Coping with anxious thoughts

A simple approach to use any time, anywhere for dealing with worry and insecurity

If you found this article, most probable you struggle with anxiety and you feel tired of negative thinking, fear and worries. I feel you. I wrote this article to give you some easy to use strategies at home, for dealing with anxiety and insecurity. It’s important that to practice constantly what you learn until it becomes a habit of thinking.

Do you want to get rid of anxiety forever and make sure it never comes back?

In order to heal this emotion and find inner peace, I must inform you, there might be some advantage of having it in the first place. Hear me out!

Are Negative Thoughts Our Biggest Enemy?

Let’s Talk About Negative Thoughts

Negative thoughts are like pesky visitors in our minds. They show up uninvited and often overstay their welcome. You got them, everyone you know has them at least occasionally and they seem to be here from the beginning of the human consciousness.

But are they really our enemies, or is there more to them than meets the eye?

Here’s the deal: it’s normal to have negative thoughts. They’re part and parcel of being human. But when they start taking over and making life harder, that’s when we need to take action.

So, Should we run away from negative thoughts?

Research says no! Ignoring or pushing away negative thoughts might seem like the easy way out, but it’s not the healthiest option. Instead, we should face them with curiosity.

By acknowledging what’s going on inside our heads, and what our emotions are trying to tell us, we can figure out what we really need and start feeling better. It’s like shining a light on the monsters under the bed – they’re not so scary once we see them for what they are.

But Why Do We Get Stuck with Negative Thoughts?

Well, it’s like our brains are wired to focus on the bad stuff. Back in the day, when our ancestors were discovering survival strategies, this helped them to stay away from danger, from what could kill or eat  them and seek safety and protection. Somehow, with the help of anxiety we actually ended up creating the modern society. But now, it just makes us worry about things that might never happen.

Plus, our past experiences and the people around us can shape how we see the world. So, it’s no wonder negative thoughts sneak in from time to time. They are not the enemy, but they need to be addressed with firmness and curiosity.

How Can Thoughts Affect Our Daily Lives?

Mind Over Matter

Ever heard the saying, “mind over matter”? (referring to using your willpower to overcome physical problems). Well, it’s true! Our thoughts have a huge impact on how we feel and act.

Think about it: if we convince ourselves that something bad is going to happen, we’ll start feeling anxious or scared—even if there’s no real danger. It’s like our brains are playing tricks on us!

If we believe everyone is judging us, people are just waiting to reject us, mistakes are about to happen and failure is around the corner, it’s like our brain already believes it as reality.

But here’s the good news: we’re in control. We get to choose which thoughts to believe and which ones to let go of. It’s like being the director of our own mental movie! You are the only director!

And guess what? Being mindful can help us do just that. Instead of letting our emotions run wild, we can take a step back and see them for what they are. It’s like hitting the pause button on our feelings so we can figure out what’s really going on.

But Wait, Aren’t Negative Thoughts Always Bad?

Not necessarily! Sure, they can be a pain, but they can also teach us a thing or two. Sometimes, they’re like warning signs, telling us that something’s not right and we need to make a change. They can tell us we are behind with our goals and dreams, that we are in relationships or situations below our standards, that we need to trust or connect more, that we are caught in the past, that we need more joy etc.

So, instead of seeing them as our enemies, we can learn to work with them. After all, they’re just thoughts – not facts!

anxiety and insecurity - Coping with anxious thoughts

Understanding Your Thoughts, Emotions, and Behaviors

In our journey to understanding our inner workings, we have to know the link between our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Imagine yourself as a professor, standing before your students, delivering the news of an exam week- that starts a week earlier than expected. Looking at your students, you see the reactions varying widely among them, from anger and anxiety to calmness and excitement.

This diversity in response raises the question: what accounts for these differences?

The answer lies in our thoughts. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) teaches us that our perception of events shapes our emotional responses, which then dictate our actions. Consider the scenario:

  • The angry student immediately sees the unfairness of yet another round of exams.
  • The anxious student cringes over the possibility of failure, consumed by thoughts of inadequacy.
  • The sad student assumes they will not pass and that could be another confirmation of their unworthiness.
  • Conversely, the calm student acknowledges the stress but maintains a sense of optimism, trusting in their ability to prepare adequately.

It’s evident that our thoughts hold the power to influence our emotional state and subsequent behaviors. Negative thought patterns, if left unchecked, can cause chaos on our well-being and decision-making abilities. However, cultivating a calm and rational mindset empowers us to navigate challenges with grace and resilience.

Now, let’s see the thinking traps of people with anxiety and insecurity. Which one is yours?

Identifying Common Negative Thinking Patterns

As we explore the human mind, it becomes apparent that negative thinking is a pervasive phenomenon. However, its detrimental effects on our mental and emotional health cannot be overstated. To shed light on this phenomenon, let’s examine ten common thinking traps, or not helpful type of thinking, outlined in cognitive behavioral psychology:

  1. All or Nothing: The tendency to view situations in extremes, like terms of success or failure, good or bad,  with no middle ground.
  2. Overgeneralization: Drawing broad conclusions based on isolated incidents. Having a few mistakes or failed tries or relationships becomes a general truth you adopt for every other try or relationship.
  3. Jumping to Conclusions: Making unfounded assumptions about the intentions or outcomes of events, mostly negative ones.
  4. Magnifying/Minimizing: Exaggerating the importance of negative events, results or personal traits, while downplaying positive ones.
  5. Mental Filter: Focusing exclusively on negative aspects of a situation while ignoring any positives.
  6. Personalization: Assuming undue responsibility for negative events or outcomes. Thinking that you are to blame for the emotions or choices of others.
  7. Labeling: Assigning negative labels to oneself or others based on isolated incidents. Making self-deprecating comments about yourself.
  8. Discounting the Positive: Disregarding or minimizing positive experiences or accomplishments.
  9. Emotional Reasoning: Believing that one’s feelings reflect objective reality. Assuming that because you feel something, it is actually always true.
  10. Should Statements: Imposing rigid and unrealistic expectations on oneself or others. It is often seen in perfectionism.

Through introspection and awareness, we can begin to identify and challenge these destructive patterns, paving the way for healthier thought processes and behaviors.

Empowering Yourself Over Negative Thoughts

Armed with an understanding of the negative thinking, it’s time to reclaim control over our mental landscape. By acknowledging and challenging our thoughts, we can pave the way for more adaptive and empowering beliefs.

Consider the following steps:

  1. Acceptance: Embrace the full spectrum of your emotions, recognizing that they are valid and deserving of acknowledgment. You are allowed to feel all range of emotions. They are normal.
  2. Identification: Pinpoint the specific negative thoughts that are triggering your distressing emotions. Name the thought. Write it. Separate the thought from your identity and person.
  3. Interrogation: Engage in a thorough examination of these thoughts, asking yourself probing questions such as:
  • Is this thought serving my well-being?
    • Is there evidence to support this belief?
    • Is this thought helping or hurting me?
    • What is the worst thing that can happen? Would I survive it?
    • Are there alternative perspectives or outcomes to consider?
  • Transformation: Armed with newfound insight, craft more realistic and compassionate reinterpretations of your thoughts, fostering a sense of empowerment and resilience.

Examples: I am having a negative emotion. This is because I had this specific negative thought. My thoughts are not reality and I can choose to change my thought. I don’t like this current situation, and I would like the situation to be different, but I can’t control everything.

I can control my reaction to it. I choose to believe I can solve any problem and even if I don’t like the outcome, I can still manage new outcomes. I have not enough proof to believe the worst case scenario will happen. I prefer a more realistic scenario. I will survive any obstacle and do my best, as I did before. It might be better than I thought and even if it is difficult, I can still learn, work to improve it and in the end I will move on from any unpleasant situation in my life.

By adopting this proactive approach to managing our thoughts, you will reclaim agency over our emotional and behavioral responses, steering yourself towards a path of growth and fulfillment.

Teodora Goloiu,
clinical psychologist, therapist and trauma specialist with 12 years of experience.

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