Anxiety – How To Deal With Anxious Thoughts – Hypnotherapy Ely & Newmarket
Phew! It’s been a blistering start to the New Year and January is well and truly over already! How did that happen!
Hot on the heels of Christmas came my daughter’s eleventh birthday one weekend, and a sleepover involving five over-excited (and then over-tired and over-sugared) ten and eleven year olds for her sleepover party. That was one loooonnnngggg night! And it wasn’t helped by my seven year old who had to cram in to bed in between my wife and I, and who decided (in her sleep) that if her elbow hit something hard when she moved (my head) then the best thing was to keep elbowing it until it moved.
Being in the office and helping people to overcome their anxiety and other unwanted and unnecessary thoughts, feelings and behaviours has seemed like a rest compared to that night!!
On top of all that home stuff, and a return to bootcamp after the festive break (oh the muscle soreness!), I’ve been really busy helping people who have been struggling with anxiety and who want to break free from that ongoing cycle of anxious thoughts.
In this article I’m going to suggest some ways in which you can start to interrupt, challenge and let go of anxious thoughts so that your anxiety reduces and you can find yourself feeling more at ease, more relaxed and just generally feeling better mentally and physically.
Anxiety and Anxious Thoughts
All these anxious thoughts that race through your mind can seem pretty powerful and pretty constant. The more all that negative self talk and those worst case scenarios fill your mind, the more anxiety you will experience and that just gives more fuel to even more of those unwanted thoughts. It can soon feel like it has all spiralled out of control, like your mind never calms down or switches off and like a great big, dark cloud of fog has descended.
Some of those anxious thoughts may be full of self-criticism. You may tell yourself that you are ‘stupid’ or ‘rubbish’ or ‘useless’ for feeling the way you do or because you can’t manage to do things other people seem to be able to do or because you can’t beat the anxiety yourself (none of which are actually ‘true’).
There may be thoughts filled with a sense of helplessness and dread, a kind of sense that you will never feel better or overcome your anxiety, thoughts about how you can’t cope and these can then be linked with worst case thoughts about how if you never get better you will lose your job/relationship/friends/house/kids and so on.
In practice, those ‘what if’ thoughts can permeate into every thought. ‘What if I never feel better…?’, ‘what if I mess up….?…’what if I can’t do my job or everyone gets fed up of me or it all goes wrong…?’ and so on. And because these anxious thoughts will usually be about the future and so you don’t know exactly what will happen, that negativity can fill them all, increase the anxiety and lead to them spinning around your mind uncontrollably.
All of these anxious ways of thinking can be around something specific, such as a medical or dental appointment or an upcoming social event or interview, or they can start to take over every aspect of your life until that anxiety can seem constant and overwhelming.
Combating anxiety, and dealing with anxious thoughts, involves two main things. You need to calm down the emotions and feelings so you feel more calm and in control and can think more clearly. Doing this starts to cut off the fuel from all those habitual anxious ways of thinking. And you need to do something with the thoughts themselves to break the pattern and start to slow down their ceaseless flow.
Dealing With Anxious Thoughts
In this article I’m particularly talking about ways to deal with anxious thoughts to help reduce your anxiety. However, it’s also important to start developing effective ways to calm anxious feelings. Taking away those feelings starts to calm the driving force of anxiety that goes with those thinking patterns.
I’d suggest doing these three things to start calming down your anxious feelings. Firstly, get physically active; go for a brisk walk each day and give all that adrenaline and oxygen in your system an outlet. Secondly, grab a copy of my free hypnosis download (Rapid Relaxation Hypnosis Download) and listen to it daily to begin with, to start developing that capability to become more and more mentally calm and physically relaxed. Finally, start using your breathing to naturally relax; breathe in for a count of seven and out for a count of eleven so that your out-breath is longer. Practice this breathing pattern periodically throughout the day and get really good at it. Doing these three things consistently will really serve you well in your journey to ease anxiety.
Because of how our brains work it will always be easier to deal with anxious thoughts when you feel physically calmer. Anxiety is like a mental warning system that gets you ready to run away and escape to somewhere you feel safe. Hundreds of years ago, when faced with a threat that could potentially harm or kill us, our fear response would kick in quickly so we could fight it or escape. As well as the many other changes that go with fear and anxiety (like the stomach feeling, heart racing and so on), one thing that happens is that less blood goes to our brain and we shut off the ‘thinking’ part of our brain. After all, when faced with a threat we didn’t want to stop and have a good think; we wanted to act fast.
In modern times, our brain responds to our thinking and perceived threats (such as worst case scenarios) in just the same way as if we were faced with an external threat about us. The fear response and emotions take over and we lose the ability to easily think clearly and logically (that’s why even when we know anxious thoughts aren’t rational or sometimes even likely to happen, we still respond and we still can’t think clearly). Anything that emotionally helps you feel calmer will help you to think more clearly and feel more in control of your thoughts. That’s why I suggest you walk, cut caffeine, listen to the hypnosis audio and breathe.
So how can you deal with anxious thoughts?
You could use the ‘321 technique’ as a way to tackle your anxious thinking. As soon as you catch yourself thinking unhelpful or anxious thoughts, particularly those that are a million miles away from the present moment, firstly, describe to yourself three specific things you can see, then notice three specific sounds you can hear around you and then move your focus on to noticing three specific external sensations you can feel right now. Having done three things you can see, hear and feel, repeat the process doing two different sights, sounds and sensations and then repeat focusing on one different of each. It will shift your focus from internally getting lost in the anxious thoughts in your mind (that can lead to increasing anxiety levels), to focusing on the here and now. There’s more on this one in this article: Interrupt Negative Thoughts in 3-2-1; Anxiety Help
You could also start using ‘choice overload’ to help reduce your anxious thoughts. With this approach you want to break your anxious tendency to only focus on the worst case as if it is certain to happen. Rather than letting your mind focus on only one option, as if that is the only possible choice (and so it develops a sense of inevitably about it), you come up with as many options and ‘choices’ as you can. In contrast to any worst case there must be a best case. And there will also be many other options that fall between worst and best. As you come up with more and more possible outcomes and because none of them have actually happened yet, and none of us know for certain what the future holds, you can create ‘choice overload’ of your thoughts. Rather than being fixated on the worst case, now there are as many other possibilities as you care to spend time thinking about. There’s more about this one over in this article of mine: Using choice overload to reduce anxiety
There’s also a neat way to deal with anxious thoughts in this article: And Now…For Something To Tackle Overthinking and Negative Thoughts. This one covers a nice technique whereby rather than trying to fight anxious thoughts or to try and not think them (which tends to increase anxiety, stress and dread and lead to more of those types of thoughts), we want to move those things straight along to something else. It’s like creating a thinking circuit in your mind that strengthens every time you do it. Go check out that article for more on that.
One of my personal favourite ways to combat anxiety is to start to level up the mental playing field. Anxiety thrives on focus and attention and can expand to fill as much time as is available for it. The more you focus on those negative and anxious thoughts you worse you feel. Then at some point you realise they have taken over and dominate your awareness. To start to redress this balance, deliberately focus on what is also going well (or at least ok) each day. Every morning think of up to three things you are looking forward to that day and then every evening reflect back on three highlights or things that went well that day. It doesn’t matter what the things are or how big or small you may perceive them to be. Deliberately find a few moments to focus, not just on what might go wrong, but what is actually in fact going right.
I’ll be back on this blog soon writing about more ways to tackle anxiety and ways to deal with anxious thoughts, including how you can effectively challenge them to weaken their hold on your thinking. Until then please do make good use of the strategies and techniques here and start consistently doing something constructive to address those anxious thoughts.
To your success and happiness,
Hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket
Like to read more about overcoming anxiety and to end unwanted anxious thinking? You can find more articles here: Read more about anxiety
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Find out what other people have said after their hypnotherapy sessions with Dan: What People Say
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