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10 Strategies for Navigating Anxious Thoughts

PsychCentral 2019-05-12 23:15:08

Everyone experiences anxious thoughts from time to time. For many of us these thoughts play like a record on repeat, and it feels like there’s nothing we can do, except to keep listening, and to keep getting more and more anxious.


But there are actually many things we can do.

One option is to focus on participating in enjoyable activities. Below, you’ll find a list of other tools to try. Different things will work for different people, and different strategies will work for the same person at different times. In short, pick whatever resonates with you, and skip the rest. As always.

  1. Draw your anxious thoughts. Maybe your thoughts show up in different shapes. Maybe they’re specific colors. Maybe they look a lot like people you know or objects around your home. Either way, acknowledge your thoughts, and try to re-imagine them on paper.
  2. Think of your anxious thoughts as clouds passing by in the sky. Imagine this. See this picture when you close your eyes, and take slow, deep breaths. As the clouds pass by, imagine your thoughts going with them. Imagine letting go of those thoughts.
  3. Think of your anxious thoughts as a misguided parent who really wants to help. You might even thank them for their attempts at being supportive.
  4. Jot down precisely what you’re worried about, and come up with a realistic solution for each concern.
  5. Think of your anxious thoughts as the running inner monologue of the latest character in your novel (and incorporate them into your writing, too).
  6. Talk about your anxious thoughts with a loved one. You’ll often find you’re absolutely not alone in your seemingly outlandish, ridiculous, silly thoughts. Yes, even the scariest, weirdest thoughts are actually quite common.
  7. Soothe yourself. Think about the healthy things that bring you comfort and calm: reading, drinking chamomile tea, taking a bath, taking a nap. Think of how to engage your senses, such as breathing in aromatherapy, or watching the sunset. And do one of these things.
  8. Listen to a guided meditation that refocuses your mind and calms your body. For instance, try this practice on YouTube.
  9. Give your anxious thoughts an identity, and a name. Maybe it’s Silly Sally, or Unreliable Rita, or Negative Nate. Either way, doing this reminds us that many of our anxious cycles are not realistic or rational or helpful. Yes, there might be kernels of support and help, such as needing to prepare for a presentation. But as a whole, when our anxiety has turned into a ruminating cycle, it’s gone off course, and we don’t need to listen to its extreme warnings.
  10. Remind yourself of your strength. Remind yourself that even if your worries do come true, you can handle it. You can handle the failed test and botched presentation. You can handle the heartache and grief. You can handle the conflict and pain.

Our anxiety can convince us that we’re powerless and helpless and don’t have any good options. Thankfully, we’re not, and thankfully, that’s not true.

This doesn’t mean that our anxiety is awful, and must be eliminated. Rather, it means that when our anxiety expands and balloons, and starts leading us astray, which can happen naturally, we can do something about it.

All you have to do is start.

Check out three more tips in this piece, provided by a renowned anxiety expert. 

Photo by Billy Huynh on Unsplash.