Overcoming Anxiety Isn’t an Intuitive or Creative Process. So What Do I Do?

anxiety needs a plan.jpg

A Plan

Overcoming anxiety isn’t an intuitive or creative process. And it doesn’t come from digging deep or having an “aha!” moment that explains everything.

Overcoming anxiety like most things in life we want to change, takes deliberate, consistent practice of targeted strategies, repeated over time.

Not so glamorous I know. It would be so much more exciting if you, after spending months visiting a comfy overstuffed chair in my office working to uncover various childhood ups and downs, remembered that one incident that totally explained everything about your anxiety. And then, knowing that, your anxiety would plead, “Uncle!” and then disappear. It wold be like winning the recall lottery! The promise of that alone would be a compelling endeavor.

Unfortunately, that isn’t how things work. I wish I could spice up what is actually needed to help you overcome your anxiety, and I’ll try. But before we get to the targeted strategies and consistent practices we really need to check two things.

First, let’s check in with your thinking around having anxiety in general. Pause and try to identify what your thoughts are about having anxiety. What does having anxiety mean about you?

The second part is to take a moment and really become aware of your thoughts about how you get rid of anxiety. What do you think needs to happen in order for you not to have your anxiety any more? Is it even possible?

Your answers to these two questions will literally make or break your anxiety.

Your Belief System

Are they positive or negative? Set in stone or changing? Permanent or temporary? For example, do you think you are a flawed, weak human being because you have anxiety? Do you think anxiety is impossible to get rid of without some really good medication?

Here’s an example using a different struggle. Say I’m fat and think it is because I am weak, ugly and lack willpower. Let’s say I also think I’m always going to be fat because it runs in my family and on top of that, I’m big boned and have a stressful job. Can you see how I am going to have an uphill battle with losing weight with those two belief systems in place? I can tell you for sure that losing weight (with these beliefs) isn’t going to happen.

Anxiety is the same way. Your belief systems are critical in overcoming your anxiety. You’ll need to establish accurate and growth-focused foundational thoughts and beliefs about the fact that you have anxiety and that it is possible to overcome it before you will be able to make any headway in stopping your anxiety.

Tomorrow we’ll break down how to establish accurate and growth-focused foundational thoughts and beliefs. For today, just keep noticing your thoughts and beliefs about why you have anxiety and if you think it is possible to make go away.

3 Habits to Help You Find Confidence Out Of Nowhere

more confidence


Becoming more confident isn’t a creative, intuitive or mysterious process. And it’s not something that is only available to certain people and not to others. Confidence, if you want it, is a skill that is yours for the taking. You provide the curiosity and determination and these 3 habits will provide the blueprint.

Scientists are still trying to determine if there are specific biological markers for confidence. As of now, although there is some evidence that confidence may come easier to some than others, the overriding evidence appears that it is available to everyone for the taking.

The reason? The development of confidence is largely a learned quality reinforced and perpetuated by habits. And we can all practice good habits.

Confidence, like many other qualities we admire in people, is the result of thousands of small subconscious thoughts, beliefs, decisions and behaviors made over the course of years. They become such a habit most confident people don’t even realize they are doing them.

If you lack confidence, then, it isn’t because you didn’t get the “confidence gene” or are broken in some way. Although sometimes it can feel that way. It’s that you haven’t been practicing the right habits.

Take note that confidence, real confidence that spans your lifetime, isn’t built on how you look, how smart you are, or what type of job you have. Those things fluctuate too much to tie your confidence to. If you get into the practice of the 3 habits below, you’ll create a stable anchor that you can hitch your confidence to.

But first, a little warning. The most common mistake that people make when pursuing change is setting their sights on a particular event, a massive transformation, or an overnight success they want to achieve, rather than focusing on what it takes to make it happen. It’s okay to be excited about the new skills you’ll be developing but it is also important to treat any type of change as a journey. Or in another way, see it like a marathon and not a sprint. Forming habits and routines takes practice and repetition. So plan on confidence taking a little time to cultivate and you’ll set yourself up for long-term success!

3 Habits of Confidence

Habit #1: Don’t Wait, Do

We can’t just think ourselves into being confident, we must take action. All-too-often, however, people are stuck with the thought that action follows confidence. As in: I’ll take action when I’m confident. When I’m definitely ready. 100% ready. And not a moment before.

We convince ourselves that if we watch one more webinar on a topic or listen to one more podcast THEN we’ll be ready and have the confidence needed to achieve our goals.

Do any of these sound familiar? It is easy to fall into that way of thinking. After all, no one likes to not be good at something. But in the world of building confidence, this type of thinking is counter productive.

So how do you change this way of thinking? One action step at a time. Or as Aristotle once said, “Do good, be good.” It actually isn’t about how you’re feeling about something or how much you know about something that determines your confidence, it is your ability to act.

You can think of it like playing tennis. In order to gain confidence in your ability to play tennis you can read all the books you want but if you want to improve your tennis confidence, you’ll need to actually get on the court and play!

In order to “get on the court” so to speak, you’ll need to regularly make choices that put you outside your comfort zone. So don’t wait, go out there and do something, anything today.

Habit #2: Fake it Until you Learn it

Let’s face it, change isn’t always comfortable. Even good change.

But it’s not you. Humans have a tendency to take the easier option in any situation more times than not. Researchers now say this may actually be ‘hardwired’ in our brains. A recent study has found that the more mental effort something requires, the less likely people are to do it. They say it is so powerful, it can even change what we think we see in order to make the easier option more attractive!

Improving one’s confidence definitely isn’t the easier option for most people. Talk about having our deck stacked against us! But just because we may have an obstacle in our path doesn’t mean there aren’t ways around it. For ways around it, we look no further than the cause of our obstacle itself, our brain.

Introducing, “Fake it until you learn it.” Researchers have found that “acting” a certain way allows your brain to “rehearse” a new way of thinking and can set off a desired chain of events in the future.

Professor of organizational behavior Herminia Ibarra writes in the Harvard Business Review that one highly effective strategy you can use to improve your confidence as you “fake it until you learn it” is to mimic someone else around you who displays the skill sets you are desiring, even if your first inclination is to worry about appearing like an imposter. 

So, figure out someone who has what you want. Then mimic away. Seriously, this is how we learned as children, you definitely have it in you!

Habit #3: Fall down 5 times, Get up 6

Overanalyzing everything you do is a terrible habit to fall into. We all are guilty of it at times. Our feelings of uncertainty drive us to overthink and doubt ourselves, especially when we make mistakes or don’t succeed. Many times our overthinking makes us not want to try again when we fail.

When you have a setback or failure, all of your past difficult life experiences, pains, and stressful circumstances want their ‘voices’ to be heard. They want to remind you that you’re not good enough. In a counterintuitive way, they are doing this to protect you. They don’t want you to get your hopes up because you might get knocked down again. 

Interestingly enough, successful people have that voice too. It’s normal. But, the difference is successful people know how to turn that voice off early and often. Or they just power through.

How you deal with those voices is based on your mindset and sheer repetition. Fortunately, those are two qualities are available to everyone. Mindsets can be changed, cultivated and created any way you choose. Successful people know this, and have worked hard to make sure setbacks don’t become their Achilles heel. You can too.

If you choose to have a ‘growth’ mindset, meaning you start to view your ability to grow and learn from mistakes, you will be able to see setbacks as just part of your journey. You’ll quiet those over analyzing, self-critical voices because they won’t have fuel anymore. 

It is as easy as choosing this new “growth mindset” way to tackle setbacks and reminding yourself that that is what the pros do. They’ve fallen down 5 times and gotten back up 6!

7 Skills to Get Your Small Talk On

Small Talk

Social Skills Tricks of the Trade

A few skills up your sleeve will not only help you avoid running from social interactions but might even make them, dare I say, enjoyable. Try these out at work functions or social situations.

  1. Smile. This one little behavior will make you feel better inward and send a positive message outward. A study from Penn State University found that people who smile appear to be more likeable, courteous, and even more competent! Next time you are feeling a tad on the uncomfortable, anxious side and you have to be in a social setting do your best to put on a smile. Even a fake one works!
  2. Small talk is a two way street. Small talk is a social tool intended to show your willingness to engage with another person. Even if you initiate the conversation, it doesn’t mean you are responsible for carrying the whole thing. Do your best to hold up your side politely and remind yourself that it takes two to tango. When answering questions, remember you can also circle back and ask them the same question.
  3. Start simple. There’s no need to blow the other person out of the water with how clever or funny you are. Opening up small talk is simply the way to gauge whether they’re interested in talking in the first place. A comment on the weather or situation you’re in (waiting for a bus, standing in line for the photocopier, getting food at a party) is a nice place to start.
  4. Prepare ahead. It’s nice to have a few conversation starters ready when you enter into a situation where small talk is the gateway to more meaningful connections. “How do you know the host?”, “How do you like this area?” or “Have you tried the ______?” can get you started. Sometimes just having a question on the tip of your tongue gives you the confidence you need to hang in there.
  5. Share enough positive information about yourself for the other person or people to be able to frame a response. “I work in HR and you wouldn’t believe how many applications we just got for that new productions position!” If you don’t have a positive conversation starter, remember to keep your conversation on the positive side in general. Nothing is a bigger turnoff than negativity!
  6. It’s okay to stand by yourself. Sometimes this is actually a helpful thing to do in social situations. Let’s face it, most people in small talky situations are just as uncomfortable as you. Being by yourself gives another person the opportunity to come up and talk with you versus them having to try to break into a well established cluster of people talking.
  7. Lastly, according to therapist Kyle MacDonald, “Small talk is exactly what is says it is: small. There’s no need to turn the conversation into a great debate and, equally, it’s perfectly fine to break off the conversation when you need to. Just be mindful of how you end the engagement: first of all, announce your intention to go and say how you enjoyed the conversation (“I’m going to have to be going now, but I enjoyed talking to you — I’m so glad I found someone else who hates The Hunger Games as much as I do!”), and give them an opportunity to respond and break away too (“Anyway, I’m a friend of Tom’s so I might see you again at another of his parties — hopefully there will be more films we hate out by then!”) The overall trick is to be kind and open with the other person, listen to what they say and respond honestly.”

Small talk definitely gets easier the more you practice. What are some tricks of the trade you’ve found to be helpful?