Akeem Marsh, MD, is a board-certified child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist who has dedicated his career to working with medically underserved communities.
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A core component of anxiety—be it subclinical anxiety or anxiety that meets the threshold for a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) diagnosis—is anxious thinking that can at times feel uncontrollable.
Psychotherapies for anxiety help people address these thoughts in different ways. In psychodynamic psychotherapy, the roots or underlying (sometimes called unconscious) reasons for anxiety are unearthed. In cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), thoughts are actively challenged or tested by behavioral experiments (for example, doing something that you are anxious about to experientially learn that the outcome will be okay).
In acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), as in CBT, there is an emphasis on becoming more aware of the thoughts as thoughts and not truths. However, the next step in ACT is to learn ways to be “less fused” with the thoughts (That is, if cognitive fusion is the baseline, cognitive defusion is the goal).
By changing the way you interact with your beliefs, you may begin to experience some relief.
5 Ways to Defuse Anxious Thoughts
Here are five cognitive defusion exercises to try. Pick the one or two that most appeal to you, and try them repeatedly over the span of a few days. If it works, keep going with it; if it doesn’t, try another exercise on the list instead.
- Your Mind, With a Capital “M:” For the sake of this exercise, think of your mind as a separate entity from yourself. Name it “Mind.” When the anxious chatter begins, tell yourself something like, “Well there goes Mind again, chitchatting away” or “Wow, Mind is doing that thing it loves to do, telling me how nothing will ever work out.” By treating the mind as an external, rather than internal, creature you might create enough space between you and your thoughts to feel a bit better.
- The Car Radio That Won’t Turn Off: Imagine that you are sitting in the passenger seat of a car, and the driver has turned on an awful radio station that is playing a soundtrack of your anxious thoughts. You’re not in a position to change it or turn it off; instead, you must tolerate it and accept that the thoughts are there and that the noise is unpleasant.
- A Keychain in Your Pocket: You most likely carry a set of keys with you always. Try assigning each of your most common anxious thoughts to a specific key. When you use that key, make yourself think the corresponding thought. Notice that you can carry the thought and not always think it, and also that when you do think the thought, you can still use the key. It is possible to carry difficult beliefs with you and not let them dictate your actions.
- A Bossy Bully: Treat your thought like a bully on the playground of adulthood and ask, “Who is in charge here? Is my thought in charge or am I in charge?” If it helps, get a little angry at the thought—colorful language included—as you assert yourself against the bossy bully.
- Thoughts for Sale: Distinguish between a thought you are having and a thought you are buying as true. Label your thoughts: judgment, criticism, comparison, exaggeration, etc. Then ask yourself, “Do I want to buy the thought that I am ______________?” Consider what it will cost you and if it’s really a good investment.
Using Cognitive Defusion Exercises
The purpose of these exercises is not to change the frequency with which you experience anxious thoughts (though if that happens for you, fantastic!). Rather, defusion exercises are effective if they decrease your attachment to a particular belief or set of beliefs that are not currently serving you well.
If you or a loved one are struggling with anxiety, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.
For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.
Getting hung up on the small things is easy. It’s what happens when intelligence meets sensitivity. You think, a lot, and therefore you worry, a lot. But you’re wasting your talents. If you can spend a plethora of energy worrying about every little thing, you can choose to instead spend a lifetime consciously funneling that energy into more beautiful causes. Being strategic doesn’t have to be unemotional.
Don’t believe the lies your brain tells you about yourself.
Anxiety is dishonest. It latches onto whatever you value and tells you the exact opposite of what you want to hear. Anxious thoughts always feel meaningful for some reason— inherent, important, looming, true. In actuality, they’re none of those things. These dark, empty clouds have nothing good to offer you. Let them slowly move along. Drag yourself away from the anxious belief that you are no good, unlovable, and unworthy. It’s time to step into the light. Choose to believe your honest thoughts instead. They reside in open, brighter spaces. They know the true stories about you— that you are kind and capable, with a pure heart.
Soaking up shame doesn’t serve you.
Bad things happen every day. You know this. You experience it. But have you ever considered that these bad things have nothing to do with you? Shame is a weird thing because it feels so personal. Our anxiety tells us we need to feel shame for everything, but mostly for small and unexceptional reasons. You made a mistake, you were misunderstood, you weren’t acknowledged, you misspoke— and somehow your inner voice feels instantly heavy, lethargic, even angry. Shame tells you you’re never going to be good enough. But this narrative is false. The truth is that you’re already good enough, just as you are. Anxiety and shame are lies disguised as purpose. They can’t touch the real you. You’re the truth in a body.
Choose to put yourself out there, over and over again.
You don’t need a permission slip from anyone to enjoy yourself. Chase imperfect joy, soak up flawed moments, and accept both the question marks and the stumbles. It’s all perfect and it’s all good, because it’s yours to experience. There’s meaning to be found in the dark spots, too. Anxious thoughts will always appear at some point, rattling around in your brain, telling you to back down, to keep quiet, to go back home, to give up before you even try. Respond by ignoring every anxious voice, accepting every beautiful risk, and saying yes to every new and scary thing. Honor your life by refusing to become afraid of the world.
Your purpose is to love. To love your decisions, your mind, your layers, and your life.
Your job is simple. Don’t become numb to the world. Remain gentle and bold. Don’t confuse societal expectations with personal satisfaction. Throw away the mangled definitions for love and success that the world has given you, and disregard the anxious lies your brain has told you about yourself. This has been going on for years, and the cycle ends now. The first step in making the world better is becoming reacquainted with your body, your dreams, your desires. Create your own definition of happiness and run with it. When opportunities for love and expression appear, the answer is always yes.
Powerful research-based approaches to stop racing thoughts and move forward.
- What Is Anxiety?
- Find a therapist to overcome anxiety
- Anxiety is cyclical: It leads to overthinking, making the person more anxious, which leads to even more overthinking.
- Mindfulness and cognitive behavior therapy are both effective techniques to help break the cycle of anxiety.
- Strategies to calm anxiety include labeling one’s thoughts and evaluating whether or not they are helpful.
Anxious thoughts can overwhelm you, making it difficult to make decisions and take action to deal with whatever issue bothers you. Anxiety can also lead to overthinking, which makes you more anxious, which leads to more overthinking, and so on. How can you get out of this vicious cycle? Repressing anxious thoughts won’t work; they will just pop up again, sometimes with more intensity. But there are more effective techniques you can borrow from mindfulness-based stress reduction and cognitive-behavioral therapies.
The following are 9 strategies to help you get unstuck and move forward:
1. Attempt Cognitive Distancing
Try to see your anxious thoughts as guesses, not as facts. Your mind is trying to protect you by predicting what could happen—but just because something could happen doesn’t mean it will. Look at objective evidence: How likely is it that the negative outcome will actually happen? Is there anything good that might happen instead? And which do you think is most likely to happen, based on past experience and other information you have about the situation?
2. Try Cognitive De-Fusion
Stop being fused with your thoughts. Think of your thoughts as moving data passing through your mind, rather than the objective truth about a situation. Our brains are hypersensitive to threat and danger because this kept our ancestors alive in the wild. Some of your thoughts may just be automatic conditioned reactions generated by a brain that is oriented to survival. Choose whether or not to believe these thoughts, rather than just accepting them.
3. Practice Mindfulness
Practice observing your thoughts, rather than reacting automatically to them. Think of your thoughts as clouds floating by. Which draw you in and which make you want to run away? Is there a way you can untangle yourself and just observe your thoughts, rather than reacting?
4. Focus on Direct Experience
Your mind makes up stories about who you are, and about your safety and lovability. Not all of these stories are accurate. Sometimes our minds are biased by negative past experiences. What is your experience in the present moment? Is this something that is actually happening or something that might happen? Notice that they are not the same thing, even though your mind may treat them as the same.
5. Label Things
Label the type of thought you are having, rather than paying attention to its content. Watch your thoughts and when you notice a judgment (e.g., how good or bad the situation is), go ahead and label it as Judging. If you notice a worry (e.g., that you are going to fail or experience a loss) label it as Worrying. If you are criticizing yourself, label it as Criticizing. This gets you away from the literal content of your thoughts and gives you more awareness of your mental processes. Do you want to be spending your time judging and worrying? Are there less judgmental or worried ways to see the situation?
6. Stay in the Present
Is your mind regurgitating the past? Just because something negative happened in the past doesn’t mean it has to happen today. Ask yourself if the circumstances, or your knowledge and coping abilities, have changed since the last time. As an adult, you have more choice about whom to associate with and more ability to identify, preempt, or leave a bad situation than when you were a child or teenager.
7. Broaden Your View
Are you focusing too narrowly on the threatening aspects of a situation, rather than seeing the whole picture? Anxiety makes our minds contract and focus on the immediate threat without considering the broader context. Is this situation really as important as your anxiety says it is? Will you still care about this problem in 5 or 10 years? If not, then ease up on the worry.
- What Is Anxiety?
- Find a therapist to overcome anxiety
8. Get Up and Get Going
Worrying over an issue without creating a solution will not help you solve the problem. It may, in fact, make you less likely to act by feeding your anxiety. When your mind is stuck in a loop, you can interrupt it by getting up and moving around or doing a different task or activity. When you sit back down, you should have a different perspective.
9. Decide Whether a Thought Is Helpful
Just because a thought is true doesn’t mean that it is helpful to focus on—at least not all the time. If only 1 in 10 people will get the job you seek, and you keep thinking about those odds, you may become demotivated and not even bother applying. This is an example of a thought that is true but not helpful. Focus your attention on what is helpful and let the rest go!
Anxiety Essential Reads
The Upside of Anxiety: 5 Ways It Helps Us Be Our Best Selves
4 Reasons Anxiety Can Be Your Friend
LinkedIn Image Credit: Djomas/Shutterstock
10 Common Anxious Thought Patterns & How to Overcome Them
Whether you struggle with anxiety or not, we are all susceptible to distorted thinking. If you’ve ever found yourself harping on the negative of a situation or blaming yourself for something that’s out of your control, know you’re not alone.
We tell ourselves stories based on experiences, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the reality. The first step in overcoming these thought patterns (also known as cognitive distortion) is to recognize them. Becoming self aware is crucial to dealing with any kind of anxiety, but it takes time and patience. As a result of self awareness, you’ll be able to catch the anxious thought before it consumes you. When you first notice yourself jumping to a negative conclusion or focusing on a negative thought, take a minute to pause. Are these thoughts based on facts? Is that conclusion absolute? Asking these questions will help you break down these thoughts and redirect them into something more positive and productive.
It’s in our nature to be hard on ourselves. Of course we want to be the best we can be (at work, with our friends and family, etc). Especially in the very instant and connected world we live in today, it’s easy to be critical of yourself. You might misinterpret something from a friend because you overanalyzed their text message. Another example would be feeling like we have to strive for perfection based on what we see on social media. Although technology has done so much to bring us together and keep us informed, it’s also done a lot of harm to our self-esteem. But here at Empowered, we’re not going to let it take us down.
So with that said, we wanted to share some common anxious patterns you may encounter. And don’t worry if you do, because we have tips for each one on how to overcome them.
1. All or nothing thinking
This is when you give yourself only two options and one is good while the other is bad. There’s no middle ground or grey area. An example this would be telling yourself you’re going to be single forever because you’ve had unsuccessful relationship. Absolute (or “polarized) thinking will get you nowhere. Therefore, remembering that middle ground or grey area will help you shift your perspective. Using words like “always” or “never” only fuel these anxious thought patterns. Try giving yourself some self-compassion. Because at the end of the day, you deserve it.
2. Over generalizing
When it seems like if one thing goes wrong, everything will go wrong. Let’s say you made a mistake at work and you start spiraling — is this going to get me fired? If I get fired, am I going to be able to get another job? How am I going to pay my rent? Instead of getting to the point of having to ask your self all of those questions, just know that not everything in life is going to go your way. And that’s okay. It’s not what happens to you but how you deal with it. It’s important to recognize that just because an experience is unpleasant or doesn’t go your way, it doesn’t mean it will always be that way.
3. Relying on emotional reasoning
When you tell yourself how you feel is the way you are. “I was sad at work today therefor I’m a sad person.” Certainly, this isn’t true…but when we get wrapped up in our emotions, we tend to come to these unreasonable conclusions about ourselves. Above all, we need to remember our emotions occur as a response to conditions of the moment. They are not permanent (even if it feels like they are). Don’t let your emotions identify you.
This would be blowing something out of proportion or magnifying the importance of what is happening. This often occurs when we are trying to accomplish something and it’s not going our way. As a result, we make something into a bigger deal than it is, when we could be focusing our energy into something more positive. A shift in perspective here is all is takes. If these type of thoughts are something you encounter often, here’s a great article about how to put a stop to catastrophic thinking.
Talk to a Therapist Today
Reach out to us anytime. We are here to support you. Together, we want to work toward a positive future.
Home > Anxiety > How To Show Yourself Some Love & Overcome Anxious Thoughts
When you’re overwhelmed with anxious thoughts, don’t feel great about yourself and need a pick-me-up, it can be difficult to find. However, now you can cheer yourself up by taking time out to show yourself some love. The best part – you can do this anytime, anywhere. If you’ve had a good day or not such a good day, you can show yourself some love. It’ll help you overcome anxious thoughts, balance yourself and find some much needed positivity.
How to overcome anxious thoughts by showing yourself some love
Give yourself a hug. Sounds so basic, right? You’d be wrong. A hug is an extremely powerful way of showing care, love and support. It’s comforting, feels good and now, you can do it yourself. Place your right hand on your left shoulder, left hand on your right shoulder and give yourself a tight hug. This can give you a monetary boost of confidence and positive energy that can help improve your day and reduce anxiety.
Treat yourself. Do something small just for you, be it eating your favourite food, pursuing a hobby or whatever brings you joy! Want to watch a movie? Go for it. A run in the park? Yes, please. By taking out time for yourself, you are making yourself the #1 priority (that’s something you should always be). You will enjoy what you do, and at the end of a bad day, it’ll bring a smile to your face!
Appreciate yourself. Take a moment to give yourself a compliment or appreciate a positive quality about yourself. When feeling low or bad about yourself, it’s normal to focus on the negatives rather than the positive. By taking a moment to appreciate yourself when faced with difficulties, you can overcome anxious thoughts and boost your self-esteem. Take a piece of paper and write down a few positive things about yourself. Look at them and congratulate yourself for these qualities or moments! It’ll feel good and you’ll love yourself.
Affirm yourself. Try using positive affirmations as a way of showing yourself some love. If you’re having a bad day at work, try – “I am good enough and will improve myself everyday.” In case you’re struggling with a job interview, try – “I have the necessary skills to get this job.” Repeating positive words to yourself can help overcome anxious thoughts, increase self-belief and calm you down.
By doing these things, you can always overcome anxious thoughts, reduce stress and feel better about yourself. No matter what’s going on, self-love is the best way to balance yourself and fill your heart with joy. In fact, your heart is one of the energy centres or chakras of your body and showing yourself some love can boost your energy levels too! Give a listen to our “show yourself some love” guided audio on the Evolve app!
Evolve helps you overcome anxiety in minutes with a series of light & joyful guided exercises! To download the app and try for free, click here!
Negative thoughts are one of the hallmarks of anxiety. It’s natural to want to know how to get rid of them because negative thoughts interfere in our ability to live the life we want. Anxiety and negative thoughts are an evil duo that strengthen each other in order to make us miserable. They may strengthen each other, but we are stronger. When we learn how to deal with them, we can get rid of them.
Thought experts from many different disciplines, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), meditation and yoga advise us of the power of our thoughts. It’s what we think about ourselves and the world around us, not actual events in our lives, that aggravate anxiety (Bourne, 2010; Burns, 1999; Imparato, 2016; Mindell & Hopkins, 2009).
You can get rid of negative thoughts and anxiety. It starts with neutral observation.
Anxiety and Thoughts: Observing Your Thoughts and Yourself
Your brain both thinks and observes. With anxiety, the thinking part of the brain seems to completely take over; not only that but thoughts are often predominately negative. Our thinking self analyzes, worries, judges, and has a host of automatic negative thought patterns that contribute to anxiety.
We also have an observing self (Harris, 2008). That part of our brain simply exists. It watches and is aware of both our inner and outer worlds, but it doesn’t analyze, critique, or judge. It is aware of anxiety’s negative thoughts; however, it doesn’t buy into them.
Developing our observing, neutral perspective can help get rid of the negative thoughts of anxiety. This is a learned skill, and with practice we can untangle ourselves from our thoughts, thus reducing their impact and creating space to live well.
Observe Negative Thoughts That Contribute to Anxiety
Specific types of negative thoughts contribute to anxiety. David Burns (1999) shares negative thought patterns, the identification of which is part of CBT.
- All-or-nothing thinking (black-or-white thinking): viewing people, events, and more as one extreme or another;
- Overgeneralization: thinking in terms of “always” or “never;”
- Mental filter: filtering out the positive and dwelling on the negative;
- Discounting the positive: noticing the positive but dismissing it as an exception;
- Jumping to conclusions: automatically assuming the worst;
- Magnification: exaggerating the negative and placing too much importance on it;
- Emotional reasoning: letting negative emotions be in charge;
- “Should” statements: imposing rules on yourself;
- Labeling: using negative words and concepts to describe yourself.
- Personalization or blame: Thinking things are your fault or someone else’s fault.
When you become aware of these, you can begin to step back and just observe the thoughts. They’re there, but you don’t have to believe them.
Words and language have a huge role in anxiety. If we want calming thoughts for anxiety, we need to pay attention to our inner language, the way we talk to ourselves. When we’re constantly berating ourselves, saying things like “I’m an idiot,” or “I’m going to fail,” or “I’m a terrible parent,” we become worried and anxious.
Observation makes us aware of the way we talk to ourselves. Once we know that negative self-talk is behind anxiety, we can become quiet and listen for it. Once we start catching that negative self-talk, we can call it out and get rid of it.
Getting Rid of Negative Thoughts and Anxiety
You now know one important step in dealing with anxiety and our thoughts: observation. The second important step is to replace your negative thoughts with positive, realistic ones.
To merely get rid of thoughts without having something to fill in the gap doesn’t work. Without something new, the brain will go right back to its old thoughts.
Try these tips for getting rid of and replacing negative thoughts that provoke your anxiety:
- Observe your negative thoughts and self-talk.
- Reflect, such as in journaling or artistic exploration, on your inaccurate beliefs.
- Question them and make changes to them, For example, you’re probably not incompetent. What are your strengths, and where do you have success (Five Character Strengths of People Living with Anxiety)?
- Create statements that realistically counter your negative thoughts and self-talk. Such positive statements are known as affirmations, and repeating them multiple times every day teaches your brain to get rid of the negative thoughts and replace them with more realistic, positive ones.
- Practice mindfulness, being present in the moment. Concentrate on what’s happening around you to distract yourself from the negative thoughts.
- Cultivate a sense of awe and gratitude. Connecting to things that are bigger than you, than all of us, is a natural way to counter negative thoughts and anxiety (Flora, 2016).
Increasing your awareness of your thoughts and self-talk is quite empowering because you no longer feel at the mercy of anxiety. When you observe what’s going on in your head and then replace it with thoughts and beliefs that are much more accurate than the automatic thoughts, you are on your way to getting rid of these negative thoughts and anxiety.
Do you think negative thoughts every day, no matter how good the situation is? Are your thoughts controlling your actions and your performance? These kinds of irrational thoughts can cause us to feel anxious, distressed, and even overwhelmed.
But how are anxiety and irrational thoughts related to each other?
Irrational thoughts and negative thinking play a major role in the intensity of our anxiety. Constant irrational thoughts, ruminating thoughts, or catastrophic thinking are all common symptoms of severe or chronic anxiety.
People struggling with anxiety often struggle with overestimating an event that causes them constant worry. This kind of thinking can often be related to feelings of being on edge, stressed, and antsy.
This combination of anxiety and irrational thoughts can cause all logic to fly out the window by the belief that something bad will happen even if the situation is good and normal. For many people, irrational thinking can be the reason for their anxiety but for some, anxiety can be the catalyst of irrational thinking.
In this article, we’ll be exploring the link between anxiety and irrational thinking and whether anxiety causes irrational thoughts. By the end of this article, I hope you’ll understand the connection between anxiety and irrational thoughts and how to stop irrational thoughts.
What Are Irrational Thoughts?
Irrational thoughts are patterns of unrealistic, illogical, and unreasonable thoughts that can be annoying, discouraging, and distressing. Anyone can experience irrational thoughts when under too much stress but there are some specific situations where irrational thoughts can be specific to mental health conditions.
If you’re prone to distress – emotional and mental – you’re more likely to think irrationally. During stressful times, people tend to form unrealistic solutions to problems that can also contribute to overthinking negative scenarios. If you’re a pessimist, you may also struggle with irrational thinking.
Irrational thoughts often crop up when we’re under too much stress. Therefore these thoughts are a result of our emotions rather than the logical side of our minds. In simple words, your irrational thoughts are more often than not a result of the emotional state you’re in.
Anxiety And Irrational Thoughts: What’s The Link?
As I said before, irrational thoughts are a symptom of chronic anxiety. Anxiety causes irrational thoughts and vice versa. There are certain types of irrational thoughts such as catastrophic thinking, overgeneralizing, overestimating the threat, etc. that may lead you to develop anxiety and its symptoms.
Moreover, the person experiencing irrational thoughts might not be aware of their anxiety. Also when a person is on the verge of an anxiety attack, there is a high chance that they may experience irrational thinking.
Anxiety is a mental health condition that can cause physical and emotional distress. Anxiety is caused by (and may result in) feeling out of control, worrying over things that haven’t happened yet, etc. Many types of irrational thinking accompany anxiety.
Some examples can be:
- Health anxiety can cause irrational thoughts such as: “I have a cold; I may have COVID”
- General anxiety can cause irrational thoughts such as: “There has been no reply from my friend, can they be in an accident?”
- Social anxiety can cause irrational thoughts such as: “If I go to the gathering, I will end up embarrassing myself”
- Phobias can cause irrational thoughts such as: “I may fall to my death if I’m on the roof”
Anxiety is not the only condition that can cause irrational thinking. Your environmental or situational factors can also contribute to irrational thoughts. For example, negative reporting on the news may cause you to fear for your safety even though you live in a relatively safe area or an awkward social situation may cause you to experience social embarrassment.
Long-term exposure to stress can cause anxiety which may lead to negative thinking, which then can turn into irrational thinking.
How To Manage Irrational Thoughts?
Challenging your irrational thoughts can be difficult but with the right tools and ways, it can be managed. Here are some ways you can stop irrational thoughts:
1. Confronting The Thoughts
One of the best ways to manage irrational thoughts is to confront them. Write them down and question them. Ask yourself; how realistic is my thought? Once you confront them and start thinking rationally, you’ll slowly learn to restructure your thinking and stop irrational thoughts altogether.
2. Reframing Your Thoughts
The second way is to change your thinking patterns. You can try this by writing down your irrational thoughts in a journal and reframing them. You might believe that you have no control over the thoughts popping in your head but you do! By focusing on positive thoughts you can learn to stop irrational thinking.
3. Practicing Meditation
Another way to manage irrational thoughts, as well as anxiety caused by irrational thinking, is meditation. A simple 10-minute meditation every day can help you find emotional balance, reduce stress, and stay in the present moment. There are meditation apps you can download to help you ease into the practice of meditation.
4. Speaking With Others
Sometimes getting an opinion from others can help manage irrational thoughts as well. Speaking to someone close to you such as a family member, friend, peer, etc., and asking their perspective on the irrational thought you’re having can help you recognize how unrealistic your thought is.
5. Seeking Professional Help
Consulting a professional counselor can help you find the right coping skills required to manage your irrational thoughts. A professional may use cognitive-behavioral therapy to help you change your irrational thinking into positive thinking.
You can connect with a licensed and trained professional counselor here.
It can be difficult to just stop thinking irrational thoughts, especially when you’ve been struggling with irrational thoughts for a long time. With the right help and some self-awareness exercises, you can learn to manage irrational thoughts.
For more information, you can connect with us on social media or write to us at [email protected]. We’re always looking forward to hearing from you!
I hope the above information was useful to you in understanding whether anxiety causes irrational thoughts and how to overcome them. Did this blog help? Do let us know in the comments below!
During these uncertain times, it’s important to interrupt anxious thoughts.
- What Is Anxiety?
- Find a therapist to overcome anxiety
Anxiety and the alarming thoughts our anxiety conjures are normal to experience, especially under stressful and challenging times like now. But anxiety feels terrible so it’s good to have a few tools to calm an anxious nervous system. Speaking supportive words to ourselves can provide relief, much like a parent reassures a child.
Experiment with soothing self-talk with the following phrases. See if the words relax you, calm your beating heart, allow you to breathe a little deeper, or lower the tension in your muscles. Even tiny shifts are important and can bring a sense of mastery that you have some control over your nervous system—which you do!
Here are the mantras I recommend:
“This is temporary.” It’s true: This quarantine and virus won’t last forever. Humans can sustain stress for long periods of time. We are resilient. Remember, “This stress is temporary!” Say it again and again.
“Everything is going to be OK.” The future is unknown, not only now but always. But there is no sense in triggering our nervous system into states of panic. We can tell ourselves everything is going to be OK, and it most likely will be.
If you’re too much of a realist or a pessimist, you can modify this mantra to “Everything is probably going to be OK.” If that’s still hard for you to believe, try “If everything is not OK, I can handle it.” And that is true! Try out different versions and see what calms the anxiety in your body. (Click here for a gentle experiential exercise to practice being your own good parent.)
“One day at a time. One hour at a time. One minute at a time.” When emotions run high, we can get overwhelmed. This is the time to slow way down. Remind yourself the only goal is to get through the next minute, hour, or day. Shift your focus to figuring out a pleasant and calming activity that you can do right now to get through a tough moment.
For example, recently I woke up feeling really anxious after having several calm days. I knew I was anxious because my heart was beating fast. I reminded myself that my goal was to “slow down and take it a minute at a time.” I read my list of state-changers, concrete activities that shift us out of anxiety and into states of calm, connection, confidence, and clarity.
Here’s what I did:
- Dedicated 5 minutes to grounding and breathing.
- Vacuumed the house.
- Made a cup of tea.
- Took a very hot bath.
It took a few hours, but eventually, I started to feel a bit better. If none of those methods had worked, I would’ve told myself, “Hang in there! Tomorrow is a new day, and you will probably feel better in the morning.”
- What Is Anxiety?
- Find a therapist to overcome anxiety
“Just because I feel anxious at this moment doesn’t mean in reality things are worse than the moment before.” Anxiety has a funny way of generating catastrophic thoughts. When you are very anxious, it’s important to pause and notice your thoughts. If you think the world is ending or you’ll never be happy again or you’ve ruined your life, notice that and then remind yourself it’s just a feeling or it’s just a worry. It doesn’t mean it is true.
The way we talk to ourselves matters and affects how we feel and think. I hope you will try some of these mantras and see if they offer any relief. If not, you can at least feel good about the effort you made to help yourself. Working with anxiety and the emotions that underlie anxiety is a lifelong practice. The idea is to get into an experimental state of mind and have a wide variety of tools, like mantras, state-changers, and the Change Triangle, at your disposal. It’s about practice, not perfection.
Anxiety Essential Reads
The Upside of Anxiety: 5 Ways It Helps Us Be Our Best Selves
4 Reasons Anxiety Can Be Your Friend
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Anxiety is a mental health disorder, characterized by feelings of worry or fear. It is one of the most prevalent mental health conditions affecting approximately 7.6% of the global population.
‘Anxiety disorder’ is an umbrella term used to describe various disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety and phobias.
You are anxious if you have constant feelings of tension, worry and nervousness, especially if these feelings interfere with your daily life.
Signs of Anxiety
- Racing thoughts
- Difficulties concentrating
- Feeling irritable
- Problems with sleep
- Heightened alertness
Everyone has at some point in their lives dealt with feelings of anxiety, so it is normal to deal with anxious thoughts sometimes, however if you find it hard to control your worries, making anxiety a constant in your daily life, it will eventually lead to the following disadvantages:
- Social isolation
- Poor quality of life
- Head aches and chronic pain
- Increased risk of high blood pressure
Self Treatment for Anxiety
Anxiety just like most sicknesses can be controlled either by therapy or self treatment. I recommend first trying self treatment to determine how severe your anxiety issues may be. Self treatment will also be helpful in understanding your triggers and the ways to avoid or control them. Examples of self help treatment include;
- Physical activity
- A healthy diet
- Regular sleep
- Relaxation exercises
- Avoid caffeine
- Reduce intake of alcohol
- Write out your worries
- Talk to someone who gets it
Foods that help reduce anxiety
What you eat can affect your mental health and anxiety symptoms because of the gut and brain connection. Below are a list of foods that may reduce your anxiety.
- Dark chocolate
- Chia seeds
- Citrus fruits
- Bell peppers
Scriptures To Help With Anxiety
Philippians 4:6 (Don’t be anxious for anything, rather bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions along with thanksgiving.
1Peter 5:7- Throw all your anxiety unto him, because he cares about you.
Isaiah 41:10- So do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and help you.
2 Thessalonians 3:16- Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times, in every way. The Lord is with you all.
Anxiety is a complex mental health disorder that requires a multitude of approaches to manage it effectively. Along with medication and therapy, the foods you eat may help support your mental health, reduce symptoms of anxiety and promote better brain health.
While there’s not enough research to support using foods as a first line approach to treating anxiety, whole and minimally processed foods that are high in antioxidants appear beneficial.
Your mental health is very important, so breathe, remember to take breaks in between and take it easy on yourself.
Overall, pursue peace because everyday is mental health awareness day!
Do you have repetitive thoughts? Human beings are prone to having repetitive thoughts and this is especially true in regards to events or situations that provoke anxiety.
However, these thoughts can become so repetitive that they interfere with our ability to complete certain tasks. This, in turn, causes us more anxiety, which further interferes with our ability to perform at optimal levels. It becomes a vicious cycle that can be difficult to break. Fortunately, human beings have a great deal of control over their thoughts and these repetitive thoughts can be reduced through a technique that is called stopping.
The basic idea behind stopping is that if anxiety-provoking thoughts are paired with relaxation, their repetitiveness can be reduced which results in anxiety reduction.
In other words, if the thoughts that make you nervous become associated with relaxation, they can be reduced.
While initially, you may have a repetitive thought that interferes with your daily thoughts 600 times a day, using this technique you can usually help cut that number in half. This means that you can reduce these recurrent thoughts to just five times a day in seven days’ time. The method by which thought stopping is achieved is quite simple.
1. When experiencing a recurring thought that causes anxiety, you should first say “Stop.” This introduces the idea to yourself to stop having these thoughts. You can say it out loud or to yourself but this is a necessary first step.
2. Negate the thought that you are having on a recurrent basis. “I will not . . .” or “I can not . . .” is how this statement usually starts. The brain doesn’t really recognise negatives; for example, if I ask you not to think about a pink elephant what’s the first thing you think about?
3. Make a positive self-statement about a feeling which instils confidence. “I will . . .” or “I can . . .” is how this statement usually starts. So change a negative into a positive e.g. change “I can’t feel good” to “how can I feel good?”.
4. To further distil the thoughts, take a cleansing, relaxing breath. It’s important to note that thought stopping will work best if you have mastered relaxing breathing techniques – this is key in pairing the anxiety-provoking thought with relaxation.
5. In order to achieve maximum benefit from this technique in the shortest time period possible, you should do steps one to four every time you have the recurrent thought. Failure to do this is likely to result in thought-stopping not being effective.
By incorporating this technique into your daily routine, the frequency of your reoccurring thoughts should reduce. Again, practice makes perfect. However, in this case, it’s important that you use this technique each and every time that you are having an intrusive thought that you would like to get rid of. Failure to do this will reduce the effectiveness of the technique. At first, it will take effort but after just a short time it will become second nature to swap your thoughts over from negative to positive.
A note on OCD treatments from Counselling Directory
If you are struggling with obsessive compulsive disorder, there are several approaches you can take – the recommended treatments, however, are cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and exposure and response prevention (ERP). You may also be recommended medication. Find out more on our OCD fact-sheet.
Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.
Anxiety and rumination typically go hand in hand, depending on what type of anxiety you may suffer from.
Even folks who don’t see themselves as anxious can experience negative thoughts or worries that just don’t seem to go away.
You can’t seem to move on with your days to-do list or focus on your family or relaxation time because you are plagued by unwanted thoughts.
One thing to be aware of is that if therapy is needed or if you are experiencing anxiety and ruminating thoughts to a high degree, it is important that you seek help from a professional.
In this article, I hope to provide some tips and tricks that have worked for me to stop ruminating and anxiety in it’s tracks when I have had a difficult time moving past certain unwanted negative thought patterns.
I am not a professional therapist or psychologist, but I am a sufferer of anxiety, low level depression, and have tendencies towards obsessive thoughts and rumination.
Take all of this with a grain of salt because I cannot know what it is like to be you or how you process or deal with thoughts and problems in your life.
However, I have used these tips, which are backed by scientific research or empirical evidence, with success, and my hope is that they will help you too ❤.
Ruminating and Anxiety
First off, I’d like to give a little info on what exactly ruminating is and how it’s caused by or conjoined with anxiety.
Rumination is basically repetitive thoughts or mental problems that you experience without ever solving or finishing them.
You may be thinking about something in your relationship that bothers you or feelings of unworthiness or failure. You are unable to finish the thoughts with solutions or positive outcomes.
This can cause anxiety and depression to intensify because you feel stuck and your brain can trigger other related thoughts and problems that add on but don’t end up anywhere productive.
Some people spend hours a day having these types of thoughts.
I personally have been through periods of my life where I was bombarded with negative thought patterns that just wouldn’t quit.
A thought would seem to pop up out of nowhere and then I would sink into this repetitive re-hashing of the thought over and over without actually working towards overcoming it or solving it.
Almost like the mental equivalent of quick sand.
This would typically end in tears. I had weeks where this occurred every day, multiple times per day.
I knew I had to solve it.
Aside from reading some self-help books, and journaling out the problems and potential solutions, I started looking for ways to overcome these thought spirals when I wanted to get on with my day (often, these incidences occurred when I was walking to pick up my children from school – not the best timing).
The following are some examples of techniques and tricks I used to get me through those tough times, stop ruminating and anxiety, and to help me become happier and more in control of my thought patterns.
Some of these are lighthearted and fun and others are more technical and serious. Pick and choose at your preference!
This article will help you stop anxious thought patterns by challenging the typical anxious themed thoughts that interfere with your daily life. Just because you have a thought doesn’t mean it is real.
Stop Anxious thoughts
When you are anxious, a harmless thought can escalate in a matter of moments, growing into a catastrophe, and become a reality for you in this anxious state. You will learn how to stop that today by studying your thought processes and learning how you jump to conclusions and end up with extreme thinking.
You text your friend in the morning about meeting up later tonight, and she hasn’t replied by lunchtime. Your thoughts can rage from she hasn’t seen the text to she’s ignoring me on purpose and doesn’t like me.
Your partner did not call to say they had arrived, and your anxious mind can jump to they’ve been in an accident.
After texting something nice to your husband and they don’t reply, anxiety themed thoughts can reach the heights of being with someone else; they do not love me anymore.
An important point to note is that once you have reached anxious thoughts, you react to the thought as if it were real. You respond both physically and emotionally.
I remember hearing an anecdote about a man borrowing a spade from his neighbour. He kept forgetting to return it. After six months, he returned it, and on the walk over, he kept thinking.
- He probably thought I had kept it or damaged it
- he needed it all this time and is upset with me for not giving it back, or worse, he had to buy a new one and is out of pocket for replacing an item he already owned.
- He resents me for this; why did he not ask? Stupid man, and I would have given it back. It’s his fault.
By the time the man was walking up to his neighbour’s path, he was raging.
Here’s your bloody spade and shoved it at his neighbour was his opening line when the neighbour answered the door.
What if they hate my presentation?
What if I have cancer?
What if I lose control and go crazy?
What if my husband dies?
What if I never get rid of these awful thoughts?”
Those darn racing, unwanted, intrusive, anxious thoughts. You’re being plagued with automated negative thoughts and images you can’t stand, yet there is nothing you can do to make them go away.
How to stop anxious thoughts fast?
The answer is here.
How Anxious Thoughts Take Control Over You
Anxious thoughts are like that website that you open up in your browser and gets your entire computer stuck.
You wait a few seconds and when nothing changes, you restart your computer, right?
Racing, troubled thoughts get your brain stuck. You happily go about your day when suddenly they come out of nowhere and literally paralyze you in such a way you can’t think about anything else.
The anxious irrational thoughts send an unpleasant shock wave through your nervous system.
Then, once you start reacting to the anxious thought you find yourself thinking about it over and over again, building a fake and frightening future from it in minutes.
The repetitive anxious thought can last minutes, hours, days depending on how upset you become by the thought.
But if you want to combat depressive and anxious thinking, here’s exactly how to do it:
How to Stop Anxious Thoughts in 30 Seconds
I want to share with you an incredibly effective cognitive therapy technique for anxious thinking, to help you “restart” your brain and get rid of anxious thoughts almost instantly.
This technique is “borrowed” (with permission) from Barry Joe Macdonald , the creator of “ Panic Away “ , and in my experience, the quickest and most effective “trick” to eliminate intrusive thoughts instantly.
The “Observe – Trust – Move Technique”
“Observe the anxious thought and label it. Say:
“Oh there is fear X again, imagine that”
Try your very best to not get sucked into reacting emotionally to the thought.
Trust that what you are worrying about will in all probability never happen. Almost all the troubled thoughts we have are a complete waste of our time and energy.
Trust that things will work out fine.
(Joseph Cossman said, “If you want to test your memory, try to recall what you were worrying about one year ago today.”)
If you are religious/spiritual than hand your anxious thought over to a higher power. Trust that there is nothing to fear and you will be looked after.
Trust and let it go.
Move your attention elsewhere. Focus on something positive that takes your mind out of the anxious groove.
Replace the anxious thought with a positive thought. You are not trying to suppress the anxious thought, you are simply moving your attention elsewhere.
You are restarting your brain.
Whatever you are doing, focus on that completely. Be there. Be in the moment.
If you are out on the street, look at people’s faces. Check out what they’re wearing. If you are in your car, focus on your surroundings – the sights and sounds. Focus on the music on the radio.
If you are with someone else, focus your attention on him or her – completely.
By moving your attention to the present moment you will leave no more room for the anxious thoughts to take control of your mind.
[Tweet “The Observe – Trust – Move Technique to stop #anxious thoughts in 30 seconds”]
Remember – O.T.M
Observe, Trust, Move.
This is one of the best ways to stop intrusive thoughts – fast.
It didn’t fully work for me for the first time, but the second time I did it – the frightening thoughts disappeared in 30 seconds. And so will yours.
If your life is being completely ruined by intrusive anxious thoughts, and you find yourself constantly worrying, CBT techniques are can help you in more ways you can imagine.
To learn more about how to use CBT to overcome anxiety and panic , click the link right now.
What Are Your Anxiety Thoughts About? (Poll)
Let me know what you think:
To your health and happiness,
If you suffer from full-blown panic attacks, you should know there’s a technique to stop them too in 30 seconds . Check it out.
Is it possible to use only breathing to lower your blood pressure – instantly? The…
Those who never experienced anxiety and panic attacks – just don’t get it. The constant…
About Meital James
Meital James, Founder and CEO of 4 healthy living blogs, has a background in Naturopathic medicine, research, journalism, and nutrition.
Her blogs are the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and experience and all the posts are verified by scientific findings.
I know this…..MY ANXIETY IS EVIL! And I don’t like it very much. Thank you for showing me a way to possibly deal with that anxiety monster of mine.
I have acute anxiety at the moment for various reasons, I can’t sleep or eat very well and I have pains in my chest. I know all things pass and one day this will be a memory but in the meantime, I will try these techniques and do the best I can.
Thanks for stopping by..I really enjoy your blog and the posts on your blog hop and thanks for your support!:)
Deborah Davis says
Anxious! Worried? Sure I am–more often than I like to admit.
I really enjoyed reading this post about how the CBT technique can help us “restart” the brain and get rid of anxious thoughts quickly. Unresolved anxiety is detrimental to our health and happiness. Using this easy-to-implement technique properly can actually change lives. Thank you so much for sharing this valuable tool with us at the Happy, Healthy, Green, and Natural Hop!
I love this! Thanks for sharing. It is so true that you need to take hold of the thought immediately. Otherwise you can let fear grip you. I am a school psychologist and I love using CBT!
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Livia tends towards anxiety. She seems to be a chronic worrier. Sometimes, when there’s no cause for anxiety, she makes something up to entertain anxious thoughts. She feels anxious when her husband is five minutes late as she imagines him being involved in a terrible accident. If Livia’s son coughs, she worries this could be the start of a severe illness. She fears that something bad might happen at any minute.
Even though Livia is a fictional character, she reminds me of myself a couple of years ago (Read more about my struggle with anxious thoughts: How God changed me).
Anyhow, when I was younger, I worried that I‘d never find a husband. I feared that God had marriage in mind for everyone but me. I feared that I‘d never pass the exam to go and study Theology. I worried that I’d never get healed from my chronic illness. I could fill line after line with examples. And now that God turned everything around, my mind sometimes invents things to be anxious about. Isn’t that sort of funny? Well, maybe it’s just ridiculous.
Years ago, I used to worry excessively. Today, I worry now and then. But now I know how to stop dwelling on anxious thoughts and how to get out of that vicious cycle. We can’t prevent fearful thoughts from crossing our minds, but we can learn to deal with them accordingly. The more we unmask and pray about them, the fewer they enter our consciousness. Most people who tend to fixate on things and get anxious about them are doing it out of habit. We worry because we’re used to worrying, maybe for decades. It is a thought pattern that our mind is comfortable to entertain.
But the Bible tells us to take every thought captive:
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2. Corinthians 10:5
In the following paragraphs, I’m going to share with you what has been working for me to stop anxious thoughts. I hope that some of those tips help soothe your anxiety as well.
I found that one of the greatest weapons to deal with anxiety is to confront it with reality. Take your anxious thought and stay there for a while. I know this is hard at first because it is exactly what you don’t want to do, right? If you rationally confront your anxiety and determine how likely the imagined event will happen, you’ll notice the absurdity of your thought. Impose questions that challenge your beliefs. You’ll see that it loses its power when confronted with reality. Ask God to help you examine your anxious thought patterns – he‘s more than happy to guide you. Pray for insight and revelation to align your thoughts with the truth.
Another great way to calm anxiety is to meditate on Bible verses. Which ones should you read exactly? I collected my favorites in a list in another blog post: 15 Bible verses to calm fear and anxiety
Talk to a trusted friend. Share your fears and worries with someone you’re close to. Sometimes our anxious thoughts prevent us from analyzing our situation objectively. All we see are those threatening things that could happen. Talk to someone who can help you think more clearly and realistically.
Know this: Most of the things you’re worrying about will never actually happen. Most of your fears and worries only exist in your imagination. You may recall events you previously worried about that weren’t too bad after all. That presentation, meeting, travel, or whatever kept you awake at night, turned out to be just fine. Countless things you imagined could go wrong, didn’t go wrong. You worried in vain.
The scenarios that occupy our minds about what might happen make us suffer for no reason. While you’re imagining what could happen, you’re feeling the pain and anxiety takes over your mind and heart. Out of fear you make unwise choices with inconvenient consequences. God doesn’t want you to suffer because of things that will probably never happen. Why do you cause yourself all this pain by letting your mind wander to the what-ifs?
Yes, pain and suffering are part of life. There are times when unfortunate events happen by surprise. I know, we don’t want to hear or accept it. But neither worry nor fear won’t change your situation. They don’t improve your circumstances but will cause you even more distress. No matter how much you worry about your future, things will probably turn out completely different than you expected.
The best thing you can do today is to spend time with God. Because the more you’re rooted in prayer and stand firm on your relationship with God, the better you’re prepared to face what comes at you. What you’ve really got is this moment. And right now, God is present. Why not take a moment to look at what God is currently doing? Pray and ask him for insight into your circumstances and perspective for your day.
The future will always be uncertain since you’ll never know what’s going to happen. Accept that good and bad things are part of life and that God is with you whatever might happen. Focus on what God is doing in your life right now and your tasks at any given moment.
So, how do I actually stop an anxious thought? Here’s a simple example of a typical anxious thought crossing my mind: I fear that my daughter could fall down the staircase and hurt herself badly. First, I confront that fear with reality: How likely is this to happen right now? At the moment, we’re sitting on the floor playing in her room and there’s no stair. It’s a very unlikely event. I usually stop right there and return to the task at hand.
But if the anxious thought returns, here’s my thought process: When we walk to the nearest staircase, it is my responsibility as her mother to make sure she learns how to climb the stairs safely. Next time when we walk the stairs, I’ll be there to teach and help her.
I pray that he protects her and that he gives me wisdom to help her learn to climb the stairs safely. I decide to watch out for her as good as I can but at the same time, I know that I can’t control everything. I remind myself that worrying is a waste of time since it only steals the beauty of the present moment. Then, I refocus my attention on what I’ve been doing and the task at hand; playing with my daughter.
If you don’t actively deal with your anxious thoughts, you’ll never get rid of them. Practicing new ways of thinking as the Bible teaches us (Romans 12:1-2) may feel unnatural at first because you’re not used to it. Keep going and the uncomfortable feelings will vanish.
It is an active fight, an ongoing struggle to win the war in our minds. But the more we do it, the more we actively engage in good thoughts, the easier it gets.
Let me know in the comments: What helps you stop anxious thoughts?
Read more on the topic of worry and anxiety:
“I just feel anxious. I’m not thinking anything.”
Wrong, you have thoughts behind those anxious feelings. The feelings are so intense that you aren’t aware of the self-talk that precedes anxiety.
Negative self-talk is behind anxious feelings. Your thoughts impact your feelings. Your feelings affect your view of the world, and that view negatively affects your thoughts. This vicious cycle keeps anxiety going. In order to stop anxiety, you’ve got to learn to stop anxious thoughts.
The work is to replace negative self-talk with positive talk.
Most anxious people think, “What if…”
Change the “What if…” to “So what,” and you’ll reduce anxiety.
Does this sound easy? It usually takes practice to break the habit of negativity. Anxious thoughts are automatic for people with anxiety problems. You feel anxious and are unaware of preceding thoughts. The first step is to identify your thoughts prior to an oncoming anxious feeling. The thought won’t always be obvious.
For example, Pat sat in a meeting with several of his superiors. He was nervous about his presentation and flashed back to a time early on in his career when he botched a presentation. These thoughts started running through Pat’s head, “What if I mess up again? I could get fired. I will embarrass myself.” The more Pat allowed these thoughts, the more anxious he became. By the time he stood up to give his presentation, he was close to panic.
Had Pat used his self-talk in a positive way, he may have warded off anxiety. “I messed up early on in my career. I’m much more experienced. I have done these presentations many times with good outcomes. I have every reason to believe these people will like what I have to say and be impressed.”
Do you hear the difference in self-talk? The first creates or reinforces anxious feelings. The second example dismisses anxious thoughts and builds confidence. Self-talk is that powerful.
If your self-talk is has these themes, time to make changes:
…I should have, I have to…You are the classic perfectionist who always falls short of the job and worries about your failures.
…I can’t believe I did that, How stupid, What an idiot I am…You are far too critical of yourself and need to give yourself a break! You need a shot of self-esteem.
…I can’t, I don’t have what it takes, I won’t be able to do it…You believe nothing will change and you can’t meet the challenge.
…What about…? You are the classic worrier. Nothing can happen without you bringing out all the possibilities for disaster or problems.
If you find yourself identifying with these statements, you need to change your thoughts. Write down positive statements that will counter the negative possibilities. For example, instead of thinking, “I can’t do that because it’s too scary,” say, “It looks scary but I can meet a new challenge. The worse possible thing that can happen is that I’ll feel scared for a moment and then it will pass. I will have accomplished something new.”
After you’ve written down positive counter statements to your negative thoughts, practice saying the positive statements. Here’s one I give my kids when they tell me they can’t do something, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Is this all things? Yes, so you can do it.”
Next time you feel anxious, stop and ask, what was I thinking before I felt this way? Chances are it was a negative thought that needs changing.
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How to Stop Anxious Thoughts and Cure Anxiety
- Post published: June 24, 2015
- Post category:Confidence
Anxiety is a problem that many people face, all over the world. It causes feelings of fear and panic that can be annoying or even debilitating. There are many different theories about what causes anxious thoughts, and just as many different ways of treating it. Some practitioners treat it with drugs; some treat it with talk therapy, and others recommend yoga and meditation to stop the negative effects of anxiety.
The problem is that most “experts” on anxiety do not fully understand what causes this problem. Therefore they do not have the foundation knowledge they need to treat it effectively. They know that certain treatments have been effective for some people, and therefore they recommend those treatments.
This does not, however, guarantee that these experts’ treatments for anxiety will work for you.
To conquer your anxious thoughts and cure your anxiety permanently, you must first understand what causes the anxiety in the first place.
You’re about to take the first step to gaining this understanding for yourself. Keep reading to learn more.
Unconscious Triggers of Pain, and their Origins
Anxiety is caused by unconscious triggers inside you that, when they are set off, cause a negative fight-or-flight response. As you navigate your life with anxiety, this landmine of fight-or-flight responses blocks your free-flowing expression, your sense of strength, and your resilience. You are paralysed by anxious thoughts because you never know what trigger is going to provoke an anxiety attack.
The “emotional landmines” that trigger anxiety attacks don’t just appear all by themselves. They are caused by negatively charged memories that are stored in your unconscious mind. When an innocuous event happens or someone says just the wrong words, you are reminded of this memory, even if you are not consciously aware of it, and you respond in the way that memory taught you to respond.
From our earliest moments, we inevitably learn about the suffering that is inherent in life. Some people suffer from abuse and neglect. We all suffer from loss, failure, embarrassment, and disappointment. These events create negatively-charged memories that we end up carrying around with us.
While this pain is inevitable, that does not mean it serves a beneficial purpose. For many people, the painful memories that they carry create negative patterns of thought and actions that lock them in and prevent them from truly being the people they are inside.
A nxiety is one of the many patterns that can develop from these negative memories.
If you are one of the many people who suffer from anxiety, and if you have any desire to take back control of your life and life with freedom, then what I am about to tell you will change your life. I can help you erase those negative memories, delete the negative effects the anxious thoughts have had on you, and live your own life
What is anxiety? What purpose do anxious thoughts serve?
When we form memories, we don’t just remember the events that happened. We also remember the emotions that went with those events. Those emotions tell us the lesson that we take away from the memory. Our unconscious mind interprets the memories, and it also interprets the things that happen to us every day.
If our unconscious mind thinks that we are getting close to danger, based on a past memory that was negative, then our unconscious mind acts as a good watchdog and scares us away from the situation or person that is triggering the alarm. For people with anxiety, the symptoms that happen because of our unconscious’s guarding are all too familiar.
This is, obviously, a survival mechanism that is intended to keep us safe from harm and sorrow. Unfortunately, it also means that we spend our entire lives stuck with all that negativity. Even worse, if we don’t know how to deal with these painful memories, we end up suppressing them. As we suppress these memories, they become even more volatile so that we never know when the emotions associated with them are going to go off.
If this all weren’t bad enough, the negative emotions from these painful memories create a vicious cycle, because when they go off they create more negative emotions, which creates another little land mine in your psyche that will go off if anything comes close to it in your unconscious mind. Eventually, our energy and mental resources are completely depleted, and we feel emotionally paralysed and incapacitated.
Remove your anxious thoughts and overcome anxiety
Having suffered anxiety my whole life, before I figured out how to remove it, the way I managed was to stay away from people so I wouldn’t be triggered as much, the only place I found solace from it, was in my own company I wanted a way to still be able to live, be around people and enjoy my life.
I didn’t want to feel anxious in social situations and wanted a solution. On my journey over 15 years to figure it out, I learnt that anxiety is the mind’s warning that an old memory is going to be retriggered, where you might be in danger and/or have to feel the same painful emotions you experienced at the time.
There is good news for those dealing with these anxious thoughts – there is a new coaching process that I teach that can permanently delete most of these emotional landmines from the unconscious mind. This allows the individual to feel confident, in control, positive, peaceful, carefree and grounded. If you are looking to be empowered, stable, and happy, I can help you break free from your negative patterns!
This process involves breaking the hold that these negative memories have on you. Some clients are afraid that this will make them lose parts of themselves. Don’t worry about this; first of all, this program does not cause amnesia, and second of all, I the memories are not serving you, why keep them around just to make your life worse?
If you are looking to take control of your life, claim your free 1-hour consultation today.
Are you an excessive worrier?
When worrying becomes excessive, it can lead to anxiety, panic and even cause illness. When worried or anxious, your mind and body go into a state of ‘fight or flight’ as you constantly focus on what could happen.
Chronic worrying (often referred to as anxiety) can affect your daily life so much that it interferes with your work, appetite, relationships, sle ep and reduces your overall quality of life.
A Way of Dealing With Worry: Label and Let Go
One mindfulness based technique for dealing with worry proposed by Dr. Christopher Walsh is a technique he calls the “just worrying” labeling (2) . It’s a very simple technique: Whenever you find yourself worrying about something, you simply mentally note to yourself that you’re “just worrying.”
By doing this you step back from being caught up in the thoughts and so they no longer get taken over by them. You can see that they are simply thoughts in the mind and you don’t have to buy into them,
After you label the thoughts, then you can simply let them go and put your focus on something more nourishing and uplifting. or ju st bring your attention into the present moment and what you are doing.
Every time you catch yourself worrying—no matter how often—you employ the technique again.
Don’t Fight the Feeling
Whatever You Fight, You Strengthen, and What You Resist, Persists – Eckhart Tolle
When using the “just worrying” technique, like any other mindfulness exercise, it is important not to fight your feelings or thoughts. There is no need to criticize or judge yourself for feel ing worried or anxious. There is also no need to try t o force the thoughts out of your head. In short – avoid any struggle with the thoughts. Struggling with thoughts is a bit like struggling in quicksand. It only makes you sink deeper.
Instead of struggling with the thoughts, you can simply untangle from your worry thoughts and view them objectively and calmly. By labelling it “jus t a worry,” you immediately step back from the thought, stop the struggle with what is happening, and recognize that the worry thoughts are simply that – just thoughts. Not reality. In that moment of realization you are no longer ‘stuck’ in your head and can bring your focus back to the present moment.
You don’t need to waste energy fighting worry and anxiety, but you also no longer need to ‘buy into it’ either. With this simple practice, you can recognize unhelpful thoughts, label them “just worrying,” and move o n with your day in a state of ease and calm.
If you want to know how to overcome unhelpful thinking patterns you might enjoy this post on the four keys to overcoming negative thinking for good (with a free meditation audio).
Here is how most people see anxiety disorder – trigger (symptom, thought or memory) followed by emotional, behavioral and physiological reaction. In my experience, this perception of anxiety leads people to think that there is nothing they can do about it, which eventually makes them develop victim mentality due to helplessness.
This perception of anxiety suffers from lack of solution. Luckily, there is a solution that can help you take control back from anxiety and that solution is Automatic Thoughts.
In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Automatic Thoughts are thoughts that we have after becoming aware of the Trigger (symptom, thought or memory). Depending on how that Automatic Thought will be – positive, neutral or negative, we will have similar Reaction (emotional, behavioral and physiological).
In this article I want to talk to you about the way Automatic Thoughts are contributing to your anxiety and how you can use them to your advantage.
Thoughts Cause Anxiety
Back in my anxiety days, I remember walking down the street I tended to avoid after having a few panic attacks there. As I walked, thoughts like “What if I have a panic attack” and “What if I die here” started to take over my brain. This was followed by a rush of fear, variety of symptoms and me rushing out of that location.
I was completely convinced that it was the location that caused me to have the discomfort. Frightened by the thoughts, I didn’t even dare to question them, so I just blindly accepted and believed in them. This was the problem, because the more I feared to question them, the more they ended up controlling me.
So in attempts to avoid the discomfort, I tried to avoid addressing anxious thoughts but by not addressing them, I created even more discomfort. It started to become clear that it were my thoughts that lead to anxiety, not the situations.
It was hard for me to accept at first because my first panic attack was out-of-the-blue. But when I dug deeper into my memory of that initial episode, I realized that it was my thinking that really sparked it. So even in the most extreme cases, it was catastrophic negative thinking that lead to catastrophic negative reaction.
Positive, Negative And Neutral Thoughts
We’ve now established that negative thoughts lead to negative reactions. By the same logic positive thoughts will lead to positive reactions. But when anxiety is high, pretending to have a positive reaction towards the discomfort is simply impossible. And here is what you may have missed – the bridge between a negative and a positive thought lies through a neutral thought.
Most of us grew up with black and white thinking, which is if someone is not good, then they must be bad, if someone doesn’t love you they must hate you, and if someone doesn’t think positively then they must think negatively.
The problem of black and white thinking is that it leaves no room for rationality, and as you know, anxiety thrives on lack of rationality. Therefore, it’s vitally important to start making use of your neutral thoughts to get out of this black and white trap.
Neutral thoughts are clam, rational and non-judgmental and often lead to quick diffusion of anxiety because unlike negative thoughts they don’t fuel it and unlike positive thoughts they don’t try to downplay it. While it’s clear that negative thoughts like “All is lost” will make anxiety worse, positive thoughts are another trap that needs to be understood.
Here is an example of a neutral thought “I feel the discomfort but it’s due to my high level of anxiety, I will let it go through me without resisting and it will eventually pass.” Here is an example of a positive thought “There is nothing wrong with me. I feel completely fine.”
There is nothing wrong with having a positive thought about anxiety, in fact, it’s something that you will eventually come to realize as you work on recovery. But if you force positivity when you feel absolutely horrible, then it will feel like you’re lying to yourself and that will eventually lead to frustration.
That’s why neutral thoughts are the bridge between negative and positive thinking. It’s a rational balanced way of seeing the problem, which will gradually shift your understanding of anxiety as you work on your recovery.
Identify Automatic Thoughts
Now that we know that positive thinking is achieved through neutral thinking. It’s time to learn how to identifying automatic thoughts. It may not be easy at first because they quickly become reflexive and you may react to them without even noticing it. So what you should do is ask yourself following questions before, during and after anxious episode (adjust tenses accordingly):
- “What was I predicting?”
- “What did I expect?”
- “What was I imagining?”
- “What was I afraid could happen?”
- “Was I remembering something?”
- “What did I anticipate?”
Once you have identified your automatic thought, give it a clam, rational and non-judgmental response and use it every time your automatic thought comes up instead of choosing the negative route or even positive one if it feels forced.
While identifying automatic thoughts is a significant piece of recovery process, it’s just a fraction of it. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information because you may end up not taking action on it and taking action is the key to recovery.
Thank you for reading this article. You can learn more about anxiety in our CBT Course for Anxiety absolutely free of charge. If you want to support us, you can visit our store for sustainable mental health awareness clothing. Part of our profits go to support mental health charities and non-profits.
Competition anxiety is common in athletes, especially if they struggle to deliver performance. It’s the feeling of stress and pressure right before a competition that can be harmful to athletes and if it’s bad enough, can even lead to an athlete dropping out of a competition altogether. With the high amount of pressure placed on competitive athletes to perform well and win, it’s no surprise that many fall into an anxious state right before it’s time to compete.
On top of the intense pressure to perform, some other reasons for competition anxiety are: The pressure of being observed, expectations from themselves, their parents and their coaches, the fear of failure, and too long of a taper before a competition. Whatever the reason is, it’s important to get performance anxiety under control so athletes can perform with less stress and ultimately, to their best ability. This article will outline how to get over performance anxiety.
Signs of Performance Anxiety
- Fast breathing
- Elevated heart rate
- Butterflies in the stomach
- Muscular tension
- Negative self-talk
- Poor concentration
- Feelings of weakness
Psychological intervention, performed by sport psychologists, can have a positive effect on performance enhancement and the personal growth of athletes. If done successfully, it can reduce competition anxiety so the athlete isn’t so nervous before they compete.
There are a few techniques sport psychologists use to help athletes manage competitive stress and anxiety. Here are 4 of the most popular types of psychological intervention to reduce competition anxiety.
1. Relaxation Training
There are numerous routines and types of training that help the body relax, including yoga , meditation, breathing exercises and Pilates. The music and movements in these relaxation training can help ease anxiety in the build-up to competitions. You learn proper breathing techniques as well as how to let go of negative thoughts and focus on being in the moment, which is key for enhanced performance. Even a few minutes per day or an extended period of time before the competition of practiced relaxation breathing can make a big difference. Yoga poses before the competition can help with relaxation – just make sure to do gentle poses to not overstretch or pull a muscle before the competition.
2. Thought Stopping
Thought stopping is the process of stopping a negative thought in its tracks and replacing it with a positive one. For example, let’s say there’s a competitive swimmer who has heightened anxiety because she’s going up against a swimmer who beat her time in the last competition. When she starts thinking “I don’t want to race, she already beat me last time”, she trains herself to dismiss the thought as soon as she notices it, replacing it with a positive thought such as “This is my race today! I’m going to rock it!”
Labeling is getting the athlete to recognize certain thoughts and feelings, so those negative ones can be associated with a positive outcome. An increased heart rate is a common symptom of competition anxiety, so when that happens, the athlete can label it as their body getting ready for the competition rather than being in an anxious state. If anxious feelings or thoughts can be linked to normal pre-competition responses, it can help their performance and mentality.
4. Deep Breathing
Breathing exercises can help the athlete relax and prepare for a competition with decreased stress and anxiety. Deep breathing needs to be practiced over time for it to work effectively, but can increase levels of oxygen in the blood to aid the working muscles. To enhance deep breathing, the athlete should also visualize their best performance and try to recall the physical effects on their body during that time to get them in a healthy state of mind for the competition.
Medications to Overcome Performance Anxiety
Some medications and dietary changes may be able to help performance anxiety. Keep in mind that a healthy diet, plenty of sleep , and exercise should help overcome performance anxiety. Also, food that eases the stomach such as complex high-carb foods such as rice, bread, and pasta is a good option. Limit caffeine intake and sugar intake as that can make you even more jittery. Beta-blocker medications such as propranolol (Inderal and generic), as well as pindolol (Visken and generic); acebutolol (Sectral and generic); and atenolol (Tenormin and generic) are said to help overcome performance anxiety. These drugs are used to treat high blood pressure, tremors, heart conditions, heart attacks and migraines. These beta blockers may help reduce the fight-or-flight response in our bodies and ease adrenaline.
Positives to Competitive Anxiety
Overcoming competitive anxiety can be a challenge but don’t beat yourself up too much. Sometimes competitive anxiety can be used to your advantage. When you are experiencing competitive anxiety your body raises its level of the “fight-or-flight” hormones and continues to release them for 20-60 minutes after the “threat” is gone. Your body will increase your heart rate and respiration rate in order to fuel the body to respond to the danger. This can come in handy especially during a sport such as sprinting. Another body change during the “fight-or-flight” response is dilated pupils. This allows more light into your eyes and better vision of your surroundings which could come in handy during a tennis match where alertness is key to performance. I bet we can all recall a time where the nerves going into a sports event boosted our performance.
Some or all athletes have experienced competition anxiety in their lifetime. If these solutions do not help, seeing a sports psychologist may be a better option to boost the usefulness of these suggestions. A more severe form of competition anxiety can be associated with social anxiety disorder (SAD) . If your symptoms are getting worse consider speaking to your doctor or a mental health specialist to get “back in the game.”
January 30, 2011 by Russ Pond
Now that we’ve wrapped up a couple series on The Love of God and Freedom from Fear, I want to share some simple, practical messages on dealing with fear, anxiety, and panic attacks.
Our struggle with anxiety and anxious thoughts primarily happens in our mind. What we think and believe often affects what we experience physically. Let me show you.
As you read this, imagine yourself holding a lemon. Look at it. Feel the texture. Smell it. Now take a knife and cut the lemon in half. The smell is stronger now. Close your eyes, and imagine taking a big, juicy bite of the lemon.
Did your mouth water? If you really imagined that lemon in your mind, then most likely, it did. I find this experiment amazing, because it proves that a thought can trigger a physical, chemical response in your body. And, if that’s true, then surely anxious thoughts can produce chemical reactions in your body.
Here are four practical steps on how you can stop anxious thoughts:
First, you need to recognize an anxious thought as simply that: a thought. It’s only in your mind. In most situations, there is no real danger. Too often, we’ve built a pattern of dangerous thoughts in our mind that really have no danger.
If we can start by recognizing those anxious thoughts when they come, and see them simply as thoughts, then it becomes easier to stop them. It helps to write down irrational thoughts when they hit. When you have a thought that doesn’t feel right or brings anxiety or confusion, write it down and take note of how it makes you feel. Keep a journal. This will help you recognize certain patterns in how you think.
2. Take those thoughts captive
When an anxious thought hits you, it’s essential to capture that thought immediately and think though where it’s coming from. Remember, the enemy can put thoughts into your mind and make them sound like your own. Don’t believe everything you think. Look at the fruit of that thought. Does it produce peace or fear? If it produces anxiety, fear or heaviness, then don’t receive it. It’s not from God. Reject it as a lie and ask God to give you peaceful thoughts.
“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
The Bible says we must renew our minds and stop conforming to the patterns of this world (Romans 12:2). This world–with its horror movies, fear-inducing reality shows, depressing news broadcasts, and unstable economy–will not produce peace. Quite the opposite. My family and I no longer watch the news on TV. We don’t watch horror movies, nor television shows that would produce anxious thoughts.
3. Find a healthy release
Most anxious thoughts release adrenaline into your body, raising your heart rate and blood pressure. Guess what? That’s what adrenaline is supposed to do. It’s preparing you to face danger. The problem is that there’s no real danger. So, our mind starts racing around, looking for something that’s a threat because our body is screaming, “Danger! Danger!”
I have found exercise to be an extremely helpful release of adrenaline. At the end of the day, when anxiety levels are raised, I often go for a run or a bike ride. The exertion is very good for ridding your body of the excessive adrenaline. If exercise is not an option, then spend time in prayer, meditation and reading scripture. Flood your mind with God’s truth and his promises of peace over you.
4. Get to the root
I read a great quote last week from Alan Smith, one of the freedom ministry pastors at our church. He writes: If I’m struggling, it’s not because of what I’ve been through. It’s because of what I came to believe when I went through it. God heals me, not by changing my past, but by revealing truth and displacing lies.
This is so true! Everyone has lies and wounds deep within our souls that affect how we perceive the world around us. That’s why it’s imperative that we know the truth so that the truth will set us free (John 8:32).
If your church does not have a freedom ministry, then I encourage you to start reading and studying all that Christ has done for you. There are some great books on our online bookstore. Also, check out our church’s Freedom Ministry foundation videos. They are wonderful! And, you can watch them online for free.
Prayer: Father, help me recognize the anxious thoughts when they hit, take them captive, release them and then get to the root so that I may find complete freedom in Jesus.
When my journalism career was just reaching cruising altitude, I was invited to appear on a local TV talk show. I despised public speaking but told myself this wasn’t a speech, it was a cozy chat. Unfortunately, that’s not how it felt at the studio. By the time I was seated under the bright lights on a dais that looked suspiciously like a stage, my brain was fogged with fear. When I did manage to utter a sentence, my voice quivered uncontrollably. For weeks, I woke up replaying those ten minutes, certain they had revealed who I truly was: a fraud.
My choking problem dates back to high school, when I could smack the ball in softball practice but reliably whiffed when facing competition. It’s mildly comforting to know that even those used to the limelight can falter this way (see “Famous Flubs,” below), but still I have to wonder: Why do my brain and body, which function well in everyday situations, routinely fail me in the clutch? Turns out, choking has piqued scientists’ curiosity, too and a number of recent studies help explain not only why it happens, but also—take heart, fellow chokers!—how to prevent it.
There’s a simple explanation for my public epic fail, says Sian Beilock, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Chicago and author of Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To. My prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain that helps with focusing, was hijacked by anxiety. When we’re anxious, our sympathetic nervous system kicks into gear, causing our heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate to increase. These physiological responses compete for the prefrontal cortex’s attention, thereby diverting valuable brain capacity from answering interview questions or remembering song lyrics. Anxious thoughts (They hate me) co-opt the brain’s working memory, a limited-capacity scratchpad also in the prefrontal cortex that helps us process in-the-moment information. So you’re left with too few cognitive resources to think clearly, never mind creatively. The same brain freeze-up afflicts those who study like mad but forget the answers during a test, or repeatedly rehearse a speech and then stammer through it.
With physical challenges, there’s an added element at play. For peak performance, everyone from a soccer star to a gifted pianist relies on unconscious brain circuitry. But when they get anxious, they start thinking about what they’re doing. They micromanage their movements—and increase the likelihood of messing up. “Focusing too intently on performance can backfire,” Beilock says.
Perfectionists are especially prone to self-sabotage, says Gordon Flett, PhD, Canada Research Chair in personality and health at York University in Toronto. “They put lots of pressure on themselves and tend to worry about how they’re being judged, which sets them up for trouble,” he explains. They’re more apt to ruminate about their mistakes or flaws, compare themselves with others and succumb to all-or-nothing thinking (If I don’t have the best ideas in this brainstorming session, it means I’m bad at my job), actions that can impair performance. And their sympathetic nervous system tends to hum at a higher-than-average frequency, so they’re more frazzled in general, making them more susceptible to an anxiety-related brain ambush. “When we asked perfectionists to recount the biggest mistake they ever made, their heart rates went off the charts and it took them longer than most people to calm down,” says Flett.
Public embarrassment is just one consequence of choking: Think of those whose flameout has cost them a job, a financial windfall, or a career.
That said, if you do choke, Flett suggests viewing it as an opportunity for self-improvement. “It doesn’t mean you’re hopelessly flawed,” he says. “It means you’re like everyone else and have some room to grow.”
Ten years after my mortifying TV appearance, I was invited on the Today show to talk about a book I’d coauthored. For weeks, I felt sick to my stomach every time I thought about it. Then a wise actor friend suggested I reframe my anxiety as excitement. (Although I didn’t know it at the time, Beilock also recommends this technique.) So whenever the show crossed my mind, I thought, This is going to be incredible! Finally, sitting in the studio at Rockefeller Plaza, I actually believed it—and sounded as engaged and articulate as I am.
In 2015, Williams was widely expected to sweep all four Grand Slam tournaments—but lost before even making it to the U.S. Open finals. Her opponent was ranked 43 in the world—42 spots below Williams.
The Southern songstress faltered during a 2006 live taping of a tribute to Dolly Parton (one of Simpson’s idols), botching the words to “9 to 5,” then bolting from the stage while sputtering “So nervous!”
In a 2011 Republican primary debate, the then governor of Texas pledged to eliminate three government agencies, but blanked on the last one—Energy. As he said at the time: “Oops.”
Anchor Your Light
6 Tricks to Stop Anxious Thoughts In Their Tracks
6 Tricks to Stop Anxious Thoughts In Their Tracks
Do you have racing thoughts and anxiety? It’s hard to focus on anything else when
anxiety takes control of your mind. You’re filled with worries and uncertainties. You
can’t calm down or rest.
Fortunately, there are ways to control anxious thoughts, and it just takes practice to
master the techniques.
Try these tips to control your anxiety:
1. Distance yourself from the worrisome thoughts. Learn to look at your anxious
thoughts in a different way.
The key is to reshape how you think about things.
When you get an anxious thought, immediately identify it as a sign of your
worry and not reality. Labeling your thoughts correctly raises self-awareness and makes it
easier to control them. It also gives you something else to focus on
instead of constant worry.
2. Ask yourself questions. When you get an anxious thought, stop and ask yourself
What is the real reason for this anxious thought? What am I really afraid of?
Is there real danger, or is my mind simply playing games with me?
Is the negative outcome I’m imagining likely to happen?
How can I stop or change these negative thoughts into something
3. View your thoughts as data. Sometimes it’s helpful to view your thoughts as
data and your mind as a data processing center.
You’ll get a lot of data coming in throughout the day. Some of this data can
be incorrect and confusing. This is an example of anxious thoughts.
You may also interpret the data incorrectly. This means you allow the
anxious thoughts to take over and control you. You let them grow and
As the data processing center, you get to decide how to handle all the
information. Remember you’re in control. This means you can choose to
toss out or ignore the incorrect data.
Also, keep in mind that the brain is designed to detect danger and is
hypersensitive to it. You may pick up on things that aren’t even real.
4. Focus on the present. Many anxious thoughts are focused on either the future
or the past. You can break free by focusing on the present.
Avoid thinking too much about the past or future by interrupting these
thoughts. Notice when you’re thinking about the past or future and guide
your thoughts back to the present moment.
Sometimes thoughts from the past can make you afraid of the future.
Remember that the past doesn’t have to repeat itself. You have the
power to change how your future will be shaped.
5. Take action. Anxious thoughts often prevent you from taking action. They keep
you stuck in fear and worry. Learn to take action even when you’re afraid.
Find one thing you can influence positively in that moment and take an
Action can actually decrease the number of anxious thoughts you have on
a daily basis. It can show you that there’s nothing to be afraid of, that
you’re powerful, and that you can make a positive difference.
6. Get rid of unhelpful thoughts. Some thoughts may be true, but they aren’t
Learn to tell helpful and unhelpful thoughts apart.
Then, start to filter out the unhelpful ones. For example, if you know that
the odds of making a perfect presentation at work are low, but you still
have to do it, this is an unhelpful thought. It doesn’t encourage you to do
your best. Anxious thoughts don’t have to control your life. You can use these tricks to
effectively take control of your mind when you find yourself worrying. If these tips
aren’t enough, consider talking to a therapist for additional help.
Nobody likes to think anxious thoughts, so why do we do it? First of all what is anxiety? Anxiety is the body’s natural adrenaline “fight or flight” reaction to potentially dangerous situations. It’s a sense of distress or uneasiness before an event.
On the positive side, healthy anxiety can help you avoid bad situations or help find solutions to problems you face. On the negative side, unhealthy anxiety can make your worrying distorted and your thoughts can spiral out of control and drive you nuts.
One common problem that people have is to tell themselves to “stop worrying”. However, reminding yourself to stop worrying doesn’t work. You can be distracted momentarily, but anxious thoughts don’t just disappear. Trying to banish anxious thoughts often makes those thoughts even more persistent.
Telling yourself to stop thinking those thoughts backfires because you pay attention to the thoughts that you want to avoid.
I’ve tried different methods to control my anxious thoughts and here are three things that have worked for me.
Postpone Anxious Thoughts
- Designate a time daily for thinking about your anxious thoughts. For example, 6 to 6:30pm. Try not to set your time too close to your bedtime. This designated worry period is a time that you can worry about anything that’s on your mind. The rest of the day is a time to be worry free.
- During the day, if you feel anxious about something, write it down and then go about your day. Remind yourself that you can be anxious about it during your worry period, so you don’t have to be anxious about it right now.
- Read through the list of anxious thoughts during your worry period. If your anxious thoughts seem trivial and are not important anymore, scratch those thoughts off your list. If some anxious thoughts still bug you, give yourself time to worry about them until the worry period is up.
Postponing anxious thoughts can break your habit of constantly thinking about anxious thoughts when there are other tasks to do during the day. However, there’s no inner struggle to not think about those thoughts. You’re merely delaying those thoughts for later. Developing the ability to delay worrying helps you realize that you can have greater control of your thoughts.
Try To Solve The Problem
Worrying about a problem and solving the problem are different things. When you’re anxious about something there are a lot of “what ifs” but no concrete solutions to solving the problem you’re facing. To solve a problem there are four steps you can take.
- State the problem.
- Think about if it’s a valid problem or if it’s an imaginary hypothesis of what could happen.
- If the problem is a “what if”, is it realistically likely to happen?
- If it’s a valid problem, can you do something about it, or is it something that’s out of your control?
Valid worries are problems that can be solved by doing something about them. Start brainstorming to come up with solutions to that problem. Make a list of the things you can do to solve this problem. Focus on the things you can do, instead of the circumstances that aren’t in your control.
Worries that are unsolvable are thoughts that there are no direct action or solution. “What if my parents get cancer?” or “What if I crash my car?” If you have anxiety, a lot of your thoughts are probably like that. If that’s the case, you must embrace those thoughts.
Accept Your Feelings
This is a scary concept I continually have to learn to grasp. Mainly because I’ve had negative thoughts about my emotions towards my anxious thoughts. I start worrying about how I feel and ask myself, “Whats wrong with my brain? Why am I feeling this way?”
But the fact is that humans have a wide variety of emotions, rational and irrational. Emotions, just like life, can be messy. Oftentimes they don’t make sense, and sometimes they’re not pleasant. But learning to accept your thoughts without your emotion overwhelming you is key to managing your worrying.
One thing that has helped me accept my feelings was to write down my anxious thoughts. Over time, I could see a pattern of what I was continually anxious about.
Once I write down my worries, I acknowledge those thoughts, not fighting them or trying to ignore them. I observe those thoughts as just that, thoughts. Once I’ve observed those thoughts, I let those worries go. If the same anxious thoughts come back, I repeat the process. I recognize those thoughts, and let them go.
Learning to let go of my anxious thoughts has helped me in managing my anxiety.
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Rest assured, you’re not the only one suffering from ‘Janxiety’. This could help you deal with it.
Anxiety in January – or ‘Janxiety’ as it’s most articulately described – is a tough one to deal with. In the wake of the post-Christmas blues you’re already feeling a little down, so when the worries and the overthinking set in, it can make it hard to feel like you can manage it all.
The thing with anxiety is that it’s an uncomfortable place to exist. Your mind isn’t at rest. You’re not just being. And the fear of it continuing forever often perpetuates the cycle.
But here’s something that’s worth remembering: anxiety won’t last forever (more on that here). Nothing lasts forever. It may come and go, be worse then better, but it won’t stay in its current form forever. If you want the damn thing to hurry the eff up and leave you alone sooner rather than later, then psychologist, life coach and author of the book Anxiety Free, Sam Owen, has some useful thinking strategies to help you on your way.
“Thinking strategies can be used to help soothe your anxiety or even resolve it completely if your anxiety is purely stemming from repetitive negative thinking,” she says.
“Repetitive negative thinking is something your mental health requires you to steer well away from. Because what we repeatedly do becomes a habit (as it becomes wired into the brain), the simplest way to approach this is to focus on small thinking changes and repeat them consistently,” explains Sam.
Let’s look at some of those small thinking changes Sam suggests implementing:
1. “Replace negative thoughts and spoken words with positive ones the moment you realise you’re thinking negatively. This reduces how frequently we induce the fight-or-flight response, results in greater positive emotions and fewer negative emotions, and it helps us to indulge behaviours that will help us to be happy, healthy and achieve our goals whilst negative thoughts have the opposite effect. Positive thoughts/images have been found to reduce anxiety even when the positive thoughts have no relation to the thing you are worrying about.”
2. “Distract yourself when you can’t stop ruminating. No matter how much research you read into the importance of positive thoughts, or self-talk, and the importance of using positive words with others, sometimes you can just get stuck in a negative thinking pit. In these moments, logic may not help out you out of that pit, but distracting yourself can quite easily. Whether you recall a positive memory that always makes you feel good, or look at online images of cute puppies or watch a feel-good TV show, doing something to distract yourself can help you to quickly forget about the thing that you were (unnecessarily) worrying or ruminating about.”
3. “Use mindfulness to immerse yourself in the present moment. If you’re always in your head, it’s easy to stay in that pit of negative thinking so get out of your head and into the present. To do this, simply focus on what you’re absorbing through your senses (ears, eyes, nose, etc) and when you do so with a sense of gratitude, you can feel instantly euphoric…and you’re no longer thinking those repetitive negative thoughts.”
4. “When the negative thinking has become pervasive and is really affecting your mood, energy, focus and self-belief on a daily basis, mindfulness meditation can really help. When done frequently for a number of weeks, it has been found to rewire your brain to become better at emotion-regulation again, and reduce the number of intrusive negative thoughts you have.”
5. “When you feel like your life is stuck at a standstill because you’re stuck in a negative mental rut, you need new thoughts and ideas to help you move forward. For that, walking can be a great solution. Research finds walking helps you to problem-solve by generating more creative ideas and this happens whether you walk in nature or in built up-areas or facing a wall on a treadmill. Walking, when done briskly, also helps soothe anxiety symptoms so it has two huge benefits when you’re experiencing anxiety.”
Always remember, you are the only person who can take control of your thoughts. Choose your thoughts wisely before they start unravelling your mental health and your life.
You have deadline pressures at work. Your relationship is getting complicated. Or your kid is having problems at school. Maybe you even have a health concern nagging at you. Suddenly, anxiety has taken over your life. “Anxious thoughts activate the limbic system — the fear center in our brain. Just a simple thought can easily trigger this part of the brain in a split second,” says psychologist Susan Albers, PsyD. “I think of anxiety to be like walking around with an umbrella waiting for it to thunderstorm.”
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How does anxiety work?
Anxious thoughts chase each other like a dog chasing its tail.
“Imagine a woman who has a headache, and the very next thought that jumps into her mind is, ‘Oh no, maybe it’s a brain tumor,’” says Dr. Albers. “That creates anxious energy. She tells her husband about the headache, who says, ‘This is the first headache you’ve had in years. It’s probably just a headache.’
“That feels good for about 20 seconds because it’s true. But then she thinks, ‘This is unusual, I’ve had this headache for 30 minutes. He wasn’t really listening to me.’ Next thing you know, she’s online, checking out symptoms for brain tumors. She doesn’t meet any of the criteria until she sees ‘headache’ on the list and thinks, ‘That’s no good!’” Now she’s back to square one.
This is one small example of how trying to quell anxiety with reassuring thoughts, or to “fix” anxious thoughts with other thoughts, just doesn’t work. It’s also exhausting.
“Reassuring thoughts are like a short-acting drug; they wear off quickly,” says Dr. Albers. “Then, the irrational thoughts come flooding back in.”
What to do when you feel anxious
So what can you do if you’re feeling anxious? Start by facing your anxiety, advises Dr. Albers. Then, there are a few strategies you can take to calm that anxious feeling to a more manageable level.
1. Think of yourself as a firefighter
Put out the flames of anxiety with some cool breaths. Breathe in and out, deeply and slowly. “When you slow down your breathing, you trick your body into thinking you’re relaxing or going to sleep,” says Dr. Albers.
2. Cool down anxious thoughts
“Thoughts like, ‘I can’t stand this; this is awful!’ fuel the fire of anxiety,” says Dr. Albers. Instead, think about what you can and cannot change about the situation. Then take steps to change what you can, and work on accepting what you can’t.
3. Get some perspective
Anxiety can stem from needless worry about a lot of things that aren’t important in the long run. “Consider how this will really impact you in five minutes, five months or five years,” advises Dr. Albers.
4. Soothe your system
Try some yoga stretches, or take a tennis ball and rub it under your foot or behind your back. “Find gentle ways to calm your body,” suggests Dr. Albers.
5. Talk it out
Research proves that simply naming your feelings can help calm you down. “This is easier to do when you share your feelings with others,” she notes.
6. Don’t ignore
Anxiety is like a red flag, telling you that something needs attention. “Don’t ignore this sign — contact a professional to help you through it,” says Dr. Albers.
7. Rule out other causes
Sometimes, medical issues can mask themselves as anxiety or mimic its symptoms. “Don’t forget to get your checkup each year,” she says.
8. Wait it out
“Sometimes, you just have to let anxiety come and go, like riding a wave,” says Dr. Albers. Remember that it’ll fade and that “This, too, shall pass.”
9. Be mindful
Stay in the moment instead of jumping ahead. To bring yourself back to the present, try this 5 senses exercise. Hold your fist out, and extend one finger at a time as you name: 1 thing you can taste; 2 things you can smell; 3 things you can touch right now (like your skin against the chair, a soft sweater); 4 things you can hear; and 5 things you can see in the immediate environment.
“Focusing on a sensory experience, moves you out of your head, away from your thoughts and directly into your body,” explains Dr. Albers.
What to avoid when you have anxious thoughts
Avoid soothing your anxiety with things that can lead to more anxiety, advises Dr. Albers.
“For example, stress eating is like putting a Band-aid® on a gaping wound,” she says. “You want to deal with your anxiety directly.”
Dredging up bad experiences from the past or imagining scary scenarios in the future will just heighten your anxiety, too. When this happens, realize what you’re doing.
“Remind yourself that you encounter stressful things every single day, and you find ways to handle them. Bad things happen relatively sparingly and our brains are well-equipped to handle a crisis if one occurs,” says Dr. Albers. “Be engaged in your real life, not in imagined moments, and don’t create ‘what-ifs.’”
The best way to begin is to work on developing a new relationship with your thoughts.
“Thoughts are like clouds. They’re not good or bad, they just come and go,” she says. “You don’t have to react to them — ‘Oh, wow, that’s interesting. I wonder where that thought came from,’ works better than ‘Oh, no, that’s terrible.’ Being grounded in the present moment, without judgment, is the place to be.”
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