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Overcoming Anxiety Is Like Learning to Tie Your Shoelaces

Overcoming anxiety is a lot like learning how to tie shoelaces. Both are frustrating. Both require patience and perseverance. Accomplishing them feels triumphant. Once you've largely overcome anxiety, put on your shoes and tied your shoelaces, you're ready to go places. Grab your shoes, and let's look at how overcoming anxiety is like learning how to tie your shoes. 

When asked the first step in shoe tying, many people respond confidently, saying "cross the laces." However. two things must happen before reaching that stage. The real first step is to put on your shoes. The next one is to pick up the laces. You can't cross the laces or do anything else until you're wearing your shoes and have the laces in your hands. This is much like overcoming anxiety.

The First Steps in Overcoming Anxiety

Reducing and overcoming anxiety is a methodical process. An important first step is akin to putting on your shoes. With purpose, decide that you want to overcome it. 

To be meaningful and lead somewhere positive, decision must be coupled with commitment. Vow to yourself that you will support your decision and work to overcome anxiety. In committing to action, you are picking up your laces.

Once you've decided that you want to overcome anxiety (you've put on your shoes) and made a commitment to yourself to break free from anxiety through action (picked up the laces), you're ready to progress. 

To Overcome Anxiety, Take More Steps

Now you're ready to dig into the work. Chances are, when you learned to tie your shoes as a young child, you encountered frustrations and setbacks. You probably had to repeat steps ad nauseam. Reducing anxiety is similar.  

When fulfilling your commitment to actively deal with anxiety, it's normal to feel like you're getting nowhere. It might seem that you keep dropping and fumbling clumsily with the laces and that you'll never be able to do it. 

Small victories and the elation that comes with them will sustain you. Revel in doing something without overthinking it or find yourself enjoying something rather than worrying about it. Celebrate these victories. Return to them when you need reminding that you are indeed overcoming anxiety despite the fact that it's a slow process. 

Typical Steps in Overcoming Anxiety

Just like tying shoes, overcoming anxiety is a skillset. Remembering these steps and information will help you put on your shoes, pick up the laces, and keep walking forward:

  • Know what's bothering you the most and officially decide to fix it.  
  • Know where you want to go and commit to acting on it. 
  • Develop goals and create a plan of action. 
  • Accept that there are steps involved--it's a climb, not a saunter across flat terrain.
  • Be mindful of each new step you reach. Think not of past frustrations nor of those that lie ahead. Be fully present with each step and you'll master it well.
  • When you become frustrated, take a break. Breathe. Meditate. Do something fun. Laugh. Resume.

Perhaps the most important part of the learning and doing process is to resist throwing away your shoes. Don't ask for Velcro. Don't resign yourself to a lifetime of anxiety. Do keep in mind your decision, purpose, and commitment to act. Walk ahead, leaving anxiety behind as you overcome it. 

APA Reference
NCC, T. (2019, June 20). Overcoming Anxiety Is Like Learning to Tie Your Shoelaces, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 16 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2019/6/overcoming-anxiety-is-like-learning-to-tie-your-shoelaces



Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety, The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety, Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 steps, and five critically-acclaimed, award-winning novels about mental health challenges. She speaks nationally about mental health, and she has a curriculum for middle and high schools. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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