All right fellow anxiety-sufferers, here is one of the first articles I am writing about changing anxious thinking. There are many various methods one can use to reduce his or her anxious thoughts including Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and deep breathing exercises. But, they both boil down to one main point, and that is that they focus on stopping anxious thoughts. CBT can involve many different methods and is founded on the premise that thoughts lead to feelings, which in turn lead to behaviors. Deep breathing exercises focus us on catching ourselves when our anxiety is beginning to escalate in either terms of thinking or physical symptomology.
One additional idea that I would like to add to the field, and I am unaware of any other methods that replicate this technique although I am sure that some exist somewhere, is that for every reason one can find to be anxious, an anxiety-reducing reason can be find. Further, if we are clever enough to invent these different anxiety-producing thoughts, we are also therefore clever enough to invent anxiety-reducing thoughts.
I feel that all anxiety-sufferers are like this, myself included. One example that I would like to use is going to the gym for example. This used to be fairly anxiety-provoking for me for many different reasons, but now it is just another thing I do. I would think things like, “My gosh, there will be lots of people there, and I wonder what they are all thinking about me?” or, “I am not sure how to work the machines. I would rather not go than look like an idiot.” Well, to counter the first thought, for example, I learned that in reality and by personal observation, that most people do not care one iota about me or what I am doing. They are all at the gym to exercise, not to laugh at me. With the weight machines, I could simply ask some of the staff who work there to help me out or someone else who exercises there often. People start exercising at different times in their lives, so they might not know the proper technique for using the machines, and it is perfectly reasonable that a person would ask how to use it.
Another thought that I used to struggle with quite extensively was the fear of being anxious and out of control. It was scary to think about being scared and how silly I may look to others. But, I learned a good reason to counter this thought, and that was that while I may initially feel some anxiety, eventually it will pass and things will be just fine. Once I started to tell myself this regularly, I eventually began to learn to believe it, and sure enough, my anxiety reduced.
The moral of this story is that we are all intelligent people and know all the anxious tricks that we play on ourselves. But, those tricks can be countered. A counselor would be an excellent option to look to for help. Otherwise, this activity can be largely self-directed. Simply journal regularly your anxious thoughts, or even voice-record them on your cell phone. Then, some time when you have time, think about those thoughts and think about more realistic thoughts, and about other ways of interpreting the situation that are anxiety-reducing. There are many different ways of looking at any particular event; just because we have anxious thoughts about a particular event does not mean that event needs to be examined in an anxiety-producing light. We must challenge ourselves to look at things in a more optimistic manner.
Finally, I want to mention that while I have found this technique beneficial for myself, and while CBT does use this to a certain extent, it is only part of a multidisciplinary plan. For some, challenging the anxious thoughts with more realistic thoughts may be helpful, but I firmly believe that the best way to manage anxiety is by completely changing one’s lifestyle such that it minimizes unnecessary anxiety. In the article, A Multidisciplinary Approach, I detail the different things that I used to work together at the same time in order to reduce my anxiety to a very manageable level. I am going to make some additions to that article, but for now, I will keep it short and say that regular exercise, an anxiety-reducing diet, having positive friends who would listen to my problems, attending counseling, challenging my anxious thoughts, and taking a small does of medication helped to reduce my anxiety to the point where I can do everything I need to do to live a happy life.
Good luck, and please give me feedback on what methods you are using to reduce your anxious thinking!