Anxious Thoughts are Sticky Thoughtshttps://mythrivecollective.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/anxiety.jpg15001000Dr. MenonDr. Menonhttps://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/3ac11f0bdc2c97572fcefae554d85862?s=96&d=mm&r=g
Anxiety is driven by uncertainty.
Anxious thoughts start with asking yourself some innocent questions and then you realize an hour has gone by. “Lost in thought” takes on a whole new meaning! Your thoughts go round and round looking for a way to gain some control over a situation or a potential problem. You are a “what if” master! When you don’t have a clear sense of what to expect and how things will be, there’s lots of room in your brain for anxiety to creep in and stay.
The term “anxiety disorders” is actually a group of different types of worries and fears that can be either short term or persistent. The anxious feelings can happen even when the situation is not threatening at all. Anxiety disorders are very common in the U.S., affecting 40 million people aged 18 and older. That means almost 20% of adults in the US have some form of anxiety (https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/facts-statistics). It is the most common mental health concern in the US today. Anxiety is pervasive too. That means it can affect pretty much every part of your life from physical to social to mental and emotional health. It can also show up any time from early childhood through adulthood, especially during times of change. Anxiousness can come and go over time. Sometimes high anxiety can make chronic health problems worse.
Anxious thoughts are a one-way street.
We can think our way into big waves of anxiety, but we can’t think our way out. When we try to go over and over our ideas and plans, we might have good intentions. At some level, we constantly worry about “what happens next”. Our brains are built to alert us to potential threats and let the rest of our body know about them, in order to prepare. You might do it to anticipate a tricky conversation, review old ones to change how we respond, or validate your feelings. Finding the way out of this anxious spiral of thoughts is a skill that you can learn.
Anxiety causes distractibility.
Have you ever tried to concentrate on a task while you’re scared? Fear is distracting. When part of our brain is devoted to protecting us from whatever danger it perceives, it takes energy way from our ability to focus. It contributes to feeling less creative and less productive. It’s hard to get things done when we’re stuck in reactive mode. Think of it like you are a beginner driver: you rev the engine but forget to shift out of park! You’ve spent some energy, haven’t gone anywhere, and you’re confused for a second.
Anxiety is maintained by avoidance.
You think you are doing yourself a favor by avoiding stressful situations. Skip school? A day off from work? Just thinking about those options can help you drop your shoulders and reduce your heart rate. We all need a break sometimes. But there can be a catch! If taking time off is your only solution, then you are out of luck when that plan won’t work. You need a toolkit full of a variety of options that you can match to different situations.
So what the heck are you supposed to do? “Will I always feel like this?” That’s the number one question that clients ask me. Here are some some proven anxiety busters:
Keeping in touch or renewing contacts with people
Taking breaks from news or social media
Take care of your physical health (diet, sleep, movement)
Spend time outside
Keep a journal to use like a “brain dump” of your worry thoughts
Think about the risk vs reward of an activity; then giving yourself a choice
Apps such as “Calm” and “Stop, Breathe & Think” are also a great place to start training your brain to practice calming strategies.
If this sounds like your struggles, therapy could be a great option for you. There’s a lot of choices but you’ve got to find the right combination that helps you feel better. Reach out to a Thrive Collective psychologist to make a customized plan for yourself. If you’re interested in taking the next steps, start by setting up a free consultation.