“What if I can’t do it?”
“What will people think?”
“What if something bad happens?”
Unwanted, intrusive thoughts can cause great distress for those who suffer from anxiety. They can feel so real...so threatening. When those feelings of unease and worry arise, many people get wrapped up in them and struggle to push them away.
Have you noticed that when you dwell on potential outcomes, your anxious thoughts accumulate? The more you get stuck on the “what ifs,” the more this way of thinking becomes habitual and harder to break. If this sounds like you, do not lose hope because stopping anxious thoughts can be as simple as creating them, and here is how:
Process Your Thoughts
“Your thoughts have come around for a reason, so allow them to be heard”, said Dr. Flatow of Pacific Mind Health. “Process and evaluate your thoughts instead of challenging them,” he said.
In some cases, it is important to identify specific emotional triggers and associations, but in the case of anxious thinking, it is typically best to just let go.
Letting go does not mean suppressing thoughts or ignoring them; in fact, to let them go, you must first allow your thoughts to come as they are. Then you must work through them- why do I doubt myself this way? Why am I still stuck on what has already happened?
Finally, consider if these thoughts are serving your best interest or fostering positivity. You have done the hard work of acceptance and processing already; here is where you get to decide which thoughts you do not have room for.
Put Fears Into Perspective
What do you fear right here and right now?
What is weighing heavy on your mind?
Just as you would welcome your thoughts, welcome your fears. Sit with each one for a moment and consider the potential outcomes. If you have an uncomfortable conversation with someone you love, will you still be okay? If you do
not finish an assignment on time, will you still be okay? In the small chance that your answer to this question is anything but yes, then keep seeking perspective, focus on what variables you can change, and relinquish control over those which you cannot.
If you catch your anxious thoughts asking all of these “what if” questions, perhaps it is time to consider a new question: what if you allowed yourself to be present? By being present in the moment, your anxious thoughts will fall by the
wayside since the what-ifs do not exist in the present.
Through this mental state, you can practice the same idea of welcoming thoughts and letting them go; the difference is that mindfulness is what helps you notice that these thoughts are occurring in the first place. During mindfulness, you
will concentrate on either the breath or an object and simply become aware.
Mindfulness is not your time to sit, think, and process; mindfulness challenges you to welcome thoughts, let go of them, then return right back to what it is you were focusing on. Mindfulness gives you a calm, accepting, and non-judgmental place to return to when you notice you have drifted away with your thoughts.
Of course, sometimes anxiety disorders are crippling and require treatment. If your anxiety is interfering with your daily life, contact Pacific Mind Health for quality mental health care and support. Don’t just push through another day of anxious thinking! There are many effective treatments available for relief...our team can help!