There are many things we can do to combat anxious feelings from taking hold and ruining our day or week. Here are a few simple tips that have worked for me when overcoming my anxiety.
1// Don't get caught without a plan
For anxiety inclined people, getting caught without a plan can be a guarantee for a bad day. Without a plan, our catastrophizing thoughts might come true- maybe not to such an extent that your entire life will explode, but enough to result in more stress than we need. Simply keeping up with a daily planner can prevent appointments from being missed, birthdays forgotten, and deadlines passed. Create a practice of checking your planner daily and pre-planning your week on a designated day.
2// Identify negative thinking
It can be extremely difficult to learn to identify the thoughts that cause your anxiety to rev up, trust me, I’ve experienced this myself. My first few months of therapy I had no answer to give Louisa, my therapist, when she would ask me what happened or what thought prompted my typical symptoms. But with practice, and the understanding that the result of a thought or event can be delayed by an extended period of time, I began to recognize them.
When you feel symptoms arise, stop the activity you are working on and reflect on all the phone calls, emails, texts you’ve received in the last hour. Think about all the tasks you have been working on in the last hour or two. Remember the things you may have eaten, drank, or smelled in that time frame as well. Something should stand out to you- perhaps you get anxious when you receive emails from your employer, or texts from a parent that may have mental abused you as a child, or remembered a bill that is due.
3// Stop thinking like that!
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, CBT, is nothing new to the world, but you would be surprised with how effective it can truly be. It can prevent negative thoughts from becoming weeds in our colorful, flower-filled gardens. To practice CBT, you’ll need to get decent at step 2, otherwise how will you know when to speak to the thoughts? Louisa taught me to say “STOP” out loud when my mind begins to send out weedy tendrils. You are literally breaking the chain of the negative thought that was running across your mind’s teleprompter.
For example, my boss asked me to prepare a financial report for him by Friday. Today is Monday and I assume if I can not have this report completed by this afternoon, then I won’t have time by Friday. And I haven’t entered many of the invoices, so numbers will not be accurate. If I can’t finish by Thursday, he will assume I am incompetent and begin to question my worth. If I don’t have it finished by Friday, I know I will be FIR…..STOP!
I encourage you to stop prior to letting things go that far. This scenario is simply for example.
4// Reverse your negative thinking
Sometimes it helps to completely reverse the type of thought you had to cognitively stop.
Now, take the situation from step three and change the thought. Instead I would say to myself, “He believes you can do this and so do you. Let’s make a plan for every day until Friday to get this report knocked out of the park in small bites. I can’t wait to blow his mind with my awesomeness.”
When you impart trust and compassionate thoughts on yourself, you are providing the self-love you need and apparently have lacked at some point in your life.
5// Start a meditation Practice
Mindfulness is all the rage now days, and for good reason. You are practicing step 3 during meditation as you shut down all thoughts and responses to stimuli. Becoming practiced at mindfulness, will help you recognize thoughts as you become more attune to your own mind. Schedule a time on your planner and set a reminder on your phone to practice. There are plenty of apps for meditation that you can try. Consider Headspace or Calm as a guided meditation tool if you are not already experienced.
What tricks do you use to stop negative thoughts or symptoms of anxiety?
Comment below so that others can utilize your tried and true techniques.