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STEPS Program for Anxiety

By April 12, 2018November 19th, 2020Anxiety, Dr. Jenny Yip

We make decisions every day. In fact, some could even argue that to live is to make decisions. What should I eat? What should I wear? Which route should I take to work? When should I go to the bathroom? These are normal, everyday decisions that we have learned to make with ease. For people with anxiety, some of the so called “easy” decisions can feel overwhelming at times. Even for non-anxious people, a traumatic event could trigger difficulty in quick decision-making skills. When anxiety kicks in, our emotions override our cognitive processes, which can hinder our critical thinking and cause us to feel overwhelmed by even the smallest of decisions. To re-balance in times of anxiousness, you can try the STEPS process for those moments of crucial decision making.
S—Say what the problem is.
Even under normal circumstances it can be difficult to name our problems. However, once you have identified what the problem is that is causing your anxiety, you can move on to find a solution and implement the solution to solve the issue and lessen your anxiety.
T—Think of possible solutions.
The next step in STEPS is to identify some possible solutions to your problem. Even if the solution doesn’t seem possible or a bit ridiculous, don’t discount it just yet. This is the brainstorming phase, so all ideas count in this stage. It’s helpful for some individuals to write down their ideas to keep everything organized in subsequent steps.
E—Evaluate the solutions.
Now that you have recorded all possible solutions you can think of, you may evaluate the pros and cons of each potential solution. Even minor factors can contribute to the viability of a solution, so try to include every pro and con you can think of.
P—Pick a solution.
Once you have identified the pros and cons of your potential solutions, hopefully a few will stand out as viable contenders. Pick the one you feel most confident in implementing, whether it’s the easiest solution, the least risky, or the one with the most benefits. If there are cons to the top solutions, work through how you can handle those cons should any arise during implementation. Having a plan to combat these cons may help reduce the amount of stress the decision is causing you.
S—See if it works.
When you have chosen a plan, the next step is to see if it works! If it doesn’t, then you can pick one of the other options as a backup to try. Decisions don’t always work out how we hoped, and that’s okay. Sometimes it takes several different tries to find a solution that works. Once one does though, the reward of completing the process can be highly satisfying.
Whether you have only one major decision or a dozen small decisions to make that are causing you to feel overwhelmed, you can implement this strategy to effectively and efficiently get through the decision-making process. We often use this strategy without thinking about it, but anxiety can cause us to pause and intentionally reflect on this process in order to function healthily again.