A Simple Action Plan to Beat Anxiety
The kind of anxiety I have is hard to explain, although I’m sure many people feel that way about themselves when they are dealing with mental health issues.
When I’m feeling really anxious, I feel like I’m the only person in the world experiencing what I’m experiencing.
But the reality is that anxiety is incredibly common.
Still, as a person who lives with anxiety, I’ve had to learn to get out of my mind and take action.
Because it is action that cuts through anxiety.
How I Feel When I’m Anxious
There are days when I don’t want to do anything.
I don’t even feel like getting started.
For whatever reason, I sometimes wake up and suddenly feel the weight of the world covering me. There’s no exact reason I can pinpoint for the feeling. Rather, it’s a whole-body kind of feeling. It’s as if gravity is pulling me down with more force than it normally does. And getting stuck in one place, instead of moving around and living my life, is precisely when the anxiety creeps in.
Anxiety, for me, is at its worst when I’m still. But not only that. It’s when I’m still and don’t have a plan for how I want to spend my day. Without a plan, I’m like a ship stuck out at sea with no way to navigate the choppy waters.
And so I roam in place. I meander in a tight circle, flipping from one activity to the next but unable to settle on any one in particular. It’s maddening.
It’s knowing there is plenty of good I could do in the world — but being unable to focus my energy on any one task. Anxiety loves this because it can capitalize on the feeling of uncertainty.
Uncertainty is anxiety’s playground.
But action cuts through anxiety. This I’ve learned. And the first action I take when I’m feeling this way is to put together as simple a plan as I possibly can.
How I Feel When I Have a Simple Plan
With a simple plan, suddenly the world opens up.
I realize that I can corral my thoughts into a finite direction. I don’t need to be led by my thoughts like a dog on a leash. Instead, I can be the one who guides my errant thinking processes.
There’s an important distinction I need to make about planning.
A simple plan is not a 30-minutes worry session about the exact process I need to make my life perfect. That’s the anxiety talking and taking control of my life.
A simple plan is a clear road map for what I can do for the rest of the day or in the next few hours. And it looks like this.
I take out a piece of paper, and I write down my top 3 most important tasks for the day. I try to be as detailed as possible about what those tasks are because I know this: if I just splatter my worried thoughts onto the page without giving them specificity, I will soon become overwhelmed by what’s on the piece of paper. Clarity gives me a path that I can follow.
After I’ve clearly defined those tasks and what I need to do to complete those tasks, I then write down — or put in my Gmail calendar — when I will do those tasks. I’ve found that if I can also think through where I will do those tasks, then I increase the likelihood that I will get them done.
So much of getting through anxiety and actually building momentum in life comes from doing a little planning beforehand.
I set myself up for success by planning for success. And it feels great.
Before I know it, I’m moving. I’m going about my day and taking action. And when I take action, I don’t have the mental space to worry about other things. Because I’m actually doing the things I know I want to do.
This is very different from worrying about everything I could do or should do or feel pressured to do.
It’s a clear path forward out of the woods of my mind — and into the open fields away from the anxiety I’ve left behind.