Anxiety provoking thoughts
There are times when our threatening thoughts are biased and not based upon any facts. Being aware of our biased thoughts is very important when understanding the vicious cycle of anxiety. Common thinking biases are:
- Catastrophising – Anticipating disaster, assuming the worst thing that could happen, will happen.
- Black and white thinking – seeing things in all-or-nothing terms
- Exaggerating – Magnifying the negative
- Overgeneralising – Using blankets statements such as “I’m rubbish at everything”
- Ignoring the positive – Filtering out the positives and focusing on the negatives
Taken from Overcoming Anxiety, Helen Kennerley 2009
Feeling fearful of situations, symptoms or having threatening thoughts may lead some people to avoid situations or people. It is expected to avoid something that is genuinely threatening, but anxiety can lead people to avoid non-threatening situations such as: shopping centres, the hairdressers, talking to people etc. Avoiding things can make life very problematic and difficult. It can also affect how confident you feel about yourself and about future situations you may find yourself in.
Altering Anxious Thoughts
In the previous section, we saw how thoughts play a major part in keeping anxiety going. They can be so automatic that it can be quite a skill in determining what they are. This is sometimes because you may have had negative thoughts for some time and thinking in this way can be very natural.
There are other times whereby we are fully aware of an anxious thought. Most times our negative automatic thoughts can be taken from the negative thinking errors listed above and may be unrealistic. Challenging these negative automatic thoughts takes practice and it may be worth while keeping a diary of when you feel anxious and writing down what was happening. A blank thought diary can be downloaded by clicking here.
Below is a completed thought diary by a lady who had began feeling very anxious when shopping. By monitoring her thoughts when she felt anxiety, she was able to identify her negative thought, challenge it and manage her shopping trip.
You may identify a certain problem that is causing your anxiety. This is when a problem solving approach is useful. If the problem is debt, think of possible solutions to manage it:
Get a different job
Get advice about the debt and how to manage it in better ways
Consolidate your debt to reduce payments/interest growth
Once you have listed possible solutions, pick the one that suits you best then put things in place to help you achieve this. List things like: who will i need to help with this? What is needed to be done and in what order? What may prevent me from achieving this and what would be plan B? Discussing this approach with friends and/or family can be beneficial too.