If you feel yourself moving forward, it’s because you decided to move forward in simple small ways every day.
We are in uncharted territory in terms of what’s out there to worry about, if we choose to do so.
Choose is the operative word here.
In the last couple of years, we have become conditioned to react to all the possible threats, not just the juicy ones.
And when you’re reactive, you’re defensive, always looking for the next threat.
It becomes — has become — a way of life. That makes it hard to move forward with big stuff and little stuff, too.
But this is where we do have control.
This is still your mind, your family, your work and your life.
- What you listen to,
- Who you talk to,
- How you do things, and
- What exactly you want to do.
Maybe the last couple of years has you treading water, afraid to move ahead because you can’t see more than an inch in front of you. And that makes you super afraid.
How can you commit to anything if you don’t know what the world will look like even next month?
Well, the best way to move forward is to go right on ahead and take that inch.
Just…take it. I mean, it’s literally right there (insert Vanna-White-style hand motion here).
What’s great about an inch is it’s easy to measure and pretty simple.
Complexity can help you make some bangin’ task lists and multi-threaded project plans (speaking to my Type A folks), but simple steps will help you actually get some stuff done.
Here are four ways, in no particular order, to get yourself moving toward that inch and drown out some of that fear and anxiety.
1. Limit your time on social media
Social media does a great job of connecting people. But if you’re struggling with fear and anxiety, honestly, social media is not a healthy place for you.
I won’t bore you with studies showing how social media contributes to mental health issues. You can use the Google box for that one.
But it’s clear after 15 years of this technology, we have allowed it to rule us on every level.
The good news is you are in the driver’s seat on this one, should you choose to take the wheel (or let Jesus take it, I’m good with both).
I got off most social media right after the 2020 election.
I didn’t like knowing who was on this side or that side and it upset me to see some of the less than civil discourse. Besides, I still wanted to have coffee with some of these perfectly respectable folks.
I opted for the jugular response and deleted my accounts and all the data (theoretically).
No one even noticed. It was all very anticlimactic.
There was an initial vacuum of being outside all this information. But like a bad sunburn, it really got better after a couple of days and started to peel away.
How do I stay up with family, you ask? We do things like talking on the phone and texting. Sometimes we even see each other in person, a real bonus.
In place of all the mindless scrolling, I have more cognitive room for thinking about how I want my day to go, or what I may want to pursue today.
I don’t compare myself to others because I don’t have an up close and personal idea of what people outside my circle are doing, or trying to make it appear like they’re doing.
I feel less compelled to keep up because I’m competing against myself.
2. Stop consuming news in the morning.
Everything you do in the morning sets your tone for the whole day. That’s not me saying that, that’s every productivity guru who’s ever written a book.
Do you really want all those visuals and descriptions of murder, war, financial earthquakes and political theater in your head while you’re trying to focus on having a positive day?
News is straight up entertainment. In the same way you might decide what kind of movies or TV are appropriate for your family, you have to make that same decision about news.
It’s intentionally designed to get a reaction out of you. Don’t take that bait right out of today’s gate.
If you want to stay informed, fine. Go old school.
Consume news products in the afternoon when you’ve gotten your work done. Perhaps don your favorite sweater and comfy slippers and slink into your favorite spot on the couch, a la Ward Cleaver.
Knock yourself out! Read it, then put it away, turn it off and go have dinner with June and the boys.
You alone control the flow of information rolling in to your brain every day.
3. Take one small action today toward something you want.
It doesn’t have to be saturated with meaning and purpose. Don’t think too hard about it. Just pick something you’ve wanted to do, and take one small step towards it.
For example, today my commitment was to log in to my blog and re-familiarize myself with the new layout that happened since I was last here. That’s it. That was the total commitment.
I’ve written 700 words so far!
Pick some low-hanging fruit in your life, some small, easy things that you keep putting off.
And just do it.
Then don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back (or the shoulder, if you have rotator cuff issues like me).
4. Find some silence somewhere
The world is noisy. We are rarely in true silence anymore.
My big pet peeve is the news and entertainment marketing screen at the gas pump.
If I’m paying a king’s ransom to fill my tank, the least you can do is give me some silence to ponder my life. Besides, I can get all that same information on my phone.
Anyhoo, silence is where you let your mind process things that are important to you. Sometimes just having a quiet minute to understand what you’re feeling in a challenging moment can help you relax a little.
There’s a reason why our parents sent us to our room to think about what we had just done.
Multi-tasking is the great myth of our age. Your brain might be able to process multiple things okay, but when you close the channels off to just one thing, your brain will really work hard for you.
Find a spot somewhere and look around for all the noise that you can control: TV, Spotify, kids playing video games without headsets, barking dogs, open windows, etc.
Maybe you can’t find a complete lack of noise, but do your best to narrow the attention streams that your brain is desperately trying to keep up with.
Try it for 5-10 minutes and see how you feel. If you are feeling advanced, take some deep breaths from your diaphragm.
You may not feel amazing, necessarily, but you might feel a little calmer. You might find yourself starting to crave a little silence in every day. Go for it!
Start looking for opportunities to remove yourself from the chaos and catch your breath.
Now take that inch, and see if you can do that again tomorrow.
That’s all it takes to move forward.
Lori R. Miller is an author and licensed mental health counselor.
Check out her latest books, articles and videos at www.mymentalhealthmoment.com.