Dealing with Thoughts that Increase Anxiety
Does Thinking Make You More Anxious?
Ask your child to answer the question: What is a thought? It’s kind of hard to define. Your thoughts are the things you tell yourself in your mind. They are the words you use to talk to yourself silently – otherwise known as self-talk. Your self-talk is very important in helping to manage anxiety.
When you are anxious do you know what you are thinking? Do you know that your thoughts will either make your anxiety increase or decrease? Getting control over your anxious thinking is probably the trickiest or most challenging part of dealing with anxiety.
A huge percentage of our thoughts contain some sort of negative content, and it’s common to have negative thoughts. However if you feel anxious a lot, your thoughts very likely make your anxiety increase. As wild as this might sound, people with anxiety can think themselves into hugely fearful states. Once you get going with anxious thinking, the easier it is to make up horrible stories of what might happen — and believe they are true. But they aren’t. They are just stories you are making up. The more you think about the bad things that MIGHT happen, the worse you feel and the more likely you are to panic.
But wait! There is good news. You can learn to ditch your unhelpful, scary thoughts and replace them with encouraging helpful thoughts. It will take some practice but it is well worth the effort. The following activities will show you a few ways you can start to change your thoughts. Try these with your children.
Journaling is simply writing down your thoughts. You can write or print. You don’t have to write full sentences. Sometimes just a word or two is enough. No one will check for neatness or spelling. This is just for you. You can also try using sticky notes and posting them where you can see them every day. Stick empowering messages on your mirror, the fridge, or the front door. Use positive statements like “You are loved’ or ‘You are strong’ or ‘Breathe and relax’. These will help to remind you to be gentle and kind to yourself.
Thank Your Mind
This is similar to journaling but is a good thing to do when you don’t have your journal handy or are in a situation where you can’t stop to write. When that anxious or negative thought creeps in you can say something like “Thank you mind for protecting and keeping me safe, but I have it covered and there is nothing you need to do right now”. This gives your mind permission to take a break.
Have you ever heard of Worry Dolls? They are tiny dolls, about 1/2 to 1 inch tall and made of colourful yarn and cloth over a wood or wire frame. They come from the country of Guatemala in Central America. Children in Guatemala are like kids everywhere – sometimes they cannot sleep because they are worried about things. When this happens, children are often given Worry Dolls. The child tells the little doll what is troubling them, puts the doll under their pillow and the doll will do the worrying so the child can sleep. What a great idea!
While negative thoughts are a normal part of daily life, they don’t have to leave you feeling anxious. Using these activities and tools can not only curb or lessen your anxiety, but also help with bad dreams and negative thoughts.
Article Author: Valerie Ostara is the world’s first Closet Monster Battle Coach and founder of Sound–Mind.ca, an educational and coaching organization dedicated to defeating the anxiety monsters that lurk in the closets and under the beds of our children’s minds. Through our effective and empowering strategies, children and parents learn the skills and self-management techniques guaranteed to bring peace of mind.