Tip #132: Always look at how far you have come, not how far you have left to go. Just like a FitBit that measures your steps, find a way to track your anti-anxiety steps.
The Why: Overcoming anxiety can be the most frustrating experience you will ever go through.
It always seems like you’re doing a strange salsa dance; two steps forward, then cha-chaing three steps backwards.
When you’re in the midst of panic attacks, obsessive over-thinking about every past mistake or future calamity, and physical and emotional exhaustion and pain from the symptoms, it’s hard to acknowledge that you’re doing better, even if you certainly are.
This is why it is vitally important to make sure you always look at how far you’ve come, not how far you have left to go.
For a moment, imagine yourself on a long, winding road. It’s been a long journey so far, maybe it’s been months, years, decades. Your feet are covered in blisters, your legs wobble under the weight of your thoughts, and your thoughts seem to crumble and scatter before you’ve had a chance to form them. Ahead of you, you can see the top of the mountain. A glistening, shiny peak, juxtaposed amongst the grey clouds that surround your hunched form. It seems as far as it always did, like a trick of the light, always miles away no matter how long you’ve been travelling. Your eyes are fixed on this peak. Still so far you think, unsure if you have the energy to continue onwards.
At this moment, it’s easy to see how someone could feel demoralised. You’ve given all you can and still feel like you haven’t gotten anywhere. At this moment, it’s easy to see how someone would give up, and let the anxious thoughts take them.
Everyone has a moment like this. I know I have had many. But for now, let’s return to the mountain, and pose another scenario.
Just as you are about to sit down on the path and let the storm take you, for a moment you look backwards. You stop in shock. Through the mist you can see it, and my G-d it is beautiful. The path stretches outwards behind you, as long as the Great Wall of China, going back for miles and miles and miles, covered in rickety bridges, cavernous and jagged rocks and cliff edges. Is that really how far I’ve come? You think, and pause to reflect on all the obstacles this road has thrown at you, and all the things you’ve overcome. Your gaze flashes back to the mountain peak. Suddenly, it doesn’t seem so long now. Looking back at all you’ve been through to get to this point, you’re not giving up now. There’s no way, you’ve come to far. Taking all your strength you push yourself upwards with a heavy grunt, grinding your teeth with exertion, eyes set on that mountain peak. I’m going to make it you say firmly out loud, throwing down the gauntlet as a challenge to the mountain. The wind blows around you, throwing everything it has, but you don’t give up. I’m going to get there, and with resolve you didn’t know you had, you take another step towards your goal.
There are many ways of reaching your mountain peak, whether that’s setting goals and tracking them, setting yourself challenges or even making a day-by-day journal of how you deal with and manage your anxiety.
It’s important to find some way of tracking your progress in whatever way works best for you, so whenever you feel a moment of doubt or despair, you can look and see how far you have come.
Looking at everything you’ve had to deal with so far in life, and how you dealt with it, is crucial to give you the motivation to continue.
Seeing that you’ve stopped having panic attacks on the tube, or can be in a crowded space, or can talk to someone you don’t know that well, shows that you do have the capacity to change and get better, and that you’re doing pretty damn well all things considered.
If you can overcome one trigger, you can overcome them all.
If you feel able, post in the comments one thing that you’ve overcome on your anxiety journey, and let’s share some positive energy!