Don’t believe every worried thought you have. Worried thoughts are notoriously inaccurate.
Good old anxiety.
It thinks it’s helping us (and sometimes it is)…
…but often it’s just getting in the way.
So, how do you convince yourself those anxious thoughts aren’t anything to worry about?
It’s easier than you think.
Today we’re sharing 4 simple ways you can deal with anxious thoughts:
1. Mindfully observe
The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake.
When we’re experiencing anxiety, there’s a natural tendency to jump several steps ahead of ourselves, without first getting clear on precisely what we’re feeling.
This can lead to unnecessary confusion and tension, as we attempt to control our anxious thoughts… often in misguided ways.
So, take a moment to stop whatever you’re doing, and practice checking in with yourself.
Be still and concentrate on your breathing. Then ask yourself:
- What is my energy like right now? Am I feeling weary, alert, on edge…?
- How is my body feeling? Am I at ease, tense, comfortable, in pain…?
- What emotion(s) am I feeling right now? Anticipation, uncertainty, fear, etc.?
- What specific thoughts am I having right now? What story am I telling myself?
2. Acknowledge without judgment
The most difficult times for many of us are the ones we give ourselves.
Once you’ve identified your anxious thoughts, the next step is to name those thoughts while staying out of judgment.
This is a skill that builds with practice… but it can be tricky at first.
Like most of us, you’ll probably notice that it’s hard to acknowledge an anxious thought without having some immediate reaction to that thought.
Just stick with it, and you’ll notice it getting easier before long.
- Name your anxious thought(s). (e.g., “I’m afraid that my child will become ill.”)
- Avoid judging or reacting to the thought(s) in a negative way. Avoid giving space to secondary thoughts, like: “I can’t believe I’m still worrying about this!”; “I’m so weak!”; “What if I’m making him sick by thinking about this so much?”)
- React with self-compassion. (Talk to yourself as you would a friend: “Wow, you’re really scared right now. You love your child so much. It makes sense that thoughts of losing him would frighten you.”)
3. Make a date with your worry
Become a worry-slapper. Treat frets like mosquitoes. Do you procrastinate when a bloodsucking bug lights on your skin? Of course you don’t…! Be equally decisive with anxiety.
When you’re experiencing anxiety, you likely feel an instinctive pull towards one of two responses:
You might go down the worry rabbit hole, indulging the anxious thoughts…
(…which only leads to increased anxiety.)
Or you might try the opposite reaction, forcing the anxious thoughts away as though they don’t exist…
(…which only makes them come back stronger.)
So, what’s the alternative?
Aim for thought delay.
When you notice yourself falling into a cycle of repetitive worrying, schedule a “worry time”:
- Schedule a 30-minute block of time each day to let yourself focus on your worries. Try to make it the same time every day.
- When anxious thoughts come up, promise yourself you’ll think about it during your worry time. Each time a thought comes up, remind the thought it’s scheduled to appear at a specific time. Then, switch gears to focus on something else, distracting your mind if necessary.
- It’s essential that you make good on your promise: When your scheduled worry time comes, set a timer and allow your mind to freely entertain any anxious thoughts that may come up. (Eventually, you may be surprised to find you don’t actually need the full worry time!)
4. Be a rebel
The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.
One of anxiety’s most powerful tricks is that it keeps us frozen and fearful of our own circumstances.
This often manifests in a reluctance to acknowledge our reality, and behavioral avoidance of things we normally would do.
You can rebel against anxiety!
Remember, anxiety wants to keep you stuck and/or fearful of your circumstances. Here are 2 ways you can stage a healthy rebellion:
- Be grateful. Did you know it’s virtually impossible to experience fear and gratitude at the same time? Try focusing on the things you’re thankful for, and see what you discover…
- Choose opposite action. Is anxiety warning you to stay indoors today? Try for a 5-minute walk around the neighborhood. Is anxiety telling you no one wants to talk to you? Pick up the phone and text a loved one. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering… just pick 1 thing anxiety is telling you to avoid, and act on it instead!
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Ready to take the next step in addressing your anxious thoughts?