Constant Anxious Thoughts: Definition, What to Do About Them
Constant anxious thoughts can induce great misery and suffering. Automatic negative thoughts, or ANTs, are patterns of thinking that cause anxiety and keep anxiety strong and powerful. Words like "should," "shouldn't," "always," "never," and a host of negative labels we place on ourselves are part of those automatic negative thoughts that can keep us trapped in our private world of thoughts, worries, and fears. Because understanding the nature of constant anxious thoughts can help you choose what to do about them, here are a few facts about anxiety and thoughts.
The Nature of Constant Anxious Thoughts
"The mind is everything. What you think, you become."--Buddha
Do we think our way into our own anxiety? In a way, we do--but usually not on purpose. The nature of our thoughts impacts our lives: our belief in ourselves, how we interpret events that happen, and to what degree we experience worry and fear.
Just a few things that philosophers and psychologists have discovered about our thoughts:
- They're unreliable -- just because we think something doesn't make it accurate.
- The brain responds to every thought with a cascade of neurochemical reactions that, in turn, stimulate emotional and behavioral reactions which then cause additional anxious thoughts.
- What we pay attention to, either in our own mind or in the world around us, grows because neural connections associated with a thought strengthen and increase with use.
- The more we pay attention to our constant anxious thoughts (due to those strong connections), the more we believe them and the more we experience anxiety.
No wonder constant anxious thoughts are so stubborn and cause such problems. Thoughts reinforce themselves in the brain. A worry, fear, or obsession doesn't have to be true to create the cascade of neural activity in the brain. True or false, serene or worrisome, thoughts almost seem to overthink themselves. When they do, the thoughts grow and we believe them. Then, of course, we think them even more. What can be done about the behavior of anxious thoughts?
What to Do About Your Constant Anxious Thoughts
"You don't have to control your thoughts. You just have to stop letting them control you."--Dan Millman
It is possible to divert your attention from your constant anxious thoughts while reducing anxiety in the process. Some ideas that you can begin immediately include:
Shift your perspective. A problem (even a big one) is simply a circumstance you're facing. Your thoughts about it are what causes and increases anxiety. Consider looking at your challenges in new ways and deliberately thinking about them in these new, fresh ways.
Give your thinking mind a break:
- Get up and move to create fresh experiences.
- Meditate (close your eyes, breathe deeply, and concentrate on the feel and sound of your breath).
- Without judging, notice your surroundings mindfully.
- Visualize (no words, just images) yourself living life without anxious thoughts.
Finally, believe in your own power to decide how to respond to your thoughts and decide what to replace them with. You're not at the mercy of your constant anxious thoughts. While the brain responds to thoughts with a neurochemical reaction, it is your brain. Create healthy new thoughts, and over time, the anxious ones will fade due to lack of use.
NCC, T. (2019, September 5). Constant Anxious Thoughts: Definition, What to Do About Them, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 17 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2019/9/constant-anxious-thoughts-definition-what-to-do-about-them