The past year has been full of huge adjustments for a lot of people. Hardships have included losing jobs and loved ones, as well as struggling to take life one day at a time and coping with feelings of overwhelm. During this period, many individuals are grappling with finding some semblance of normalcy, yet they find there is a wall in the way. That wall keeps them stuck with negative thought processes, and it can feel like there is no way out. We call that anxiety. Anxiety could be defined as excessive worry and fear. Stressors may be big things and small things, and they all impact us in different ways. The first step is to recognize your defeating thought processes.
What type of thought processes do we go through with anxiety?
Focusing on the negatives: This occurs when a person filters out the good and emphasizes the bad. For example, “I am so nervous to present in front of my class because people will think I am stupid.” Instead, a more helpful approach would include thoughts that notice positive feedback, such as people applauding you for your good work.
Using the word “should”: People sometimes set specific expectations for themselves or others, including how you “should” act towards others or how others “should” act. For example, “I should have control in all aspects of my life because if I don’t, I cannot get through my day.” While it is important to have a sense of agency in your life, attempting to control everything can cause more anxiety because doing so inevitably includes worrying about things that are outside of your control.
All-or-nothing thinking: This is similar to negative thoughts in that people may only see the downsides to a given situation. For example, “if I don’t get this project done perfectly, I will lose my job.” When in reality, it may be more prudent to make a goal to get it done by the deadline and not focus on perfecting the work. It is important to remember that seeking perfection is inherently an unattainable objective. Also, it can be a helpful to praise yourself for the effort you put in.
Catastrophic thinking: This could be defined as thinking about worst-case outcomes that include, “what ifs.” For example, “I have a really bad headache. What if it’s a chronic medical condition?” When in reality, there could many reasons for a headache, including the stress in your daily life.
What to do with these thoughts?
Once you’ve recognized your negative thoughts, you can write them down, almost like journaling your thoughts throughout the day. This type of activity is common within cognitive-behavioral therapy, in which the individual becomes aware of their unhelpful thoughts and works to change those destructive thought patterns.
Another method to treat your cognitive distortions is to practice mindfulness. In a way, this type of meditation allows the individual to gain perspective about their thoughts and emotions. Many mindfulness practices look to body scan meditation, as well as somatic mindfulness where the person observes their bodily discomforts in response to stress and anxiety.
Overall, these are just a few approaches individuals can use to create adaptive thought processes. Although confronting your negative thoughts will not be easy, doing so will place you on your path to better navigating your inner world and managing your anxiety.
Contact Us to Connect with a Therapist
If you or someone you know could benefit from working through anxiety or other issues, we are here to help. At Greenway Therapy, we have multiple therapists who can guide you on your journey, provide resources, and support you.