Those who experience general anxiety or panic attacks almost always deal with the frequent occurrence of anxious thoughts. These thoughts have a sneaky way of creating self-doubt regardless of whether the fear is rational or irrational.
Perhaps it’s a fear of:
-having another panic attack in public
-strange body sensations that alarm you
-the fear of losing complete control to anxiety
-never being able to live a life free from constant worry
Does any of this sound familiar?
Whatever your particular fear is, there are some lessons to learn that will not only help you end these fears but also reduce your anxious thoughts quickly and dramatically.
Let us take a look first at how an anxious thought is powered, and then examine how to quickly reduce the intensity of that thought.
Imagine…You are going about your daily business when something inevitably triggers an anxious thought that gets stuck in your mind.
Whatever the nature of the thought, the pattern that follows is usually quite predictable.
The anxious thought flashes briefly in your awareness and as it does so you immediately react with fear as you contemplate the thought. The fearful reaction you have then sends a shock-wave through your nervous system. You feel the result of that fear most intensely in your stomach and chest.
Because of the intense bodily reaction you then get sucked into the thought over and over again in your mind.
The continuous fearful reaction you have to the thought, increases the intensity of the experience. The more you react, the stronger the thought rebounds again in your awareness creating more anxious shock-waves throughout your body. This is the typical cycle of anxious thoughts.
For many, it feels like their peace of mind is being hijacked.
Because of the reaction you are having, you may continue to spend the rest of your day thinking about what you have just experienced. Constantly questioning yourself:
“Why am I thinking these unwanted thoughts?”
“Why can’t I shake off this uncomfortable feeling?”
…And the harder you try not to think about it, the more upset you become as these questions begin to spin in your mind.
So how can you eliminate these unwanted anxious thoughts?
When you start to experience anxious thoughts, it is very important not to force them away.
Let the thoughts in. The more comfortable you can become with them, the better. These thoughts will never go away fully but what you can learn is to change your reaction to them.
By changing your reaction to the anxious thoughts you become free of them.
Once you establish a new way of reacting to the thoughts it does not matter if you have them or not. Your reaction is what defines the whole experience.
Everybody experiences fleeting thoughts that many would consider scary or crazy. The difference between most people and somebody who gets caught up in them, is that the average person sees them for exactly what they are, fleeting anxious thoughts, and casually ignores them.
The anxious person is at a disadvantage as they already have a certain level of anxiety in their system. The thoughts easily spark feelings of further anxiety which builds into a cycle of fear. You break the cycle by changing how you react to the fearful thought.
Imagine again…You are enjoying the way your day is going but then all of sudden a fearful thought comes to mind.
Before you would react with anxiety to the idea and then try to force that thought out of your mind.
This time, the response is different. You say to yourself:
“That’s a fear of X. I could worry and even obsess over that but now it’s time for something different. I’m not going to react to it, and I’m also not going to try and stop it either. I’m just going to label the thought and not react.”
Then the thought comes again with more intensity and possibly with new ‘scary’ angles you never considered. When this happens you do exactly the same. As if you were watching your thoughts projected on a movie screen or observing clouds passing overhead, you simply:
-Watch it as it passes by
-Move your attention on to what you were doing
Observe, Label, Watch, Move on
See the anxious thought for what it really is: one of the thousands of fleeting sane and insane thoughts every one of us experiences daily.
By practicing this approach you gradually stop reacting with fear to the thought and you learn to treat it as nothing more than an odd peculiarity.
The key thing to remember is:
Observe, Label, Watch, Move on
When you are at a stage where you are comfortable doing the above exercise and you feel you are making good progress, then try one more thing:
Actually invite one of your more regular fearful thoughts in. Call the fear to you.
It may seem like the last thing you would wish to bring upon yourself, as you don’t particularly enjoy these thoughts but this approach can be very empowering. You are now calling the shots. You actually invited the issue in.
By doing this you are discharging the sense of fear surrounding the anxious thought. The same fear was powering itself on your resistance: the idea that you could not handle these thoughts.
Fear quickly evaporates when you confront it!
It is the mental struggle of pulling against the anxious thoughts that creates the emotional turmoil because fear intensifies when we pull away from it.
Take a different stance and invite your anxious thoughts in. Observe them, label them and do your very best not to react. Very soon you will find yourself in a unique position of control and a decision maker in what you will or will not be concerned about.
As with every lesson there is always a level of practice in the beginning. Initially you may start observing, then labelling, but then suddenly get anxious again about the fearful thought. That’s very normal.
Practice and you will quickly learn how to reduce your anxious thoughts at any time or in any moment.
Remember, do not let your mind trick you into believing that your anxiety is something you have to struggle with for the rest of your life. This is simply not true.
Anxiety does not have the right to steal your life from you.