Why Baby-Steps?

I emphasize over and over again to use Baby-steps.  There is a reason.  A person suffering from PTSD had life experiences that left them feeling helpless at some point in their life.  One of the after-affects is victim thinking….I am powerless, I can’t protect myself, I can’t meet my basic needs of safety, food and shelter how can I possibly achieve a dream.  This is sometimes pounded into a child.  As an adult, breaking out to try new things is intimidating.  It would be wonderful to shed the fear and go racing out into the world with my arms wide spread.  It doesn’t happen.  I did learn in my darkest hours that I can endure anything for 5 minutes.  That means I can also learn anything for 5 minutes.  5 minutes is a baby-step of time.  I’ll share an example of baby-stepping to success.  Before counseling, I learned through someone’s practical joke that I could not tolerate someone grabbing my wrist.  I freaked out.  Fortunately, I froze instead of carrying out the desire raging through me to shred the idiot that grabbed my wrist from behind me.  I talked this over with my counselor and felt this kind of thing would happen again and I needed to bring my reaction to a more reasonable level.  I decided to wear bracelets.  The first day I put on a skinny light bracelet.  It stayed on my arm about 15 minutes before I threw it across the room.  Heavy sigh.  The next day, I timed myself for 15 minutes then I carefully took the bracelet off.  The next day I didn’t need to set a timer to make myself keep on the bracelet for 15 minutes before gently taking it off.  It took me a week before I could wear a bracelet all day.  I bought myself a variety of cheap fun bracelets.  I kept them on my dresser to remind myself to wear them everyday.  I slowly built up my tolerance until I could wear bracelets that were an inch to 2 inches wide.  Now, I wear bracelets if I want to or not.  Wearing them is a non-issue, so is someone touching or grabbing my wrist.  My reaction now is someone is trying to get my attention.  If they grab me suddenly I may feel startled but none of the terror or rage accompany my reaction.  I baby-stepped my way to a goal that seemed impossible when I started.  Looking back at it now, I realize that taught me how to tackle other fears and challenges, a bit at a time.

One of the challenges of this process is how to break up a task into smaller component pieces.  Some things have natural breaks.  I went back to college I took one class per semester.  The semester was a natural break.  However, when I did my photography show about cancer, I had the daunting task filling a gallery with my photographs about my reaction to cancer.  I first developed a plan with each wall space representing a part of the theme.  I then broke everything down into smaller tasks.  It took about a year to do, but I did it a piece at a time with deadlines, a plan, and determination.  The show taught me that I could express how I feel and accomplish a large goal.  Other goals don’t fit neat and tidy into a list of tasks.  Perhaps a goal may be to improve physical health.  This can generate so many vague possibilities.  The challenge here is to choose an area and work on it.  Plans and persistence help move me closer to any of my goals.

Another important part of baby-steps is find a way to give yourself credit for taking those steps.  One way I seen done is creating lists and marking items off a list.  Since lists give me jitters, I used gold starts on a calendar or a treat after certain numbers of day completing a piece of my challenge.  Spread sheets work very well for me which is like a list but doesn’t raise my anxiety.  Nice thing about a goal is that it can hang out there waiting for me to get there.  Amazing how far I’ve gone one baby step at a time.

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