Five Ways to Challenge Anxious Thoughts

posted Jan 9, 2014, 11:56 AM by Andrea Umbach Kettling

Since our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all connected, one way to reduce anxious symptoms is to work on challenging anxious thoughts. Challenging means to slowly chip away at potentially years and years of anxious thinking. When faced with anxiety-provoking situations, your brain will automatically go a certain direction potentially without you even realizing. What challenging will do is to slow down the process and give your brain the chance to go in another direction. The following are some strategies you can use to challenge your anxious thoughts. The idea is to keep an open mind and be willing to consider alternative thinking paths.

1. Examine the Costs and Benefits of Your Thoughts

  • How does this thought help you or hurt you?
  • Does this thought motivate you or hold you back?
  • How would the quality of your life improve if you didn’t have the thought?

2. Examine the Evidence For and Against Your Thoughts

  • What are the facts? What are my assumptions/predictions?
  • How do I know for sure that my prediction will come true?
  • What does my past experience tell me about the likelihood of my thoughts coming true?

3. Shift Your Perspective

  • What might you say to a close friend/relative who was having the same thoughts as you?
  • How might you view someone else who was exhibiting the same behavior as you?

4. Challenge Catastrophic Thinking

  • How can you cope with… if it were to occur?
  • Would…really be as terrible as you think?
  • Does this really matter in the big scheme of things?
  • Will you care about this a month from now?

5. Use Rational Coping Statements (short, neutral/positive, realistic/rational)

  • Anxiety is uncomfortable but not dangerous.
  • People don’t seem to notice my anxiety symptoms.
  • It would be manageable if…
  • Blushing ≠ Looking stupid
  • One “C” on a test ≠ Being a total failure
  • It will probably go okay (rather than…it probably won’t be a total disaster)
  • The worst that can happen is….and I can live with that.
  • The worst that can happen is…but that is unlikely.
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