In working to decrease your anxiety, it’s better to think of changing your relationship with your thoughts rather than ridding yourself of it all together.
People who have worries will often come into therapy and claim they want their “anxiety to go away”. This is not possible. Even if you were to take benzodiazepines which provide almost immediate relief from it, it has not gone away but is masked. In fact, it will be back full force in a short time, perhaps worse than when you started to take the drugs.
Strategies that help you manage anxiety deal with how you interpret and interact with your thoughts, your body, and your environment. They are strategies that change the way your brain functions, and when used over and over again will become more natural to you than worrying.
Recognize the false signals
The first step of taking control of your worries is to recognize when you are worrying. This includes paying attention to what is happening in your body, as well as what is happening in your mind. This may seem silly, but many of us walk around on automatic pilot. By the time we recognize we are worried we have worked ourselves into a pretty uncomfortable state that’s hard to return from.
The emotion of worry comes from what our mind is telling us, and what our bodies are telling us. Unfortunately, our minds and bodies are often giving us false signals.
The next time you are aware that you are anxious, ask yourself:
Recognizing your physical cues of worry will help you to interfere in the cycle sooner. Once you realize what your signs are, you can begin the process of asking yourself some questions.
Interrupt the useless cycle of worry by problem solving
1. What is my mind telling me to be worried about?
2. What can I do to influence the outcome of this worry?
If there is nothing you can do, than worrying is an unproductive exercise, let it go. If there is something you can do to impact the thing you are ultimately worrying about, then you can decide to take action and then let it go because you have problem solved.
One of the paradoxical things about worry is that it is intended to help keep us safe from harm. In modern day life however, excessive worry does not keep us from harm but leads us into harm. It paralyzes us from making good decisions, it clouds our intuition and problem solving abilities, and it also can cause us to make poor decisions such as using drugs and alcohol to manage it. Rarely does it motivate us to make good choices, or prevent us from making bad choices. People who worry, however, have concluded on some level that it is a useful exercise.
Another strategy that can help with worry is to isolate your worry time to a certain portion of the day. If you have a constant generalized worry that you feel like you can’t escape from, giving yourself “worry time” Say for example, from 5-6 pm each night, can help with management of worry during the day. When you find yourself worrying at other times, you tell yourself to let that worry go until its “ worry time”.
During worry time, you can also use the problem solving strategy above. Putting it on pen and paper is a great way to really illustrate when you need to take action to address a worry and when it’s something you should let go.
Check out what your mind is telling you
Often worries are built on my thoughts that are untrue. Asking yourself if you know for certain the thoughts that are driving the worries are true, can sometimes help you to decrease your anxiety. In fact, this is a strategy that helps you to challenge all of your thoughts that might be creating disturbing emotions, not just worries.
For example if you are having the thought that a meeting will go in a disastrous way, or your boss will act in a certain undesirable way, ask yourself if things might go another way. Are you sure those thoughts are true? Or the other thoughts that are making you worry are true? What other thoughts might you generate that would produce less distress?
Learn about generalized anxiety
Learn about panic:
Learn about OCD:
Learn about Social anxiety:
Learn about Depression: