Did you know that for the average person, 80% of their thoughts contain some form of negative content, such as worrying?
It’s not those negative thoughts themselves that cause the problem, but what we do with them. When we start to believe that the negative thoughts are actually true, that’s when we see problems. Luckily, there are some things you can do to stop worrying now.
1) Label what you think and feel.
Instead of “I’m anxious” or “I’m a failure,” try saying, “I’m experience a feeling of anxiety,” or “I’m having a thought that I’m a failure.” This reminds us that we are not defined by our thoughts and feelings. They are something that wax and wane, come and go. Just because you’re experiencing anxiety doesn’t me you ARE anxiety.
2) Thank the thoughts, don’t fight them
We have negative thoughts for a reason; to keep us safe and to allow us to identify problems that need fixing. So instead of fighting the thoughts, try thanking them. The next time you think, “I hope I don’t completely blow this presentation, paper, etc.” thank your brain for trying to keep you on your toes and prepared. That thought may have helped provide you with the energy to keep reviewing your notes and completing your research before that presentation, but that thought is no longer helpful once you’re about to hand that presentation in.
3) Determine if the thoughts are true
Ask yourself the following questions…
- What would you say to a friend in this exact same situation?
- Is this thought 100% fact or is it an opinion? (even if you think your thought is 99% true, it’s still an opinion. NOT a fact)
- Is your worrying in proportion to what’s happening?
- What are the positives that could come out of this thought or situation?
- If the worst case scenario did happen, how could you cope?
Typically what we worry about isn’t true. In fact, one study actually found that only 8%… that’s right… EIGHT percent of what we spend our time worrying about ever actually happens. We often forget that humans are really good at rising to the occasion, coping and surviving.
Journaling is a great tool for working through what you’re feeling. I recommend setting aside 10 minutes of “worry time” to write down whatever pops into your head. After that 10 minutes, rip the paper up and throw it away. Don’t re-read it, don’t save it to read for later, because all it’s going to do is make you worry about get upset all over again.
5) Stop, look, and listen
If all else fails, try the “stop, look, and listen” technique.
Stop: take a moment to stop and recognise that you’re experiencing anxiety or worrying. Then breathe deeply from your belly for about two minutes.
Look: Spend five minutes focusing on something in your physical environment, as opposed to focusing on how bad you’re feeling. What do you see in the room? Look at the details, and take everything in with as many senses as possible.
Listen: Listen to yourself as you remind yourself that this feeling will pass. Talk to yourself as you would a friend. Remember, the only thing constant in this world is change.Book appointment