Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly.
Think of the most miraculous of your accomplishments.
Getting yourself created. Nailed it. It took 9 months.
Walking. Nice job. Another 9 months at least.
Talking. You babbled your way through it. Most people didn’t understand you for years.
Reading, writing, and learning to code also took years.
These are just external milestones. You were still myelinating until you were 25.
What are you working on now and are you willing to take your time?
Whether it’s your mental health, your physical health, your relationships, your schoolwork or career, or all of it, it’s all worth doing slowly.
Many of us like the “I’ll do it scared” concept. It shifts our attitude away from waiting to feel right to pursue what we care about. An “I’ll do it scared” attitude means that we get to grow and change now, regardless of how we feel. Its empowering.
But, also, you don’t always have to be brave. And, in fact, sometimes we should stop being brave, especially if you’re forcing yourself to be brave. Slow down long enough to take care of yourself. Notice that you’re actually already safe.
It’s exhausting to be anxious all the time. It’s exhausting to hang out between bracing against and dreading your thoughts and feelings and knowing that you have to go towards them to get better. It feels like a torture zone. Yes, we can try to make a hierarchy of fears together, but you might have so much anxiety that it’s hard to even see what the triggers are. It’s just happening all the time. I’m sorry you’re experiencing that. It’s very real and really painful.
We will put the work in and observe your process enough to see what the triggers are, what you’re avoiding, and what you need to go towards. It’s okay to relax along the way. Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly. You don’t have to figure it all out today. You want to let yourself peace it together slowly at whatever pace your mind and body needs.
Does this seem unrealistic to you? In your world, things have to move fast? You must improve quickly? I, in fact, live in a real world too. Your real world is highly impacted by how you perceive it. You have the power and control to slow things down when you need to, especially if it’s mostly internal. We all need both the courage and willingness to go towards hard things and the patience and compassion to slow down and relax. We have no control over much of what happens to us. And, also we miss opportunities that are right in front of us when we’re hyper-vigilantly scanning for what we think we need. Try slowing down your internal experience and expecting less from any given moment. You may find that you already have what you need or that getting what you need is actually quite easy when you’re relaxed.
Here’s are a few self-talk concepts that fit “I’ll do that slowly.”
It’s okay to skip my homework. Shh… it’s a secret. I promise I won’t tell your second grade teacher or the CBT gods. You don’t have to do ERP perfectly. If you do it perfectly, you’re doing it wrong. You’re missing the point. We’re trying to use the CBT techniques to change our attitudes towards ourselves away from fear, seriousness, urgency, criticism, shame, and distance from our values. We’re trying to shift towards curiosity, playfulness, compassion, and alignment between our beliefs and our behaviors. We use exposure to what we fear as a technique, because avoidance maintains fear, seriousness, and urgency. If you expose yourself fearfully, seriously, and urgently, you miss out on the attitude shift.
It’s okay to relax. It’s especially courageous to relax when you think you shouldn’t. “I’m in an important meeting. What if I just let myself blush, stutter, or cry?” Awesome. Please try that. Please don’t beat yourself up afterwards. It’s such a big moment. If you had a kid, and you watched her get pushed down, and get back up, you’d be so proud. It’s so great. Let yourself feel that way towards yourself. This can be a public moment like a meeting or date. It can also be a private moment, like when you’re awake and scared in the middle of the night. It’s okay to relax. And, it’s okay to be proud that you let yourself relax.
It’s okay to redirect my attention. When mental compulsions are a prominent part of your OCD, doing the perfect script exposure is unlikely to help. Redirecting your attention to the present is probably going to be more helpful. You can figure out what will be helpful based on what you don’t want to do. If you have thoughts you don’t want to think or say, you should think or say them. If you have thoughts you can’t stop thinking about, you should practice redirecting your attention away from them. They may hang out in the background in your mind, especially when you’re sensitized. It’s okay. It’s the effort that matters on this one. Notice what’s happening and make an effort to redirect. You gotta do a half pull-up before you can do a full pull-up. Bring your intrusive thoughts and mental compulsions along with you while you go about your day and practice redirecting your attention whenever you notice that you’re in it. Your attentional redirection muscle will get stronger over time, especially as you stop believing that it’s useful to you to engage in that mental compulsion.