If you have an anxiety disorder, intrusive thoughts and consuming worries can plague you. Many of the thoughts that race across our brain are worries that haven’t even come true yet, such as what could happen at work or what you will say at an important meeting.
According to a 2020 study conducted by researchers at Queen’s University, we can have as many as 6,000 thoughts every day. These thoughts are connected together in related chains called thought worms. How you organize your thoughts can play a big part in everything from your productivity to your mental health, and can help you cope with your anxiety. Here are a few proven methods on how you can organize your thoughts in a constructive manner.
When someone suffers with anxiety, it’s common for their minds to race when something triggers their anxiety, and come up with whole stories that may not even be true. Perhaps you see your colleagues huddled together in a group, and worry that they are talking about you behind your back.
When you find yourself coming up with a scenario like this, offer yourself an alternative one that is positive. You could tell yourself that they are having a morning meeting, or are discussing an important project. Ask yourself which of these scenarios are more likely—chances are its not the one where
they’re talking about you.
Turn Passive Thoughts Into Questions
Tamar E. Chansky, Ph.D, a licensed psychologist and anxiety expert, suggest turning your passive thoughts into questions in order to help make them more productive. Instead of worrying about a big exam coming up, ask yourself, “What steps can I take to make sure I pass this exam?”
Chansky also recommends this for things you tell yourself you can never do. If you always tell yourself you could never be a CEO of a company or a vegan, it is perfectly okay to ask yourself what would happen if you were?
By exploring these avenues in your own thoughts, you may learn more about yourself, or find those things you could never be might be worth trying after all.
Practice The 4Rs
The truth is, you can’t simply wish your negative thoughts away. You are still going to think negative thoughts, and wishing them away won’t make them disappear. You can however, deal with them smoothly through using the 4R technique. Elizabeth Earnshaw, a highly respected therapist, recommends this approach.
The 4Rs are relabel, reattribute, refocus, and revalue. When confronted with a negative thought, your first step should be to label it as one. Instead of simply getting swept up by the tide, recognize it for what it is. Next, recognize that it is your anxiety making you feel this way. It’s not necessarily reality.
Once you have control in this way, take a break. Go for a walk, switch to a new activity, or distance yourself from what ever is causing your anxiety. The break will help you refocus. Finally, evaluate your thoughts now that you have had time to distance yourself. Are they helpful? If not, what is a more
By taking control of your thoughts in this way, you can help ease your anxiety naturally, and take back your life in a healthy and productive way.