Challenging Your Anxious Thoughts
Struggling with chronic anxiety involves experiencing symptoms such as headaches, shakiness, a rapid heart rate, uncomfortable stomach issues, and feelings of dread. Often, these feelings are unexplainable, and the feelings may come on unexpectedly. This is something that I know I experience, and then, as a result, I find I try to figure out what is causing the anxiety. This sometimes results in identifying certain anxious thoughts. An effective coping mechanism has been to challenge those anxious thoughts and reframe some of them.
Why Challenging Your Anxious Thoughts Is Helpful
I know that my anxiety is problematic when I start to experience symptoms, and there is no apparent trigger. It is during these moments that I find I need to closely examine my thoughts. I know it is important that I figure out what I am thinking that triggers my anxiety and what I can do to help it.
Confronting and then challenging your anxious thoughts allows you to closely analyze why they are making you worry or feel fearful. It also helps you to change them and potentially ward off the anxiety that begins to spin out of control. Lastly, it helps you to be prepared for the next time that this happens. With practice, you may find that you are more in touch with your feelings and better equipped to control how you react when you experience anxiety symptoms.
Steps You Can Take to Challenge Your Anxious Thoughts
One of the strategies I have found to be helpful has been to challenge my anxious thoughts that are related to my anxiety. This is a strategy I have taught to other people and one I continue to work on. However, I have also found that challenging my self-talk can be a challenge in and of itself. So, from what I have learned and personally experienced, here are some suggestions to help you challenge your anxious thoughts:
- First of all, recognize them. What are the thoughts associated with your anxious feelings? Be aware of the symptoms you are experiencing and the thoughts that are associated with them. This can take time and practice, but the more you try to recognize any anxious thoughts, the more you will find that you can. Sometimes, I find that just being in a quiet setting helps me to identify thoughts that are triggering my anxiety, such as worries about the future or memories of the past.
- When you identify those negative thoughts, pay attention. Don't avoid them or try to push them out of your mind. You might think avoiding them is the best course of action to take; however, the more you try to avoid those thoughts, the more you are just reinforcing your anxious reaction and continuing to build that connection between the thought and the symptom. A helpful way to pay attention to those thoughts is to record them in some way. This is one of the reasons that journaling can be such a helpful tool. Recording them helps you to identify exactly those thoughts you need to work on.
- Challenge those thoughts. Confront them. Ask yourself why you are worried or fearful. Ask yourself what the worst thing that could happen would be. If it is a negative thought you can change, write down a positive thought to counter it. Challenging those anxious thoughts allows you to put them into perspective.
- You can also look at those thoughts logically to see what you have control over and how you can deal with what you do have control over. When I think this way, it helps me to feel less anxious because I know that there is an aspect of what I am worried about that I can control. I feel less as though my anxiety is spinning out of control.
Try these steps to help you manage your anxiety. If there are strategies you use to challenge your anxious thoughts, share them in the comments below.
Bermio-Gonzalez, R. (2021, April 13). Challenging Your Anxious Thoughts, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, December 3 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/treatinganxiety/2021/4/challenging-your-anxious-thoughts
Author: Rizza Bermio-Gonzalez
This is such a powerful practice. It's important to remember that (like so many things of this nature), it is a practice. Which means it can take time to adjust to. Be gentle with yourself when you first begin the process of recognizing the thoughts and then challenging and questioning them.
Great point that this takes practice. I know that personally, this is something that I have to constantly work on. It can be easy to allow yourself to be swept away by those thoughts that increase your anxiety. I absolutely agree that it is important to practice self-compassion as you make these adjustments in your thought process.