Anxiety can easily rule your life if you let it. Certain thoughts increase anxiety symptoms and make it even harder to cope with anxious feelings. Recognizing and working to cut back on these thought patterns can be life changing. But, what are they? What are these harmful thoughts?
There are several but I am going to start by focusing on three main ones:
1.) Focusing on the negative — This is also called “catastrophizing” or the tendency to focus on and imagine worst case scenarios. If you are always consumed with the worst that can happen, or what went wrong, then you are always going to feel pretty crappy. Instead, switch gears. Next time you notice your internal negative self-talk, put a cap in it. Ask yourself to name three positive things or things you feel grateful for. Try to shift your focus toward the good or to things that are more “helpful” and your mood with follow.
2.) All-or-Nothing — If we always focus on getting exactly what we want or nothing at all, we aren’t allowing any room for other positive outcomes. Try shifting or reframing your perspective on how you are viewing it. It is still possible that even if you don’t get everything you want, you will still get something. For example maybe you didn’t get the exact job you applied for but you did get another one that will allow you to potentially move into the other job later. You could react by being distraught that you didn’t get the job you wanted, or you could focus on the fact that you still got something. It might not be exactly what you want but it is better than nothing.
3.) Shoulds — Many anxiety sufferers have ways that they think things “should” work out. They think they “should” act a certain way. They “should” do this or “should” do that. End the should. There is no clear cut answer. Nobody says you have to act exactly a certain way to be a good mom, a good employee, a good friend. You might have your own personal way of doing things and just because it isn’t what you think “should” be done doesn’t mean it is wrong. When we always think about things in black and white it is putting an awful lot of pressure on ourselves and the people around us. There are so many different colors in the middle, so many other options.
It might feel impossible to tackle these patterns on your own, and that is ok. It may be helpful to you to seek out a therapist to help establish these coping techniques. It is also helpful to get a friend or close family member on board, surround yourself with positive people who will cheer you on and lift you up. The psychologists at Wellness Psychological Services are uniquely and expertly specialized in helping you target these kinds thoughts. We welcome the chance to discuss an individualized plan to meet your needs. Contact us for an appointment anytime.