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When Anxious Thoughts Are a Broken Record, Change Your Tune

Anxiety can be a broken record, repeating the same anxious thoughts in your head. Learn how to deal with the broken record of anxiety by changing your tune.

Anxious thoughts act like a broken record. An anxious thought will start to play in the mind, and once it does, that obsessive thought plays over and over and over again. Listening to our anxious thoughts nonstop can make them grow ever bigger and stronger, and we come to believe them. Our worries feel real when anxiety is a broken record. When this happens, it’s time to change our tune. 

Anxiety Is a Broken Record

Picture a turntable. A black, vinyl disc teeming with potential music rests on the platter. You place the needle into a groove and start the player. The disc begins to spin, and a song bursts into the room, filling the room and your mind with music. It’s not the music you wanted to hear though; in fact, it’s so awful you want it to move to a different song. To your dismay, it never moves. The needle is stuck in the groove because the record is broken. You have to listen to the terrible song play on.

Anxiety is like this broken record. The song itself is wrong. Anxiety puts horrible thoughts in our head, thoughts like you’re going to fail or you’re not good enough, or something terrible will happen. Once an anxious thought begins, it often picks up speed, screeching its painful song ad nauseam.

It’s natural to throw our hands over our ears when anxiety repeats itself. It’s also natural to want the turntable to stop spinning, to wish the anxious thoughts would cease. When we focus on wanting anxiety to stop repeating itself in our mind, though, we are inadvertently keeping that record spinning. Instead, we should stop wishing for the anxious music to stop and instead take charge of changing the tune.

How to Change the Tune When Anxiety Plays Its Broken Record

Repetitive, anxious thoughts are wearing. They keep us in a state of agitation and stress and leave us feeling overwhelmed. This broken record of anxiety keeps us focused on the very thing causing our anxiety, which makes it difficult to break free. It doesn’t have to be this way. When your anxiety is a broken record, you can take steps to change the tune.

Letting the broken record continue to play keeps us focused on our anxious thoughts. Rather than thinking about what we don’t want, it’s more helpful to focus on what we do what instead. In doing so, we’re changing out tune in order to reduce anxiety.

Tips for Changing the Tune When Anxiety Is a Broken Record

  1. Recognize the anxious thought that’s playing like a broken record. What specifically is it telling you?
  2. Realize that you don’t have to listen to this record. At any given time, you have the power to decide what you will and will not pay attention to.
  3. Don’t argue with the anxious thoughts. You can’t argue a needle out of a broken groove. Instead, simply acknowledge them and proceed to step four.
  4. Decide what thoughts you’d rather have instead. What do you want to focus on? What would you rather be pursuing?
  5. Practice your song. Once you know how you want to replace your anxious thoughts, rehearse. Write down your new thought(s) multiple times. Play it (them) in your head. Repeat.
  6. Add a dance. This means action. What steps are you going to take every day to keep your new record spinning?

Keep doing these steps patiently and persistently and you will change your tune when anxiety becomes a broken record. Force the anxious thoughts out of your head to make room for positive, forward-moving thoughts.

Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of four critically-acclaimed, award-winning novels about mental health challenges as well as a self-help book on acceptance and commitment therapy. She speaks nationally about mental health, and she has a curriculum for middle and high schools. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

6 thoughts on “When Anxious Thoughts Are a Broken Record, Change Your Tune”

  1. Thanks for these tips! My fiancé suffers from Anxiety & panic attacks. I’m always trying to find new ways in helping him out. Thanks so much!

  2. Wow! I love this read! Anxious thoughts are absolutely like a broken record, and like you touched on, typically one that picks up speed as it continues to play. It can feel like that horrible “spiraling effect” when the broken record begins to play. It’s often a paralyzing feeling for many, but the steps you gave are wonderful. Easy to understand, easy to apply. “You can’t argue a needle out of a broken groove” — yes! Acknowledging the thoughts is so much more effective than trying to push against them. Acknowledging and then replacing and then adding the dance! It’s a wonderful, simple plan and the simplicity is what makes it feel empowering. Thank you for sharing.

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