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How To Set Goals and Move with Anxiety



We all need goals. Whether we are trying to lose weight, get a promotion at work or buy a house, setting goals is the first step in achieving them. But how do you know when your goals are too ambitious? And what happens if you suddenly have an attack of anxiety and can't reach for the stars?

Acknowledge you are anxious and why.

Anxiety is a natural part of life and everyone feels it. Acknowledge that you are feeling anxious and why, then take some time to reflect on what causes your anxiety.

You might be worrying about the future, or something that happened in the past. You may be feeling stressed out and overwhelmed by responsibilities at work or home, or worried about how well you’re doing with your goals right now.

Being aware of what triggers your anxiety can help you see when it happens so that you can remind yourself: I’m stressed because my house is messy; I get anxious when I have too many things to do; this class/job/relationship makes me feel tense because...

Accept that this is who you are.

Acceptance is the first step to recovery. It's not the same as resignation, though; acceptance means you acknowledge that something is true but you don't have to like it.

This can be especially difficult for people who have anxiety. In fact, one of the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is an excessive worry about things that might go wrong in future situations or events. If this sounds familiar, know that acceptance doesn't mean giving up hope—it means learning how to cope with anxiety while still pursuing your goals. Acceptance is a process that happens over time and involves many different aspects: understanding your feelings more clearly; finding ways to manage them; accepting yourself as someone with limitations instead of trying constantly fix yourself or change who you are; and finding support from others who want what's best for you too.

Set small, achievable goals that make you feel like you're going to complete them and not let yourself down.

To set your goals, follow the SMART method:

  • Specific and measurable. Use numbers, not vague words like "good" or "better." For example, instead of saying "I want to lose 15 pounds," say "I want to lose 15 pounds in the next four months."

  • Attainable and realistic. Don't set yourself up for failure by setting goals that are too high or too low. If you haven't run a mile since high school gym class, don't set a goal of running a 50K ultramarathon; instead, start small with an easy 5K training plan and work up slowly from there.

  • Written down (and shared with others). A written goal is much more effective than an unwritten one; writing it down makes it more concrete and reinforces its importance in your life. It's also helpful to share your goals with others because then they can help hold you accountable if things get tough along the way—or even celebrate when things go well!

Track your wins, even the small ones. They all count!

Finally, one of the best ways to get rid of anxiety is to focus on your success. It doesn't matter if it seems small or insignificant; every win counts. Write down what you've accomplished in a journal or on an app like Habitica (it's free!). Look over your list often and celebrate all of those little wins that made you feel good about yourself!

  • Don't worry about big things (however large or small they may seem).

  • Don't worry about small things (no matter how petty they might appear).

  • And whatever you do... don't waste time worrying about anything else!

Talk to someone about it.

If you feel like you're constantly struggling with anxiety, consider talking to someone about it. Talk to a friend or family member and ask them if they have any suggestions for how you can better manage your stress levels and anxiety.

Your therapist is also another great resource who can help guide the conversation in a direction that is more productive for both of you. If you don't have access to therapy at this time, find someone who does offer these services in your area—many universities have mental health centers that offer low-cost counseling options for their students!

No matter how big or how small, if it makes you worry, find ways to make it something that motivates you instead.

Once you’ve identified the cause of your anxiety, the next step is to figure out what it is that makes you worried. If a goal seems too big, set smaller steps that will help make it more manageable. For example, if your dream job is working as an assistant at a law office but finding one of those jobs is proving difficult and stressful for you, try applying for an internship instead. This will give you experience in the field while giving yourself something to work towards in your free time.

Once you have an achievable goal in mind, start tracking any progress towards achieving it and celebrating each step along the way!


This may sound like a lot of work, and it can be! But if you know yourself well enough to understand what makes you feel anxious and what makes you feel great about yourself, then setting goals is easy. It doesn’t matter how big or small your goal is—just remember that every little bit counts. Once you get started with the process, take time each day to reflect on how far along you are on each goal and celebrate those wins!






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