How I Overcame "Starting Anxiety"
So, as a self-proclaimed anxiety veteran, I know all too well the way anxiety manifests itself around the idea of starting something. For those of you who suffer from anxiety, you know what I’m talking about. Your brain gets over-run by anxious, productivity killing thoughts at the idea of just “starting” something…Its annoying and frustrating and quite frankly holds you back from doing things you have to or want to do in a timely manner—it gets the better of you. Trust me I know. But what I also now know is that it’s actually manageable, and can even be put into “remission” with a conscious decision to take control of your thoughts so you can do more things you want to do!
My high school days housed the peak of my anxiety--not that high school is a particularly fond time for many people—still, having been diagnosed with GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) it was rough. But explaining it all is far too detailed and long for one post so i’ll stick with “starting anxiety.”
I have always had an active mind—my thoughts always propelled me to do new things or explore new interests/hobbies, but getting started was so freaking painful. I would have my mind set on a particular thing I’d want to do—lets say get “fit” finally after years of restrictive eating, but the idea of starting was just too damn overwhelming. Hell, if i wanted to make a scrapbook (cuz I’m crafty like that ;), i would end up spending weeks planning or considering doing it but never ACTUALLY doing it unless the stars aligned so well in my mind that I could start.
As soon as I’d start, I was unstoppable and my anxiety would diminish immediately. AHHH the frustration! Why hadn’t I done this 3 months ago—it’s not that hard?! And this cycle happened with seemingly everything in my life--with school work (as a perfectionist, I'd still manage to get everything done, but always at the very last minute), health goals, & personal goals.
Well, what I learned after a couple of years of this cycle + the help of my then therapist (yay for talking it out!!) is that I wasn’t lazy or avoiding work. I was fearing failure. Yep—I would fear starting something because my mind was fearing the possibility of failure. DING DING DING! Now most people tune out right here because they look at the simple tasks that give them anxiety and think, "there's no way I fear that I'll fail at...eating a healthy breakfast"--but HA! You do! What else would be stopping you from just trying out your new health goals on for size by committing to the seemingly simple task of preparing a healthy breakfast. Answer: because for whatever reason, past experience or feelings of being overwhelmed, you feel you'll fail so it's easier to not bother---or better yet, wait. Wait for a "better time"--we all know what that means (you'll never do it).
So, now, a few years after the peak of this problem, I have learned how to take control and avoid this most of the time. I of course, still have my days--as we all do, but based on where I am in my life right now as compared to where I wanted to be a few years ago--I'd say I had to overcome this to a certain extent to get here (success!). So, here's my best advice based on how I overcame starting anxiety.
1) Get real with yourself. If you are reading this, you probably know that you deal with some form of starting anxiety, so that's a good first step. But delve deeper. Ask yourself if you feel failure? Is fear of failure a theme in your life? Whether or not it is, reflecting on this will help get you in the mindset to change.
2) Visualize where you want to be. What is it that you want to start and why do you want to do so? Write it down--make it real. Do this with as many things in your life--big and small--as you want to make them feel more "real."
3) Picture yourself...visualize yourself doing the thing that you've been wanting to start. Think about all that it entails and really try to live it out in your mind. Doing this will take the "scariness" surrounding it away. Like a practice run, it will warm you up to the real thing. Is it that bad? Prob not.
4) Imagine the worst case scenario. And by this I mean the absolute worst possible outcome. Let's say you want to loose weight but the idea of changing your diet and activity just seems way way way too overwhelming. Picture yourself doing to eat more healthy food and going to the gym. Worst case scenario? You don't loose weight. Cool. Bummer. Are you still living? Yep. Ok...then it can't be that bad. If it can't be that bad, WHY NOT GO FOR IT! So what if it doesn't work out? You can always try again right?
5) Tell yourself how capable you are. When faced with something like...going to the gym for the first time ever or in a while, actively think about how freaking capable you are! Capable in that you've done so many things in your life, you made it this far--you? Go to the gym? Look, they can do it. Girl so can you. You are JUST as capable.
So, when I decided my junior year of high school that enough was enough, I would go through these steps relentlessly until I felt so damn capable that I could be considered a tad cocky if someone could read my mind. Of course the idea is no too be cocky--my point is that you need to build your confidence to overcome starting anxiety and a little self love and appraisal is part of the plan ;)
I'm not saying it's a quick fix or that I overcame this in 2 weeks--but I did. And gosh its freeing. And the great thing about tackling this problem is that when you overcome it, it spills into all areas of life. School, work, relationships--you'll be so on top of your game. It's worth it...