How I approach starting something new as someone with anxiety

New is hard for me. New jobs, new environments, new people, new anything is difficult as someone with anxiety. Whether it was starting my new job at the library, or choreographing for the first time at community theater, new is hard. And I want to be there. These are all things I love, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

Often how I “want to feel,” like I’m having fun, doesn’t match up with how I actually feel, incredibly nervous. And that contrast can only add to my tension. I feel like I “should” be enjoying choreographing for the theater. I love dance. But instead, I’m terrified about leading a group of people and teaching them what I came up with. Similarly, it feels like I “should” be enjoying myself as I train at the library. This is where I really wanted to work, but instead, I’m so scared.

For me, these feelings of unease don’t go away after one of two times of being in that new situation. It can take weeks, even months to feel comfortable and like I can enjoy myself. And this length of time to adjust can make it unappealing to start something new. After all, I’ll have to be uncomfortable for a while first.

Yes, I’ve learned in therapy to look at what is the values-based decision. I compare what do my values want, rather than just listening to what anxiety wants. If I always listened to anxiety, I would never leave my house. Still, it can feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders when I’m first approaching something new. That unease can feel unending.

So, here’s how I approach it. I set a limit. I give myself a number of times I will try the new thing. Often I use the number ten, whether it’s tutoring a new student ten times or teaching ten dance classes, or some other metric. You can set your own goal. But then I make a deal with myself. I will do the scary, new thing ten or however many times. I cannot quit before then. If, after ten times, I am still not enjoying it, then I can make other plans and drop the obligation, if possible.

Usually though, after ten times, several weeks have passed, and so has the discomfort. I have found my swing of things. But if I didn’t, I still have this way out. This both forces me to stick it out a little longer than anxiety wants and see if I will become comfortable, and also takes off the pressure of having to do this new activity for the foreseeable future. That, in itself, helps me adjust more quickly.

I only implemented this plan within the past few months, so I haven’t had a time yet when it “failed,” or I quit early. So far, I’ve continued with everything new as it became old hat. I hope this method works for you too.



  1. Hi Morgan,

    Will 10 be enough??? OCD demands certainty!

    I really like the idea of values based decisions. So true. Emotions go rougue.

    Perhaps the most important thing is setting aside a time to problem solve the new thing… a safe place and time. Not immediately after the event in your car for hours and hours.

    I totally identify and have learnt to lessen my value on enjoyment or fun. That joy is not just a feeling just like love is not just a feeling. It is a value action thing that sparks bonus but not compulsory nice feelings.

    Also: small wins. Work out how to make the new task small: I consistently achieve something (like food shopping) and never want to do it again because it took a long time, and then it happens again and again because I don’t do any shopping.

    Not sure if that is relevant or any of that is helpful. I really do like giving advice and ‘fixing others and myself with excellent insights!

    No. That often does not go well.

    So I have though successfully read lots without mental compulsions and exhausted….hmmm I Perhaps reading has become a compulsion. Yep think it has. Getting in the way of life right now and feel like I HAVE to do it, have to keep finding out about OCD and write this comment as correctly as possible.

    Thanks Morgan!

    I am a bit concerned about publicly sharing. I do value helping others, so changing my name!


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