Are you always anxious? Are you looking for strategies and solutions to get your thoughts under control and manage your life?
In our busy lives filled with work, family and goodness only knows what other activities, its easy to become overwhelmed, exhausted and totally bogged down with anxious thoughts and stress. In fact, we can allow ourselves to be so overwhelmed that we literally have a panic attack or begin to avoid activities in our effort to manage or stave off anxious feelings.
In truth, we most often suffer more from what we FEAR rather than what actually HAPPENS, so it’s important for you to learn how to evaluate what you are thinking. Things always look less fearful when we face them head on vs. running or distracting ourselves with TV, alcohol, food, work or hours senselessly bouncing around the Internet and other social media websites.
First, do a reality check. Is there any reality that supports your anxious thought? People that struggle with anxiety and stress tend to have a bad habit of spending a lot of time in their head. Having the capacity to think and reason is a tremendous advantage in problem-solving and planning, but as with anything else, too much of a good thing can be hazardous to your well-being.
Secondly, anxious people think things over and over and over again, (obsessively) to the point that over time, the mind begins to distort reality. And because all this is happening in our mind we are the only “speakers” and “hearers” of that mental “conversation.” With a limited audience and no other input, people begin to buy-in to their irrational/distorted thoughts and fears, because the whole “conversation” has been internal. No one has heard our thoughts, no one can offer an opposing perspective or refute the perspective that the thinker has taken on. Because there is no outside participation, people then begin to organize their behavior around the distorted thought or fear. Sound familiar? Try this:
Is there any reality that supports my fear/anxious thought? If there is no aspect of your current reality that supports your fear, you have to reject it. Why organize your life, well-being and behavior around a concept that has been created in your mind and has no basis in reality?
And what I mean by testing your thought verses reality–I mean just that. Only use the criteria that is real, in this moment, right now. If you have to create/imagine/manufacture other aspects, conditions and criteria, that are not part of your current reality in order for your fear to play out–then you are literally working yourself up. You are suffering at your own hand. Even evolutionary theory won’t support that.
Next, try saying your anxious thought or fear out loud. Yes, you may feel like an idiot for talking to yourself, but to say what you are thinking out loud where you can hear it, in your own voice, is often enough to help us realize that our fear and anxiety is about as realistic and rational as a four-headed monster sitting in a library eating ice cream in a tutu. Totally. Completely. Unrealistic. Stop it! (Unless, drama is your thing, in which case, go find a theater company and put that gift to work!)
Many of our anxious thoughts are fears that are about as realistic and rational as a four-headed monster sitting in a library eating ice cream in a tutu.
Finally, if you don’t have the mental strength or discipline to slow your thoughts down long enough to test reality yourself–run the scenario by someone else…ideally, someone who you trust that has your best interest in mind and generally demonstrates a healthy lifestyle and thinking habits.
If you don’t have anyone to talk your fear or anxious thought over with: journal.
(Yes, journaling is very cliche counseling advice, but I will explain in my next blog why journaling is so powerful and profoundly effective).
As you take steps to journal, this is a wise, researched and time-tested approach to that process:
Spend some time in your journal with your anxious thoughts, asking yourself these questions:*
1) What is the situation that I’m stressed or worried about?
2) What am I THINKING or IMAGINING?
3) How much do I believe that thought? A little? A lot? Or give a percentage.
4) How does that thought MAKE ME FEEL? (assign a feeling)
5) How STRONG is that feeling? A little? A lot? Or give a percentage.
6) What makes me think the thought is true?
7) What makes me think the thought is NOT true or not COMPLETELY true?
8) What’s another way to look at this situation?
9) What’s the worst that could happen?
10) Could I still live through that?
11) What’s the BEST that could happen?
12) What will PROBABLY happen?
13) What WILL happen if I keep telling myself the same thought?
14) What COULD happen if I changed or challenged my thinking?
15) What would I tell my friend _________________ if this happened to him/her?
16) What should I do now?
17) How much do I believe that negative thought now? A little? A lot? Or give a percentage
18) How strong is my negative FEELING now? A little? A lot? Or give a percentage.
Finally, remember: you are not alone!
I am here for you to evaluate and explore these fears and help you learn new ways of thinking, seeing and managing your life. You don’t have to live your life paralyzed by anxiety and unrelenting stress. There are solutions–tangible, doable solutions that can and will change your life… just call 770-781-3793 now.
*from the work of J.S. Beck