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When we’re worried about something, our mind becomes our enemy. We tend to create a long list of “What if’s? What if we mess up at work? What if my car breaks down? What if I have a fight with my spouse? What if, what if, what if……?
Our tendency is to dwell on the bad things that might happen instead of ridding ourselves of these worries. Many people naturally have a more negative bias in our brains which, when confronting our “what if” scenarios, can spiral into more anxiety and worry.
If you deal with anxiety and anxiety disorders on a daily basis, it can be a challenge to put an end to those thoughts before they turn into chronic stress. However, there are ways to train your brain to stop these thoughts. Peter Norton, a professor of psychology at the University of Houston says, “The more you look for something or expect something to be there, the more likely you are to find evidence of it, so sometimes people can mislead themselves (when they’re having an anxious thought)”.
Here are some tips for getting rid of an anxious thought before it takes complete hold:
1. Check your feelings. Recognize and validate your feelings, then take a step back, a deep breath and consider your anxious thought. Instead of trusting your pattern of worry, reevaluate the issue based on actual past experiences & current knowledge. You may find your emotions shifting and realize that this isn’t a true concern. If you find that it really is worth the worry, at least you’ve taken the time to evaluate it.
2. Ponder it carefully. Many people will think they should put their worry out of their mind. But Dr. Mickey Trockel, M.D., a psychiatrist and clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University says that but avoiding fearful thoughts actually makes anxiety worse. Rather, think it through carefully. “Challenge your own thoughts and diffuse them, rather than hide them underneath the rug,” he says.
3. Develop perspective. Ask yourself questions about the situation such as why you feel the situation is so bad or what you think the worst possible outcome might be. This allows you to step outside of your feelings to approach your thoughts in a logical way. Again, using past experiences and current knowledge will help you develop a more rational view of the situation.”
4. Meditate. When anxiety and worry start to creep into your mind, practice relaxation as a way to calm yourself. Set aside five minutes to push away the thoughts that are weighing you down. Focus on your breathing, something positive, a pretty scene, or a happy moment but don’t allow negative thoughts.
5. Confront your fear in small ways. Don’t expect that your most nagging fear is going to go away if you practice these techniques. Instead, start with the small worries, taking baby steps to overcome the habit of worry and anxiety. As you practice these techniques, you’ll be able to overcome the bigger obstacles of life.
Allowing your mind to control your emotions, creating anxiety and stress, can zap you of precious energy. Actively work on these techniques so you aren’t consumed by worry.