This past Thursday I released a new episode of my podcast, Tips from a Therapist, where I talked about our anxious thoughts. In the episode I go over what anxiety is, what anxious thoughts can look like and 5 simple tips that can help us better manage those anxious thoughts. For today’s post, I figured it would be helpful for those out there who prefer to read over listening to a podcast, if I wrote a blog post on the recent episode. That is what I decided to do, so here we go.
In the episode there were two major things that I pointed out that I want to make sure that you the reader know as well, because it is important to know before we dive deeper into understanding our anxious thoughts. The first thing that I need all of us to know is that THOUGHTS ARE NOT FACTS. This is a concept that I often bring up to my clients, because most of the time we fall into the trap and lie that our thoughts are actual facts. Our thoughts are certainly real and valid, but we must understand that even though something seems real it does not mean it is a fact to take on as truth. The other point that I made in the episode that is important and I want to share with you is that not all of the thoughts we have, have the right to stay. If we had an unkind and messy guest that just caused chaos who wanted to come in for dinner we would have the right to close the door on them. That is the same thing with our thoughts.
We don’t need to give every thought we have the permission to stay longer than they are welcomed for.
There is an ability within all of us to allow our thoughts to pass, even if it feels like an impossible thing to do at times.
Let's talk about 5 SIMPLE TIPS to help MANAGE OUR ANXIOUS THOUGHTS:
Practicing Mindfulness & Meditation
This is a preventive tip, meaning that this is something that helps lessen or prevent the possibility of anxious thoughts. Mindfulness is the concept of being intentional on what we focus our attention on and it is typically positive and life giving things. If we learn to take the first 5 MINUTES of our day and not start off on our phone, but we read or do a devotional it can help set us up for a more peaceful and even productive day. If we start the day with our phone, we are immediately inviting chaos and stress into our day and that is when anxious thoughts begin.
Get Up & Get Moving
Anxious thoughts are an obsessive repetitive cycle that is taking place in our mind and it gets stuck, and when we move our bodies it helps interrupt that overwhelming anxious cycle. We don’t always need to do a long strenuous workout class to feel the positive effects of moving our bodies against anxiety, but simply talking walks and breaks outside of the space we feel stressed in can help alleviate and even at times eliminate our anxious thoughts.
Label The Thoughts
Oftentimes our thoughts tend to go into a spiral and into the place of anxiousness when we focus on the content of the thoughts. We get so wrapped up in what we are thinking about that it seems hard to come out of it or give ourselves grace to work through it. Learning to label our thoughts can help refocus us and prevent us from getting stuck in the messy and unnecessary content. For example: You wake up with a headache. Then you find yourself thinking about how it could be COVID and then how COVID could lead to a slew of other illnesses that your body is now opening itself up to and that if you get it checked out then the doctor is going to find cancer (so on and so forth). The original thought was “I woke up with a headache,” (could be labeled as a fear based thought of it being a serious illness) and we ended up focusing on the headache and what it could mean instead of taking some medication and resting and letting it pass.
When we label our thoughts we are more likely to stop the anxious thoughts train before it goes off the rails.
Challenge Your Thoughts
Our anxious thoughts tend to have free reign in our minds because we don’t realize that we can actually challenge our thoughts. Like I mentioned earlier in this post, our thoughts aren’t facts, so we need to stop treating them like they are. When you have a thought that seems to be taking up some space and time that isn’t really kind or happens to be creating a lot of internal chaos try asking (and answering) yourself these 3 simple questions:
What evidence do I have that this thought is true?
Is this thought helpful to me or hurting me?
What would I say to my friend who had this worry
These questions will help challenge the thought that is wreaking some havoc and it will help put it in its place or it will dismiss it completely.
Talk Through Your Worries/Anxious Thoughts
Alright the last tip I have for you today is to find a HEALTHY & HELPFUL person to bring into your process to help rationalize the thoughts that are just too much to handle on your own. This person can be a friend, mentor, pastor, therapist, family member, but again the key words being HEALTHY & HELPFUL. Sometimes we need to just talk through the thoughts so we can process them verbally, which will then help us rationalize them better. When we can rationalize our thoughts, they know longer own us but we own them.
I hope this post helps someone out there who may have struggled with (or continues to struggle with) anxious thoughts.
Anxiety is a beast of a struggle, but no matter how big the beast may be we have everything we need within us to defeat the beast every time.
Until Next Friend