Learning to take little steps is a huge step towards recovery from social anxiety disorder. Yep, it's true! Weird as that may sound. It is logical though, although it may seem as though you are simply enabling the anxiety for a long time. But think about it, if you constantly put yourself in the most anxiety provoking situation you can, and then panic, you are only building up a great evidence base that that situation Will ALWAYS make you panic. It took me ages to learn this, and I used to always beat myself up because I hadn't managed a situation as well as I 'should' have.
I hated the fact that I couldn't eat out. Couldn't go to parties. Couldn't sing in public. Because as far as I was concerned, I SHOULD be doing all those things, without ANY anxiety whatsoever!
This is simply not the case.
It works like this.
The more you force yourself into situations which you aren't ready to manage, the more evidence you have that you CAN'T manage them.
The littler steps you take, the less likely you are to panic.
The more little steps you succeed in taking without panicking, the bigger backlog of evidence you have to prove that you CAN manage your anxiety.
Once you have this evidence that you can manage your anxiety in little steps, then you can slowly move on to a bigger little step.
Keep doing this, until you finally reach a point where you are happy.
Sure, this can take years! But the moral of this blog is - Slow and Steady Wins the Race!
Don't let anyone push you into a situation you aren't ready to deal with!
Follow more of my own journey with little steps (which are becoming bigger) at www.jessicaclairemusic.com or @jessicaclaire85
Opposite Action is a term I see thrown around a lot lately and one that I find very interesting. I have been applying aspects of this for some time without even realizing that is what I was doing. I want to discuss opposite action here because it some great applications to anxiety and panic attacks.
What is "Opposite Action"?
It's really a very simple concept. When you begin to feel anxious, your first instinctual reaction is usually something very counter-productive. Your primal fight-or-flight response kicks in and your actions will often fuel the panic further. By consciously taking the opposite route you have a much better chance at reducing that anxious response before it blows up into a full blown panic attack.
My number one panic trigger is interstate driving. I tend to get very anxious when driving on highways (although I absolutely love to travel. Ironic, huh?). When I start to get anxious while driving my first instincts are to turn down the radio, slow down and move into the slow lane, and get really fidgety. I start pulling on my seat-belt because the source of many of the physical symptoms of anxiety are in my chest and I feel constrained by the seat-belt. I will reach for the shifting handle even though my car has an automatic transmission. I drove a stick-shift for many years and I suppose that control gave me some comfort.
My mind now associates all of these actions with previous panic attacks. When I start to go through these actions, it is just like going through my classic panic-attack checklist. I am taking the cues one by one. Once that last check mark is put down, panic goes to work. There really is no stopping it at that point. The flood gates break down and that wave of panic comes crushing down.
By identifying these impulses and realizing that they come from the irrational part of my brain that controls panic I take first step to stopping that panic before it starts. I've learned to replace these impulses with consciously thought-out actions from a more rational part of my brain. On a recent road trip, I put this into action. Instead of turning the radio down, I turn it up and allow myself to focus more on the music, maybe change the track to something more positive. I resist the urge to fidget and become restless, instead becoming mindful of my body and allowing my muscles to relax. Instead of grabbing for the shifter or pulling on my seat-belt, I put my hands squarely on the steering wheel and keep them there. By doing this I have been able to stop the panic from progressing. I continued along on my drive with no further anxiety.
Key steps to mastering "Opposite Action"-
1. Acknowledge what you are feeling.
2. Identify what actions or reactions go with that feeling.
3. Ask yourself "do I want to stop or reduce this feeling?"
4. Figure out what the opposite action is.
5. Do that opposite action ALL THE WAY!
I would recommend going through this analysis while in a calm state of mind so that you will be prepared with the appropriate opposite actions in advance of the onset of anxiety. You aren't very likely to be thinking rationally when you are anxious.
Opposite action can be applied to many things, not just anxiety. Often we put ourselves into positions where we become our own worst enemy. It may be possible to use this technique on a wide range of feelings or emotions that you want to rid yourself of but may be feeding without even realizing it.Try this approach sometime and see if it works for you! Best ofluck!
I've known you for a really long time now and I have to tell you that I really hate the way you make me feel. I definitely respect the power that you hold but I'm here to tell you that I can't see you as much as I have in the past. It's really time for both of us to move on. Don't be sad, I'm sure that you'll still come and visit but it really has to be on a more limited basis from now on. You see, I've met someone named Happiness and I really like them and how they make me feel. I lose touch with Happiness here and there but I'm going to keep looking for them which means I have to spend less time with you. I've wanted to say this for a long time but finally had the courage to actually say something. Well, take care of yourself and I'm sure you'll be fine because there's more out there for you to see.
Best of luck and remember: Don't call me, I'll call you,
Ok so this is just a small example of what we can do but I honestly think it helps. If I have to write a thousand letters before I feel better, I will do that and I think you would too. It doesn't have to just be a letter to your issue. Write a letter to your family who may not understand the issues you are going through. You don't have to send it to them. Just the fact that you WROTE your feelings down can have a powerful impact. It's something that all of us can control so why not do it? I'll probably have to write this same letter tomorrow and I'll even have days when I don't want to write at all but just know that it is something that we can try to help make things better. Isn't that what we all want?