There are three ways to break down anxiety symptoms: Physical Symptoms, Thoughts, and Behaviors. Part I addressed the physical symptoms of anxiety. Below are quick life hacks for the thought symptoms of anxiety.
Thoughts of Anxiety
Anxiety thoughts are always going to be about the worst case scenario. Below are cognitive behavioral therapy tips for managing anxiety thoughts.
Acceptance: Anxiety thoughts are best managed if at the very beginning, you accept that you are having them. Acceptance means you note you are having the thought in a non critical, non judgmental way. This does not mean you have to approve, or like, that you are having the thoughts, but criticizing yourself or judging yourself for anxiety is only going to make it worse. Plus, if criticizing or judging these thoughts worked … you probably wouldn’t have them anymore!
Bucketing: The goal with bucketing is to help externalize the thoughts. Anxiety thoughts are a symptom of a diagnosis, and not a problem with you. To help externalize your anxiety thoughts, identify your three most common types of anxiety thoughts. Then, when you have that thought, mentally place it into the appropriate bucket. Common buckets include family, work, and relationships.
Give your anxiety a name: This is also meant to help with externalization of your anxiety thoughts. Have a name picked out, like Amanda or Scott, and when you start to have anxious thoughts, tell yourself “Oh, that’s just Amanda letting me know about the worst case scenario again.” Again, the goal is to help reinforce the understanding that these thoughts are a symptom of anxiety, and not a problem with you.
Write out the worst case and face it: The more we avoid thinking about something, the worse it becomes. FYI – ruminating about it in your head is not facing it. Actually sit down, and write or type out what exactly scares you. Be as specific as possible. Try to keep digging until you’ve reached the scariest part. For example, if you are considering a divorce, the worst part might be that you believe your children are going to hate you for the rest of your life. You’d be amazed at how often a part of our brain starts to challenge and rebuke these anxiety thoughts once we look at them directly.