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Anxious? How to Survive the First 5 Minutes of Anything

Living with anxiety, depression, or any other mental health challenge can make doing almost anything exceedingly difficult. Recently, we explored how to do things when anxiety and depression interfere, including setting a time limit for yourself, so you know you won't be trapped. Starting by promising yourself you'll try something for just five minutes can feel less daunting and intimidating. While this is true, the act of arriving somewhere and enduring those first few minutes can seem impossible and stop you in your tracks. Read on to discover four tips for surviving nearly anything for just five minutes. 

Help Yourself Survive Those First 5 Minutes: Acknowledge What You're Facing

Mental health disorders are real, and they have serious effects on people's lives. Whatever you're facing, it isn't something you're making up, and it isn't a sign of weakness or laziness. 

Worries, fears, automatic negative thoughts, fatigue, and self-doubt are some of the things that create huge barriers between you and the life you want to live. Going to work or class, attending events large or small, or even running to the store can all feel overwhelming when you're experiencing difficulties that disrupt your mental health

Trying to ignore them or, worse, berate yourself for experiencing them keeps you stuck in them. It's similar to ignoring a flat tire and driving on it while you yell at yourself for getting a flat. These actions would only serve to damage the car (and you), and it wouldn't solve the problem. 

Instead, identify what, exactly, it is about what you have to do that is difficult. What are your thoughts and feelings about it? Acknowledge them, and give yourself permission to feel them. Your fears and doubts don't have to disappear, nor do you suddenly have to feel a burst of energy before you do something. Recognize how you're feeling and what you're thinking, and then pledge to do it anyway. 

An attitude of "anyway" can be empowering and encouraging. You're communicating to the reluctant part of your brain that you've got this. It will still be hard, but you can face it. 

4 Tips for Surviving Anything for 5 Minutes

Enduring something you dread for just five minutes can, in reality, feel like an eternity of misery. Try these for tips for doing it.

  1. Focus on the bigger picture and your values. The first five minutes of something you have to do are a tiny portion of your life. Instead of focusing on the reasons you don't want to do it (this is a natural thing to do, but it isn't very helpful for anyone), think about even one reason you are going to do it. How will showing up align with your values for who you want to be and how you want to live your life? What strengths do you have that you can draw on to get you there and help you stay for five minutes? 
  2. Keep your greater goals in mind. This is also part of "big picture" thinking. What is at least one thing you have to gain by showing up and putting up with the situation for a few minutes? How does it fit into your goals for yourself, your relationships, or your hopes and dreams in general? Sometimes, you might have to work a bit to connect these dots, but it's quite likely that your positive action will help move you forward even just a notch. 
  3. Have a beginner's mind. This is a mindfulness concept that helps people drop judgments. A beginner is brand new to a situation and, as such, has no preconceived expectations. This is especially helpful when anxiety is being loud with its tendency to mind-read, jump to conclusions, bring up past problems, and predict disasters. Remind yourself that these thoughts are ideas drummed up by anxiety and have no real bearing on your current situation. 
  4. Use a focus object to ground yourself in the moment. No matter how open you are, how much of a beginner's mind you adopt, the chances are high that anxiety and/or depression will interrupt and try to fill your mind with negative thoughts. When that happens, focus on something tangible with as many of your senses as you can to pull yourself out of your anxious thoughts and into the present moment. You might concentrate on something you see in the room, or you might have a small object with you in your pocket or bag. Note as many details as you can: how it looks, any sounds it makes (such as the sound of your fingernail scraping the surface), textures, or even smells and tastes, if applicable. Bring your attention to this object over and over again as a way to redirect anxious thoughts. 

Remember, too, that you can leave after five minutes if you need to. It's okay. Before you rush out, you might want to experiment to see if you can endure one more minute. Regardless of how long you stay, acknowledge and honor your accomplishment. It took strength. Instead of focusing on how early you left, actively celebrate the fact that you got yourself there and stuck with it. This is to build your confidence for next time. 

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2021, August 4). Anxious? How to Survive the First 5 Minutes of Anything, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, November 28 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/mentalhealthforthedigitalgeneration/2021/8/anxious-how-to-survive-the-first-5-minutes-of-anything



Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC, DAIS

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of numerous anxiety self-help books, including The Morning Magic 5-Minute Journal, The Mindful Path Through Anxiety, 101 Ways to Help Stop Anxiety, The 5-Minute Anxiety Relief Journal, The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety, The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety, and Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 steps. She has also written five critically acclaimed, award-winning novels about life with mental health challenges. She delivers workshops for all ages and provides online and in-person mental health education for youth. She has shared information about creating a quality life on podcasts, summits, print and online interviews and articles, and at speaking events. Tanya is a Diplomate of the American Institution of Stress helping to educate others about stress and provide useful tools for handling it well in order to live a healthy and vibrant life. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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