Not all anxious thoughts are bad. Some of them stop us walking down dark alleys at night or clicking the link in that e-mail from a Nigerian prince. But some are both distracting and damaging, keeping us up at night and reinforcing false beliefs, such as beliefs that we are inadequate or unworthy.
When you have had anxiety for a long time, you learn to cherry pick your anxious thoughts. If they must exist at all then at least they have to contribute something positive. Because there is no point tossing and turning over the fact that the sun will explode one day. (FYI, that’s the technical term. NASA told me so.)
But even when we know that we shouldn’t give energy to these damaging anxious thoughts, it isn’t always easy keeping them at bay. Which is why I have put together a comprehensive list of things we can do if a damaging anxious thought is running rampant in our minds:
Read Something, Anything
Reading takes brain power and our full attention to complete. Even if it’s just a Facebook post – although ideally you want something less despairing – you can stop an anxious thought by reading something.
This is a fantastic excuse to pick up the book you had to put down earlier to do housework. Once you’ve read a chapter or two, you’ll have left your anxious thought in the past where it belongs. If it crops up again well, hey, you know what to do.
If It’s A Healthy Option, Escape Into Your Paracosm
If you haven’t heard of the word “paracosm” before, here’s a quick overview. A paracosm is a world we create in our heads to escape the stresses of the real world and has links to trauma and/or creativity. If this rings a bell with you, then you probably already go to your paracosm when things get stressful. I’m not psychiatrist but for me, going to my paracosm when I’m overwhelmed with anxious thoughts works wonders. However, if your day to day life is derailed by this exercise, it might not be the best idea.
If you don’t have a paracosm, I’m not going to recommend creating one. It might send you down a rabbit hole. Instead, do what they do in the movies. Go to your happy place on a sandy beach or on top of a beautiful mountain range. Just take yourself out of the moment for a short time and hopefully, your anxious thoughts will have given up when you come back.
Interrupt Yourself With Something Random
And I mean really random. The best way to go about this is to re-watch a puppy or kitten video you’ve seen to give yourself a boost of happy brain chemicals. These are the perfect thoughts to derail your anxious train and treat yourself to a moment of happiness.
Before long, you’ll condition yourself to think of happy things every time an anxious thought pops up that you decided isn’t worth your energy. Even if they still materialise every now and again, you will give them minimal air time.
Thanks for reading! Did you know I also write urban fantasy books? Check them out here!