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Shut Your Mouth And Breathe!

Shut Your Mouth and Breathe!

Breathing techniques can be particularly effective in addressing Vehophobia and Driving Anxiety. Many individuals experience anxiety or stress while driving. Incorporating mindful breathing into the drive together with other tools discussed in previous blogs can offer a practical and immediate way to manage these feelings.  It is worth practicing these before driving so individuals become familiar with the techniques and how they feel.

Firstly, always shut your mouth.  Breathing through the nose is far more beneficial than mouth breathing as it acts as a filter to the lungs in a way mouth breathing cannot offer. Also the very act of nose breathing has a more calming effect on the body.

Here are a few techniques recommended (and practiced) by me to help you either when you are driving or prior to a journey to help calm the nervous system.

Box Breathing: also known as square breathing, is a simple yet powerful breathing technique used by the military that has gained popularity for its ability to promote relaxation, reduce stress, and enhance focus. It involves inhaling, holding the breath, exhaling, and then holding the breath again, each for a specific count, typically four seconds. This rhythmic pattern creates a square, hence the name “box breathing.”

One of the key benefits of box breathing is its impact on the autonomic nervous system, helping to balance the sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (rest and digest) branches. By consciously controlling the breath, individuals can activate the relaxation response, leading to a sense of calm and improved mental clarity.

Deep Diaphragmatic Breathing: By consciously engaging the diaphragm and taking deep breaths, individuals can increase oxygen and blood flow to the body and brain, countering the shallow breathing often associated with anxiety.  This type of breathing also promotes a sense of grounding and can help individuals feel more centred and in control while driving.

Alternate Nostril Breathing: (Should be done prior to driving as it does involve using one hand to block the nostrils).  This yogic technique involves breathing through one nostril at a time.  The method is blocking one nostril, breathe, hold, then breathe out through the opposite nostril. Hold, then breathe back in through the same nostril you last exhaled out of. Hold, and breathe out of the first nostril.  Normally for the count of four or six.  Half a dozen rounds of this helps balance the left and right hemispheres of the brain, enhances focus and calms the nervous system.

Resonant / Coherent Breathing: For those dealing with issues such as congestion and don’t like crowded roads this may be beneficial. Breathing in for the count of 5 or 6 and out for the same count, amounts to 5.5 rounds per minute which has been shown to synchronise heart rate.

All of these techniques should be from the belly for maximum benefit as this helps to stimulate the Vagus Nerve. It is also worth adding that while I have advised these techniques for reducing driving anxiety, they can also benefit individuals in their overall wellbeing too 🙂 .

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Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

One of my clients recently admitted they felt disappointed that they still felt spikes of anxiety when they drove even though they’ve been working at this for a few weeks.

The fact is, we need anxiety and we need stress. Without it the human race would not have survived.  The Sabre Toothed Tigers would have eaten us long ago.  The good news..! there are no more Sabre Toothed Tigers.  The bad news… We still jump into Fight and Flight response at our perception of danger.  This is a perfectly normal, but these days it’s other things that trigger this.

Fact:  We are only biologically programmed to fear two things: loud noises and fear of falling. (This is not a fear of heights).

All other fears and phobias have been learned.  We may have learned them through transference from a parent or another influential person in our life.  Or, we may have had a negative experience, and our subconscious brain starts to overreact to ‘keep you safe’.  Phobias are more pronounced than fears. They develop when a person has an exaggerated or unrealistic sense of danger about a situation.  On the basis you are reading this it is likely to be an exaggerated fear of driving. If not altogether, then on a particular type of road or area.

Subconscious mind always wants to keep us safe

There is good news, but it won’t be easy.  The subconscious brain will do it’s best to ‘keep us safe’ so we need to demonstrate to the subconscious mind that we are OK.  No one state will remain the same for long. So, when you’re feeling the anxiety and discomfort rising, know that this WILL pass.

All states change

Imagine listening to a comedian telling a joke, you may well laugh and if it’s really funny and well delivered you may laugh for what you feel to be quite a while.  But the laughter subsides, and our state resumes to something more stable again. Should you hear the same joke again, while you still consider it funny, it won’t have the same impact on you, and if it you heard it several times, its impact totally subsides. But a new joke would have you laughing again… for a while anyway.

So, it stands to reason that when in a heightened state of stress, anxiety and panic, while it is a far less desirable state than laughter, it too will pass!  Granted it is not a comfortable state to be in, and our natural default is to avoid this state or stay in it for a little time as possible.  However, just like hearing the same joke over and over will wear thin, so too will the wave of anxiety and high stress if we can just accept that being uncomfortable is something that we need to become comfortable with.  Sounds like a paradox doesn’t it.  But what we resit will persist.

Stress in small doses is necessary

Notice I’m using the phrase ‘high stress’.  Stress is normal and we do need to have a level of stress to remain present and in control when we are driving.  People perform well under low level periodical stress.  Research has proved that people who were told that feeling a reasonable level of stress is helpful performed over 30% better in an exam those who were not.  Stress in small doses is a necessary state to keep us safe and help through our day-to-day activities.


It’s when stress or anxiety is present for longer periods of time, or it spikes disproportionately that we have an issue.  Baby steps will help us gently desensitise.  A useful coping strategy that can help is to reframe the anxiety to a challenge, curiosity or excitement. If we can get comfortable with being uncomfortable, we can start to manage the situation more effectively.

Cold shower

Another example in facing discomfort is taking a cold shower.  There is ample research these days on the benefits for mental and physical health of showering or immersing ourselves in cold water.  Fact:  This is NOT comfortable!  I speak with first-hand experience as this is something I do regularly.  I used to hate turning my tap to cold at the end of my shower. I would tense up and brace myself for the 30 seconds I tried to stay under the flow of the cold water.  However, I soon learned to stop resisting the discomfort and breathe into it and accept it.  The discomfort is still there but it’s so much easier to cope with when you accept it.  I got comfortable with being uncomfortable as it’s only for a short period of time.

I also recently attended an open water swimming event where I swam in eight-degree water for half an hour.  It was the adrenaline that fuelled me through the event.  It was very uncomfortable, but I accepted it as my challenge. The body fights the discomfort in the first few moments, but after a while I settled into it.  The elation at the end of the challenge was amazing.  (Can I just add this is not a suggestion you all start jumping into cold water this winter.  I have been doing this for several years and have habituated to this over a few years.  Start with the cold showers).

What we resist, persists

Resist the discomfort, it will go on for longer.  Accept the discomfort as a challenge and we will start to habituate to our situation and then we steadily desensitise.

New perspective

My client who explained they were disappointed their anxiety and discomfort had not ‘gone away’ by now, has a new perspective.  They had forgotten that some of the smaller journeys that were initially challenging, are far less uncomfortable now as they had already habituated and without realising desensitised to them.  They are still pushing themselves to bigger and more challenging journeys, this is why they are still feeling the anxiety.  I reminded them to look back at their journal.  Use their coping strategies and congratulate themselves on each and every achievement that has been made. Rest and move to the next level. You can do the same.

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Practicing As I Preach

People often wonder how I can help them if I’ve never suffered with driving anxiety.  This is a common misconception that people tend to have if I’ve not been through what they are going through.


The fact is I do have my own fears and phobias. One is arachnophobia 🕷️😱. (Not discussing that just yet). Another is heights. But the fear I’ve been working on the most more recently is to manage my fear of open water swimming.


It’s deep and dark and I’d rather not know what us below me.  There’s even a name for it.


Thalassophobia is a fear of the ocean or large bodies of water. I can become totally overwhelmed when swimming in even a modest lake if I don’t have others near me. Submophobia is a fear of objects under the water. For me it’s looking down at weeds and rocks lurking up at me. Also, some man-made submerged objects like the rope that goes down from a bouy to the bed of sea, lake or river.

(Incidentally I love watching fish under the water).


I am a seasoned open water swimmer and have been working on this for a while.  At one point I couldn’t even open my eyes (with my goggles on of course), in calm and clear sea water over sand, and seeing any small cluster of weeds or dark rocks sent my anxiety levels soring! This included kayaking or being on my Stand-Up Paddleboard looking down over these objects too.


But as time has gone on by and with gentle exposure and coping strategies my levels have reduced to a much more manageable level. though it can still take me by surprise every now and then.


🤿 I snorkelled in the Med earlier this summer and I forced myself to swim over rocks that harboured the beautiful fish. I would spike occasionally to 6 (out of 10) before calming myself down.


I’m considerably calmer than I used to be and can now cope with small clusters of rocks and weeds much better than two or three years ago.


However, I recently visited a friend in Dorset and agreed to swim out to and along the string of bouys parallel to the beach about 100 meters from the shore-line. It started fine as I was looking down at sand and as we went out and got deeper. Then a huge shallow bank covered in dark seaweed appeared under me and I started to freak! Had I been able to clear it in a few seconds it would have been manageable, but it went on for a while and the seabed seemed dark all around. I did try to reframe my fear by appreciating the beauty of the different coloured foliage but by now I was panicking. My anxiety level was a good 8.


I had to revert to heads up breaststroke for a while to bring my anxiety levels back down and the weedy bank reverted to sand again. I did the rest of the swim without much too much bother and even made myself look at the ropes connected to the bouys anchored to the sandy bed.


However, it was constantly in the back of my mind through the rest of that swim that I had to go back over it again to return to the beach. It couldn’t be avoided, aside from closing my eyes again or heads up, but I did my best to embrace the challenge and turn my fear into curiosity instead.  I made it back to the beach having enjoyed a lovely swim.


I’m pushing myself gradually and when I look back, I have come on leaps and bounds. My next challenge was to swim the whole way round my local lake with my eyes open looking down at the shallow shelf without freaking out.  As with all of us facing our fears, it’s eighty percent mindset and twenty percent opportunity.  That opportunity came about in the September heatwave.  I couldn’t face the local Parkrun, so I decided to go to my local lake.  Knowing there would be plenty of people there being drawn by the good weather, but not swimming with anyone in particular (otherwise I would have chatted all the way round doing breaststroke), the opportunity was perfect.  I had already visualised myself doing this with my eyes open, so I just had to get on with it.  Well, I did it!! I’m not saying it was easy, and one or two things under the water did make me jump, but I used my coping strategies and I carried on.  I ended up going around three times as the opportunity was too great to miss.  I then started to habituate and desensitise to the things that made me jump first time round.



So, when it comes to helping people with their driving phobia I have plenty of experience in understanding how they feel and how to approach and move through the fear to enable it to become far more manageable. Then to be able to look back and smile at what you have achieved.

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Don’t just fake it till you make it.. Fire it till you wire it!

Experiencing a panic attack or high levels of anxiety while driving can be a terrifying and debilitating experience. It can shake your confidence behind the wheel and make you hesitant to get back on the road.

However, adopting the “fake it ’til you make it” mindset can be a powerful tool in gradually overcoming driving anxiety and regaining control.  Firstly, what does ‘Fake it till you make it’ actually mean?  Generally, it means to portray yourself like the person you always wanted to become. To challenge yourself to perform a task which you are not confident at. Or to bring yourself out of your comfort zone in order to achieve your targets.

An alternative phrase and one I prefer is “Fire it till you Wire it”.  This phrase more accurately points to the neuroplasticity of the brain.  Our capacity to grow and re-wire our brains through new or challenging experiences is available to us throughout our lifespan.

Let’s explore how this approach can help drivers who struggle with anxiety either on particular roads or at any time while driving can rebuild their confidence and get back on track.

  • Recognize that the fear and anxiety you experience while driving are valid emotions and can manifest as physical symptoms. It’s important to understand that driving anxiety (vehophobia) is not uncommon and can happen to anyone.


  • Take Small Steps: Don’t over challenge yourself. You wouldn’t go into a gym for the first time and expect to lift the heaviest weights. You would probably injure yourself, get put off and never go back. Desensitise gradually with baby steps. Micro-stress with gradual exposure to the areas that trigger you. All the time telling yourself that you are in control. (Even when you don’t feel that way).  Do a little every day.  Gradually increase your exposure to the areas that trigger you. Rest and repeat. (Just as you would when training for a fitness event).


  • Practice Deep Breathing and Relaxation Techniques: When anxiety arises while driving, deep breathing exercises can be incredibly helpful in calming your mind and body. Practice slow, deep breaths from the belly area. Counting in for 4 and out for 6.  Combine this with relaxation techniques like visualisation to promote a sense of calm and control.  (We will look into visualisation in more detail soon).


  • Reframe Negative Thoughts: Challenge negative thoughts that contribute to driving anxiety and replace them with positive affirmations of your choice. Your brain hears what you say! Instead of focusing on worst-case scenarios, visualise arriving at your destination via the road that you have been avoiding reminding yourself you are in total control. Say this out loud! (Remember anxiety and excitement feel exactly the same as they come from the same place. Reframing anxiety as excitement really is about faking it till you make it).


  • Reach out to a supportive network of friends, family, or get professional help. It’s possible alternative help such as a CBT therapist or hypnotherapy may compliment your road to recovery.


Recovering from driving anxiety is a gradual process that requires patience and self-compassion. “Fake it ’til you make it” can serve as a guiding principle, reminding you to believe in your ability to overcome challenges and gradually regain confidence on the road. By taking small steps, breathwork, gradual exposure, reframing negative thoughts, and seeking support, you can reclaim your independence.

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What You Resist Persists

The Paradox of Resistance: When What You Resist Persists

Have you ever noticed that the more you resist something, the more it seems to persist in your life? It’s a curious phenomenon that often leaves us frustrated and wondering why our efforts to eradicate or avoid certain things only seem to make them stronger. Ironically “What you resist persists.” In this blog, we will explore the underlying psychology behind this paradox and discover how embracing acceptance and shifting our mindset can lead to more rewarding outcomes.

The Nature of Resistance

Resistance is a natural response when we encounter something we perceive as negative or undesirable.  (The reason you are reading this is because of your fear of driving, if not all together then in certain circumstances or on certain types of roads.) It stems from our instinctive need for control and self-preservation. We resist change, uncomfortable emotions, difficult circumstances, or anything that challenges our established beliefs or routines. It’s a defence mechanism that arises from a fear.

The Paradox Unveiled

Ironically, the very act of resisting and avoiding what makes you uncomfortable can perpetuate the persistence of what we are resisting. Here’s how it happens:

  • Amplification: When we resist something, we tend to give it more attention and energy than it deserves. Our focus becomes fixated on the object of our resistance, making it seem more significant and powerful than it actually is. We inadvertently amplify its presence in our lives, and we become hypersensitive to how we feel when we do push ourselves and step into the uncomfortable.
  • Energy reinforcement: Our resistance and avoidance is often fuelled by strong emotions such as anger, frustration, anxiety or fear. These emotions carry a powerful energy that can inadvertently fuel the persistence of what we resist. The more we invest our energy in fighting against it, the more it gains momentum.
  • Cognitive reinforcement: Our thoughts play a crucial role in shaping our experiences. When we resist something, we engage in a constant mental battle against it. Our thoughts become consumed by the very thing we wish to eliminate, inadvertently reinforcing its presence in our lives.

The Path to Acceptance

To break free from the paradox of resistance and avoidance we must shift our perspective and embrace acceptance. Here are a few steps to guide you along the way:

  • Awareness: Start by becoming aware of what you’re resisting and avoiding and the impact it has on your life. Pay attention to the emotions, thoughts, and behaviours that arise when you encounter the avoidance.
  • Acknowledge and explore: Instead of immediately resisting, take a moment to acknowledge and explore your feelings. Understand why you are resisting and what it represents for you. Is your perception of driving down a particular type of road worse than the execution of it. This process of self-reflection can help you gain clarity and insight. (Journaling can help assist you in this area.)
  • Reframe your focus: Instead of fixating on avoidance, consciously shift your focus to what you desire and the positive aspects of your life. Redirecting your attention and energy towards what you want to cultivate will gradually diminish the influence of what you’re resisting. How much longer is it taking you to get to work when you avoid the motorway.  How is this effecting your employment prospects or other people in your household.  What does it mean to you to be able to step up and not feel so anxious about that journey.
  • Practice mindfulness and resetting your Vagus Nerve.
  • Start journaling how you feel about your journeys and set your goals, big and small.
  • Celebrate each win no matter how small.
  • Accept regression is part of the course.
  • NEVER give up.

The paradox of resistance reminds us that our efforts to eradicate or avoid making certain journeys can unintentionally give them more power and presence in our lives. By embracing acceptance, setting action plans, facing our fears, reframing how we feel by gentle exposure therapy, and journaling we can break free from this paradox and open ourselves up to new possibilities. Remember, what you resist persists.

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Mental Health Awareness. Let’s Talk.

As it’s Mental Health Awareness week I wanted to touch base and discuss how so many people find talking about their driving anxiety is such an issue.  It becomes a major sticking point to so many and starts to become a stigma.

Mental Health, or rather poor mental health will have touched everyone of us at some point but it gets swept under the carpet and we tell people we are fine.

There is only one way stop any mental health issues being stigmatised and that is to talk about it.

Clearly, we’re here because of anxiety with driving, but let me ask you.  How many of your friends and family know about your issue?  If the answer is no-one, then ask yourself why? Or maybe you have mentioned it to one or two people and they just didn’t’ get it. They told you it’s all in your head and to just get on with it.  Granted, this does not help and is perhaps understandable that you’ve decided not to share this information with anyone else.  This may be particularly difficult if your partner or your employer is less than understanding.

So, what can we do about it?  Education.  Open discussion and explaining to people that this isn’t just something to pull yourself together with.  There is a range of information out there on You Tube, Social Media and Forums that you could forward to them to explain that this is more common than people perceive.

One of my client recently told me how she visited family the previous week only to discover that each of the family members had an issue with driving on certain types of road.  It was only that this particular client was open enough to discuss her anxieties with them and that she was seeking help for it that they all started to open up to each other.

Having someone with you to encourage you, (not just tell you to get on with it) when approaching the type of roads that challenge you can help.

Having an accountability buddy to share your challenges with.  It could be a friend, family, or it could be me.

Journaling about the journeys that make you uncomfortable and celebrating the wins, no matter how small can all help.

Above all, keep talking and keep working towards your goals of being able to live life on your own agenda.

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The importance of journaling and setting action plans

You may already have heard about the benefits of journaling as there is much evidence-based research that shows this can help to reduce anxiety.

  • ‘No matter your age, journaling is a powerful evidence-based strategy that you may find helpful for managing mental health conditions and stress. Journaling is an example of an expressive coping method, which is a technique that helps a person process negative thoughts, feelings or experiences by releasing them’. (

With the specifically designed Driving Anxiety Coach – Driving Journal you can set realistic goals and targets, no matter how small. We are 42 percent more likely to achieve our goals just by writing them down according to Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University. Start small and work up. Make them achievable, not overwhelming. Go slowly, but never backwards.  You can upgrade them whenever you’re ready.

Recording and journaling a drive that was challenging can help you reflect on how it went. Looking back at these records later can help you realise how far you’ve come with your progress even if you don’t feel you have.

Scoring (out of 10) how you feel about having to do the journey, and then again having executed it can also help you realise the anticipation is often worse than the execution. Reflecting upon this a few weeks later you can also see tangible evidence that the fear levels and symptoms of anxiety are reducing.

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Breaking a journey down into manageable steps

I went away over the Easter break to The Netherlands and toured across the country on my push bike.  The phrase ‘When in Rome’ springs to mind as The Netherlands accommodates 17 million inhabitants and 23 million bicycles, (around 2 million are e-bikes).  I don’t own an e-bike so had to rely on my own fitness to get me round.  It was however, a pleasure (most of the time) to cycle in The Netherlands as a) it’s flat.. very flat; and b) everywhere you go there are fit for purpose cycle paths so I felt safe cycling in most places. Amsterdam was a little more challenging, but generally speaking it was great experience once we got our heads around riding on the other side of the road from the UK.

I rarely cycle in the UK these days as the roads around the area I live in rural Buckinghamshire is very poorly maintained to point they are too dangerous for anyone on two wheels and unfortunately the attitudes of some drivers is negative towards cycling and I don’t feel safe. So, one of my issues was my fitness as I haven’t cycled any decent distance at home since COVID times so felt bad that I was holding my friends up.

The last day of our break we were due to cycle from the east side of the country to the west in one hit to catch the ferry back home.  The distance was 60 miles (around 100km) and the weather forecast was not good with a band of heavy rain and head on winds hitting the country from the afternoon. So, I had a contingency plan to catch a train if the going got too tough for me.

It became clear that fitness was less of any issue and mental attitude was the biggest.  I had to change my mindset. Rather than my story being, ‘I’ll never be able to do this’, I had to change it to ‘I CAN do this’, and quite frankly it was a game changer.

Also, rather than thinking I have 60 miles to cycle I broke it down into six lots of ten mile sections. Stopping for a short break and ticking off each section as we went by.

The main train station I considered stopping at was around 35 miles in, but when we got to it, I had kept my story positive and was enjoying the journey, plus we were making good time to beat the bad weather.

Unfortunately, the weather did close in on us with around 15 miles to go and but with most of the journey now under my belt I made the decision to keep going. I kept my mindset positive by saying out loud ‘this is fun’, (a little ironically, but nevertheless it worked. Fake it till you make it!)

I looked to the end of each road, or section of cycle path to reach and counted down the last few sections.   Even with the now awful weather I knew the going was so easy in this country as there were no hills and I did not want to waste this opportunity.

The sense of achievement was amazing! It left me confident I could and would do this again.

So, when you are looking at doing a journey be it long or short, don’t think of it as a whole.  Break it down into bite size manageable steps or sections.  Stop for a break and move onto the next section.  If the going gets tough within those sections then micro-section it, to the end of a road, a tree or a sign.  The biggest challenge is in our heads.  Mental attitude is everything.

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stress and anxiety around driving

Driving Anxiety is Cognitive, not Physical

Anxiety and panic attacks, regardless of the triggers, often come with a set of physical symptoms.  This can be dizziness, Norcia, tingling hands and legs, raised heart rate etc.  Because we don’t like the way this makes us feel, we then avoid the triggers that set these symptoms off.

The fact is though that your Anxiety is Cognitive, not Physical.  Let me repeat that: Anxiety is Cognitive, not Physical.

When it comes to Driving Anxiety this can become extremely restrictive to your life as you have to rely on others or not so reliable public transport. You start living your life on other peoples’ schedules, not your own. This can be costly both financially and emotionally and can put strain on relationships.

The trouble is, we start to fear the fear and so AVOID the places that trigger those uncomfortable feelings.  (This is natural as human beings we don’t want to feel these uncomfortable and sometimes out of control feelings).  But let me repeat… This is COGNATIVE, NOT PHYSICAL.

So, what does RECOVERY look like?  Well firstly, Recovery is not linier and it isn’t easy.  I want you to understand that RECOVERY for Driving Anxiety doesn’t mean the fear will go away entirely.  It’s about managing the fear by gentle exposure or baby-steps if you prefer.

Accepting that the occasional wave of panic or anxiety may still re-visit you, but you as you are EMPOWERED with the right tools to cope, you get through and understand that you are OK! This is what recovery looks like. This is your new normal.

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What is Exposure Therapy?

“It is a technique in behaviour therapy to treat anxiety disorders. It involves exposing the client to the issue source or its context without the intension to cause harm. Over time, people find their reactions to the situation decreases.” That’s what a google search would come up with.
Stress itself is healthy and we need it to get by, but it needs to be managed.
🏋️‍♀️. If we stress our muscles through exercise they get stronger, but you wouldn’t walk into a gym and start lifting weights beyond your capability. Indeed, this would cause you harm and you probably wouldn’t go back. But by exposing your muscles regularly through gentle repetitions you can gain strength.
🌳 Just as a tree grows stronger in the wind for the next wind to come. But again if the wind was too strong it would break.
🚙 Exposure to driving roads clients are not comfortable driving on requires regular and gentle exposure to build up to feeling less uncomfortable each time. Again, over doing it would not be helpful but bit by bit #BabySteps, we can change your behaviour, your beliefs and your story.
🥺 It’s easy to get frustrated or impatient to be able to do more and get back to where you used to be before the anxiety / phobia took a hold of you, but patience is the key. #onedayatatime

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