Think Small Improvements to Reduce Anxiety

January 20, 2019 George Abitante

If you think small, you can reduce anxiety. Learn how thinking small for anxiety relief works and how to do it at HealthyPlace.

Think small improvements to reduce anxiety -- what does that mean? I'll explain. This past week, I was walking to work and had to stop for what felt like an inordinately long light. Eventually, it changed and I realized that the whole time I was waiting, I could have crossed the adjacent street. Now, this other street is much smaller than the one I was trying to cross, but even so, it would have brought me closer to my destination than just standing there waiting. Oddly enough, this experience made me think about anxiety and the costs of waiting for a major change instead of looking for other, small opportunities to improve.

When you're anxious, it is common to think of things in absolute terms so that you're either not anxious at all or extremely anxious. However, there is a wide range of emotional states between these extremes. The problem is that when you focus on finding a way to completely get rid of your anxiety, you end up waiting for something big to change. And when you're waiting for a major change, you end up forgetting to look for the little acts that can reduce your anxiety. Use the following tips to change the way you think about solutions to your anxiety and to identify new ways to reduce your anxiety a little bit today. 

How to Think About Small Improvements in Your Anxiety

It is tempting when faced with a major stressor to think that you can't feel good until it's gone, but this isn't really true. If you look at your emotions over the course of a day, you likely go through many states that include both positive and negative feelings. When you notice that you can still feel good when you're anxious, this allows you to start looking for little ways to feel better. 

Think Small, Act Small

Once we've accepted that our emotional states change frequently, we can start looking for little ways to push us in a positive direction. Whether this means a one-minute meditation, calling a friend, writing down your tasks for the day, or something else entirely, you can start picking up little actions that improve your mood. Start by incorporating one or two of these acts into your day, and check to see how much better you feel when you use them. Over time, you can increase the time you spend on these activities or add more, and see whether those additions help you feel even better. The key is to maintain the activities that help reduce your anxiety, even if they help just a little bit.

Anxiety can feel overwhelming, and when it feels that way your best strategy is to think small. Focus on the moments of joy and excitement you experience rather than fearing big moments of anxiety.

Share the activities you use to reduce anxiety below.

APA Reference
Abitante, G. (2019, January 20). Think Small Improvements to Reduce Anxiety , HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 16 from

Author: George Abitante

George received his Master's degree in Clinical Psychology from Northwestern University and is pursuing his PhD in Clinical Psychology at Vanderbilt University. Find him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @AbitanteGeorge.

Lizanne Corbit
January, 21 2019 at 6:51 pm

What an empowering read! I love this point: "When you're anxious, it is common to think of things in absolute terms so that you're either not anxious at all or extremely anxious." How true this is. We get so caught up wanting absolute change that we forget about all the progress that occurs along the way to get us from place to place.

January, 22 2019 at 11:14 am

Hi Lizanne, thanks for your comment! It can always be beneficial to break down our challenges into manageable pieces, but it's difficult when we want the results of many changes right away!

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