so now that you have your list of things that need to be true, you can start converting them into actionable steps.
So, to be able to talk to people in social situations without having a bad panic attack, you need to challenge yourself to do this on a smaller scale. For instance, if a group of your friends is meeting up for dinner, a drink, a movie and you would usually say no, say yes. To make it seem more manageable, you can even set a time limit on it.
Say to yourself:
Step 1 – Go out for a drink with my friends and stay for one hour.
Let’s take the next one about walking into a social situation full of unknown people. Again, you can take it down to a smaller scale. If there is someone at work or at school or wherever that you haven’t spoken to, challenge yourself to have a conversation with them, even if it’s just small talk.
Step 2 – Speak to someone I don’t know.
Let’s take the last one about being okay in crowded, loud places. Unfortunately, there may not be a smaller scale. This one may be the toughest, as it requires you to throw yourself into the deep end. What I did, which is hindsight may have been perhaps a little too much (but it worked), was I went to a crowded place and set myself a time limit. I said that I had to stay on Oxford Street for a minimum of half an hour, no matter how much I felt I was going to die, no matter how horrible it was, I was going to stay there, walk around, and let the anxiety wash over me. My very good friend was kind enough to stay with me during this odd exercise, which kept me slightly grounded.
Was it horrible? Yes. Was it hard? Yes. Did I feel like I was going to die for the entire time? Yes. Was it worth it? Absolutely.
Exposing myself in such a way made me realise that anxiety can’t kill me, that no matter how badly it bangs and throws a tantrum inside my mind, it’s going to be absolutely fine.
This meant the next time I was in that situation, even though I felt anxious, I knew that it was going to be okay. I knew that it wouldn’t and couldn’t kill me, and this meant that even if for the first 15 minutes I was having a panic attack, I could ride it out and be okay for the rest of the time I was there.
Step 3 – Expose myself to a crowded place.
So, this method helps you create an actionable plan in how to fulfil your anxiety goals.
Pulling it all together:
- Ask yourself what needs to be true for your goal to come true.
- Convert them into actionable steps.
- Do them.
It’s also super satisfying ticking them off!
Of course, it is possible that even after completing the steps, you may experience anxiety when walking into a house party, but when this happens, think back to all the time you completed the steps and it went well and was okay. Visualise those moments where you showed yourself you could do it.
Stick with it, and one day your anxiety will leave the party way, way, way before you do.