6 Tricks to Stop Anxious Thoughts In Their Tracks
Do you have racing thoughts and anxiety? It can be hard to focus on anything else when anxiety and anxious thoughts take over your mind. You’re filled with worries and uncertainties. it becomes hard to calm down, rest or sleep.
Fortunately, there are ways to control anxious thoughts, and although it may take some practice to master the thoughts, you can take control.
Try these tips to control your anxiety:
1. Thank your mind.
It sounds strange but one of the techniques we use in therapy is thanking the mind for the thought – and then letting it go. It’s a great little technique from acceptance and commitment therapy protocols. Recognise that little voice inside your head for what it is. It’s just a voice. Maybe even give your voice a name? Worrying Wilma? Disaster Dan?
- When you get an anxious thought, immediately identify it as your worry voice, and not reality.
- Giving your worry voice a name helps to separate it from your authentic self
- This helps you learn to recognise your anxious thoughts for what they are – simply thoughts, not reality
- Recognise that anxious thoughts are different to who you are as a person
2. Ask yourself questions.
When you get an anxious thought, stop and ask yourself some questions:
- What is the real reason for this anxious thought? What am I really afraid of?
- Is there real danger, or is my worry voice (see above) simply playing games with me?
- Is the negative outcome I’m imagining likely to happen?
- What’s the probability? Would I confidently place a bet on this outcome?
- What would I tell a friend?
- What’s the worst that could happen here?
- How will I cope if the worst happens?
Notice if asking yourself certain questions changes your level of anxiety. Work out which questions help you.
3. View your anxious thoughts as electrical chatter.
Sometimes it’s helpful to view your thoughts as electrical chatter in the mind – and the mind as a processing centre.
There is a lot of information coming in throughout the day to the mind, through the five senses, internally from body systems and both purposeful and random thoughts occurring. Some of this data can be incorrectly processed leading to anxiety…the brain is designed to detect danger and is hypersensitive to anything we perceive as a threat.
And often our electrical chatter is a bad habit. We fire our brains in an automatic pattern, and simply allow the anxious thoughts to take over and control us. Remember you can choose to be in control.
- Decide to change your brain patterns by doing something different – get up and do five star-jumps, meet a friend, go for a walk, do a crossword puzzle, listen to music, sing your favourite song out loud.
4. Learn to stay in the present moment.
Notice when you’re thinking about the past or future and guide your thoughts back to the present moment. Many anxious thoughts are focused on the future, or the past. You can break free of these by focusing on the present moment.
- Interrupt future-based worries by bringing your attention back to the present moment. Look around and name 5 things you can see, hear and touch.
- Let go of the past and of rumination by using the same technique. Or simply visualise a new, different, happy ending – and then move
5. Take imperfect action.
Anxious thoughts often keep you stuck in fear and worry. Learn to act even when you are anxious.
- Try rating your fear our of 10. Find a way take even a small action. For example, if you are worried about attending an event, talk yourself into going for 5 minutes rather than the whole night.Do the beginning of something, not the whole thing.
Action can actually decrease the number of anxious thoughts you have on a daily basis. It can show you that there’s nothing to be afraid of, that you’re powerful, and that you can make a positive difference.
6. Get rid of your unhelpful thoughts.
Some thoughts may be true, but they aren’t helpful.
- Learn to tell helpful and unhelpful thoughts apart.
Then, start to tune out the unhelpful ones. If you’ve already decided on a name for all these thoughts (see above) then that can help with tuning unhelpful thoughts out. Choosing to pay less attention to thoughts will help you feel more in control.
Anxious thoughts don’t have to control your life. You can use these tricks to help you effectively take control of your mind when you find yourself worrying. If these tips aren’t enough, consider talking to one of our team for additional help with adult anxiety or for anxiety in children.
Article by Dr Amanda Mullin, Doctor Of Clinical Psychology.
Dr Amanda Mullin is the Director of Mindworx Psychology, an award winning Clinical Psychology and Executive Coaching Practice based in Sydney, Australia. With a family of her own, Dr Amanda understands the challenges faced by today’s families searching for positive mental health. Her big hairy, audacious goal is to change lives for the better.
Join Dr Amanda and her team and improve your mental health. Ready for change? Let us show you how. Call us on 8355 3635