Living with anxiety can be challenging and overwhelming.
In this article, you will learn about the anxious brain, why it assumes the worst, and examples of the kinds of thoughts that we have when we are feeling anxious. Statements to cope with the emotion itself. The difference between negative thoughts and disempowering ones. Lastly, small steps that you can take to manage anxiety, along with additional articles and resources.
Why the anxious brain always assumes the worst
Your brain is designed to find and solve problems, it is a basic function, like your heart pumping oxygen through your body.
You may be really great at analyzing all of the angles of a problem, noting all the information, and then processing it in a complex way.
When your brain is trying to keep up with these “what if” or worse case scenario thoughts, it is trying to do it’s job (not make you happy).
At the root of anxiety is catastrophic “what if?” thinking. Even though most of these worst case scenarios never come true, the anxious brain naturally dwells on it.
Underneath catastrophic thinking is usually the belief that you are incapable of handing problems.
Worrying about an outcome can also create an illusion that you’ll be more prepared.
If you have experienced trauma, that can make this situation trickier.
You can get a little sensitive to threats depending on what you’ve been through in life, which means that our brains can misinterpret the information it’s receiving as a threat because it feels similar to the prior experience. Catastrophic thoughts may spiral from there.
Anxiety doesn’t care about the extremely low probability of problems coming true.
Reference: Dr. Michaela, Clinical Psychologist
- “I am not good enough.”
- “Did I say something wrong?”
- “Did I reply to that email?”
- “Am I being annoying?”
- “My stomach hurts.” – Sensing a physical response
- “Dentist appointment.”
- “Why can’t I focus?”
- “I feel like I’m not accomplishing anything.”
- “My muscles feel tense.” – Physical response
- “Will I be able to have kids?”
- “Do they even like me?”
- “Did I overshare?”
- “I need to do everything myself, so it is perfect.”
- “What if something bad happens to people I love?”
Something that you can do to manage the worry is to schedule a “worry time.” Give yourself a chance to solve the problem. [There are other simple tips further in the article, as well.] Write down you anxious thought(s) and then schedule a time to come back to it later in the day.
Some people find that after they write down the worry, then they feel okay and don’t need to return to it later.
Some people worry until their heart is content during “worry time,” and then realize that the thing that they were anxious about isn’t an issue anymore.
Other people may find that before or during the worry time, they worry that they won’t be able to stop the worrying.
If you are similar to the last scenario, then set a timer on your phone to worry. If you give yourself an hour of “worry time,” you may find that it’s very unhealthy, as you overexert yourself and begin to feel burnt out.
It’s not healthy or worth your health worrying this much. These are things to consider while doing “worry time.”
While you wait for your “worry time,” give your mind something else to anchor to. This can be a grounding exercise, like this one, Mindfulness 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Grounding Technique.
Your focus can be on your breathing, sounds around the house, a television show, or snuggling with your dog.
Anxious thoughts can be disempowering and keeping you stuck. Negative thoughts are slightly different than disempowering thoughts.
A negative thought is easier to identify, where a disempowering one is sneakier to identify because it is “good advice to keep you safe.”
Disempowering thoughts appear like they are for your best interest, but in reality, they can keep you stuck and from living life the way you desire.
- “But what if I fail?”
- “What if I waste my money?”
- “What if they laugh or judge me?”
- “I’ve tried everything and nothing worked.”
What good comes from these thoughts? What you want in life won’t come if you continue to give into these thoughts.
Small steps for managing worry and anxiety
- Slow down and take a deep breath.
- Breathing can slow racing heart rate and regulate the body. It sends oxygen to the brain, helping you to think more clearly.
- Write about things weighing you down. Pray about them, as well.
- Schedule a “worry time.”
- Practice gratitude
- Reflecting on what you are grateful for can lead to peace and rest.
- Talk to someone you trust.
- Get good sleep.
- Eat nutritious foods.
- Move your body.
Statements to try to cope with the anxious feeling
- “This feeling reminds me to slow down and breathe.”
- “I am capable of sitting with uncomfortable feelings.”
- “I do not need to fix my feelings.”
- “I can allow this feeling to pass by when it is ready.”
- “Feelings are not facts, I am safe.”
- “I am strong enough to get through tough days and difficult emotions.”
Related content for managing anxiety
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