Anxiety, in its intended form, is often helpful. It helps us to stay safe and prepare in the face of danger. We certainly wouldn’t want to be taking a laissez-faire attitude if a car was racing at us at 100 miles an hour.

At appropriate levels, anxiety is very beneficial. However, when our danger signals become too excessive or persistent, it begins to cause distress and may interfere with our everyday life. For example, a father missing their daughter’s wedding because he was too anxious about getting on a plane. Or a banker forgoing an excellent promotion because she did not want to do a presentation.

Therefore, the goal of treating anxiety isn’t to get rid of it completely. Rather, the goal is to reduce anxiety to the extent that we are able to live the life that we want.

Setting SMART Goals help to create actionable and achievable goals to this end. In this post, I discuss a few possible SMART goals that you can make for different anxiety problems to get your brain flowing on the process!

Examples of different SMART Goals in anxiety

Below are a few different examples on SMART Goals for different anxiety situations. As you will see, they can be quite different in terms of task and difficulty based on where you are in your journey.

Fear of driving

  • Driving the car around the neighborhood in the morning twice a week
  • Spending 10-minutes sitting in a car and turning it on (but not driving)
  • Sitting in the passenger seat while husband drives for 20 minutes

New baby anxiety

  • Get husband to give baby a bath without being in the room
  • Checking how the baby is doing every 20 minutes instead of every 5 minutes   
  • Write down three things you are doing well in taking care of the baby every evening

Uncertainty anxiety

  • Order food from a new restaurant at least once a week
  • Making a phone call to make an appointment without rehearsing what you will say
  • Spend 24 hours without checking phone messages or emails

Presentation Anxiety

  • Plan to participate at least once in class discussion (asking teacher a question or providing an answer)
  • Conduct a 5-minute presentation on a recent school subject in front of parents

Social anxiety

  • Smile and say hello to five strangers in a day
  • Ask an acquaintance to go to lunch over the weekend
  • Talk to at least two people at a party

When it comes to setting SMART goal, the point is to choose something that feels challenging, but manageable. Therefore, put on your creative hat in targeting your anxiety!

Strategies to benefit the most from SMART Goals

When setting up SMART goals, it’s also important to set yourself up for success. Failing a goal can be discouraging and could elicit feelings of guilt.

Sometimes, anxiety can be a barrier to trying to succeed in the goals that you have set. Relaxation exercises, such as guided breathing and meditations, can be very helpful to tune down the anxiety enough to try out these exercises!

After completing the exercise, it can often be useful to reflect on your experience afterwards. Consider what your anxious prediction initially was (e.g., “people won’t smile back if I say hello” or “my husband won’t do a good job and the baby will cry”) and then consider whether that prediction ended up true or not. And even if it was true, reflect on how you were able to cope with the situation.

More often than not, things go pretty well! And even if it doesn’t, you’d be surprised at how resilient you actually are.

Best wishes