New Year’s resolutions to deal with anxiety

The beginning of the new year usually brings great ambitions.

It’s 2024: it’s time to exercise and eat bettersays An annoying voice, somewhere deep in your brain.. How about learning to knit?

It’s enough to make anyone feel anxious.

For those who already struggle with anxiety, these heightened expectations can be even more distressing. Especially since research suggests that many of us don’t complete our New Year’s resolutions.

That’s why we asked several psychologists for solutions specifically designed for people with anxious tendencies. And we break them down into small steps so you can achieve successes along the way.

But don’t feel pressured to follow these tips just because it’s January.

“It’s okay to take stock of your life at any time and say, ‘Hey, what can I do differently?’” said Regine Galanti, a psychologist and author in Cedarhurst, New York, who specializes in treating people with mental disorders. of anxiety. “It’s about changing our lives to look the way we want.”

Research suggests that directly confronting the things that cause us anxiety can help break a pattern of fear and avoidance.

You can do this with a therapist, a process doctors call exposure therapy – or you can do it on your own.

Start by asking yourself, “How is anxiety stopping me from having the life I want?” or “What would my life be like if I were calmer?” Dr. Galanti said.

For example, you might respond: “I would travel more often if I were less worried” or “I would talk more often if I were not so anxious.”

Then, instead of waiting until you feel more relaxed, map out the steps you can take now to reach your goal.

Dr. Galanti suggested breaking down your fear into several smaller components that are easier to deal with and creating an action plan to help you stay accountable and track your progress.

If you are afraid of speaking in public, for example, you can start by taking notes to toast. Then, practice it out loud. Then try saying it in front of two friends.

You can prepare to speak in front of a small group. “It’s like climbing a ladder,” Dr. Galanti said. “I can’t jump to the top.”

Some people may need to do each step several times before moving on to the next, he added.

Little by little, each new task will begin to become easier. If you get stuck, “try to avoid things that make your knuckles white,” Dr. Galanti said. Instead, break that step into smaller steps.

It may seem counterintuitive, but telling yourself to be less anxious is “a signal for your brain to focus more on anxiety,” Dr. Galanti said.

Having some anxiety is part of being human, so it is useless to try to banish that feeling completely. “It’s more like, ‘If I feel anxious, then what?’” she added.

So instead of focusing on your anxiety, think about the personal traits you value. Complete serenity is probably not enough.

“Does anyone really want their tombstone to say, ‘He was calm’?” said David Tolin, director of the Anxiety Disorders Center at the Institute of Living in Hartford, Connecticut.

How do you want to be remembered? As a loving spouse? A loyal friend? A hard worker? After you’ve identified the characteristics you value, she said, do something meaningful to embody them.

For example, if being generous is important, consider volunteering in your community, even if you’re eager to step out of your comfort zone.

Imagine a man arguing with his wife. He begins to worry that she no longer loves him and becomes convinced that she secretly wants a divorce.

Catastrophizing (being consumed by the fear that a situation carries more risks than it actually does) is associated with anxiety disorders.

Angela Neal-Barnett, a professor of psychological sciences at Kent State University, suggested thinking about what worried you last year. The worst case scenario likely did not occur. Maybe the amount of worry you put into a particular problem wasn’t worth it. Or maybe you surprised yourself by successfully overcoming a difficult situation. What was the most important thing you learned?

Write down your observations so you can refer to them if excessive worry or fear begins to resurface.

Another strategy is to approach a trusted, less anxious friend and ask them what they would do.

This doesn’t necessarily mean luxuries like massages or a personal trainer, experts said, but the basics: Are you getting enough sleep? Are you eating nutritious foods? Are you moving?

Dr. Neal-Barnett recommends filling in the blank: “When I’m anxious or fearful, my self-care routine is…” The list could include calming things like calling a friend, practicing deep breathing, or going for a walk and taking a drink. some fresh air.

“Anxious People have a hard time resting,” Dr. Neal-Barnett said, but it is “one of the best things you can do.”