Anxiety and goal setting
December 6, 2009 2 Comments
This subject has been on my mind a lot recently. With my desire to set a personal manifesto, a life plan, in order, I have been wondering what my goals are, where my dreams went, what I should set as milestones of success along the path. I remembered a discussion about this in my favorite anxiety related book, one I’ve talked about a few times now, From Panic to Power by Lucinda Bassett. It begins on page 168, under the subtitle “Know Your Dreams.”
“For many people challenged by anxiety, achievement simply means being independent and panic-free, being able to control their racing thoughts. No matter how you define success and achievement, you must be clear about what it means to you and what your goals are…the ability to define your goals and desires will help to alleviate your anxiety…”
Lucinda follows this introduction up with several bullet points about goal setting.
*Begin to dream again.
*Give yourself a time line.
*Make a plan of action.
This really didn’t help me all that much. If I knew what my dreams and goals were, of course this would be a great road map to success; but not knowing what I really want out of life was just ending me up in the same mental circle again and again. I kept reading.
A few pages later, on page 183, she introduces us to an exercise to help us know and define goals. The first thing she says is, “Stop ‘shoulding’ on yourself.” It’s time to make a list of all the shoulds in our life, both the ones we say and the ones we think others are saying. For example:
I should be a better mother.
I should be a better writer.
I should be a better housekeeper.
I should be able to control my emotions better.
I should be able to do this without my antidepressants.
You get the idea.
From there, you are supposed to take those ‘should’ sentences and change the wording in them to make them into goals, with the thought process working something like this: “The challenging thing about being a better mother is that it means I need to take time away from other areas in my life to devote more time to my children. I can do this by eliminating A,B and C, and while this will be challenging because it is hard for me to say no or make changes, I know I can do it with the goal of being a better parent in view.”
Now, keep this information in mind and follow my jumping train of thought here. Bear with me, it’ll all come together in a second.
It’s time to introduce another one of my favorite sites. Tip Junkie has great information, wonderful links, and lots of inspiring ideas. A reoccurring feature on the site is the Personal Assistant tips.
December’s PA entry is all about planning and organizing our schedules. At first, I thought, this is something I won’t even attempt, so why bother reading it. But then, I scrolled down the page and came across this paragraph: Let’s start the month off right and make a list of the things that are causing you added stress. Make a list of the big ones as well as the little ones. Is something in the house that’s broken, is there an insurance issue you need to take care of, do you need an extra trash can upstairs to help keep things tidy?
Once you’ve thought it out and made your list, next plan a day this week as your “ongoing problem day” and finally resolve those issues that need to be resolved. You’ll be glad that you did!
Even as I read that, I had at least three stressful things that belonged on this list dancing through my head. I thought about getting a piece of paper and writing them down, but at the time it seemed like too much of a chore. As I went about my day, however, I kept coming back to the subject of stressors and then goal setting seemed to settle in on top of it, and a light bulb went off!
If I write down the things that bother me in my day to day life, a pattern should become obvious fairly quickly, and then I will have a ready made list of goals!
Things that are stressing me that I can change:
My garage is a disaster.
My room is too full of clutter.
I need to clean out my closets and drawers.
We need a better home school routine.
This list could easily turn into…
Goals for the month of December:
Clean out and organize garage.
Edit book shelves in my room.
Clean out one dresser drawer daily.
Set aside two hours each day to do math, reading and one other subject in school, forty-five minutes in two subjects, half an hour in another.
And then (just stay with me, it’s almost over, I promise) this list could evolve into a master list of goals to help me stay on top of things.
Four hours of schooling each day
Two loads of laundry a day to keep bedrooms clean
Sort through closets every summer
You get the gist. It’s really just a matter of breaking down impossibly huge tasks into managable bits, but for me, the important thing is that setting these goals and working towards them should help with my anxiety, and it can with yours too. The trick is to not get too caught up in the minor details and just think about the things that really bug us. We can always change our lists, but until we start paying attention to the things that bother us and figure out how to be comfortable in our daily lives, our anxiety will always be a threat in the background of our existence. We don’t have to be afraid it will jump out and scare us silly every time we turn a corner; we can be proactive and look for the triggers to stop them ahead of time.