Change ThoughtsThat Make You Feel Anxious

Reviewed Jan 29, 2019

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Summary

You can learn to identify anxious thoughts, rethink them, and lessen feelings of anxiety.

Do you tend to worry and feel anxious often? Your thoughts might be stirring up anxiety.

Thoughts can be distorted

David Burns, M.D . writes in The Feeling Good Handbook  that distorted thoughts, not realistic ones, cause anxiety.

Catch your thoughts

The next time you feel anxious, try to write down everything running through your mind. See if you catch any distortions that Burns identifies:

Emotional reasoning: You assume that your negative emotions reflect the way things really are.

  • “I feel afraid, so something really bad must be about to happen.”
  • “My heart races when I’m on the elevator, so I must be in danger.”

Fortune-telling: You predict that things will turn out badly.

  • “I feel out of control, so I must be about to go insane or die.”
  • “This bad circumstance will result in disaster.”

Mental filter: You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively.

  • Obsessing on a body sensation such as “butterflies” in your stomach or on a bizarre, socially unacceptable thought that flits into your mind.

Magnification: You exaggerate the importance of your problems and shortcomings.

  • “It's a disaster if others don’t approve of me.”
  • “Feeling anxious is so unbearable, I can’t survive it!”

Think new thoughts

If a distorted thought makes you feel anxious, rethink it. This takes practice. Don’t just accept that all your thoughts are true. Be willing to write down the ones that upset you and challenge them:

Examine the evidence: Is there any proof that your thought is valid?

  • Anxiety doesn't make you go insane or die suddenly. The symptoms just feel threatening.
  • Research what the actual symptoms of cardiac arrest or insanity are.

The experimental technique: Is there a way to test whether your thought is really true?

  • If your doctor says your heart is healthy, test thoughts of near death when you feel anxious. Go for a walk or jump up and down. A person in cardiac arrest can’t do that.
  • Challenge your fear that you're insane or losing control. Stand up on a park bench and belt out a tune, or waddle around making duck noises. Chances are you won't be willing to do that. This shows you are in control.

The double-standard method: What would you say to a close friend who had a similar problem?

  • Would you believe it’s the end of the world if someone disapproved of your friend?

The survey method: Ask those you trust if they believe your thought is valid.

  • You will learn that everyone has weird thoughts on occasion.
  • You will discover that everyone has felt anxious before.

Practice and be patient

Be patient and keep working on catching thoughts that make you feel anxious. As you retrain your thoughts, the physical feelings of “threat” will become more manageable over time.

Be sure to tell your doctor or a mental health professional about anxiety and other symptoms that concern you. Look for someone trained in cognitive-behavioral psychology if you want to try the above suggestions but need help getting started. 

By Laurie M. Stewart
Source: The Feeling Good Handbook by David D. Burns, MD. William Morrow and Company Inc.,1989; Dr. Robert P. Miller, The Cognitive Behavioral Health Center, Charlottesville, VA.

Summary

You can learn to identify anxious thoughts, rethink them, and lessen feelings of anxiety.

Do you tend to worry and feel anxious often? Your thoughts might be stirring up anxiety.

Thoughts can be distorted

David Burns, M.D . writes in The Feeling Good Handbook  that distorted thoughts, not realistic ones, cause anxiety.

Catch your thoughts

The next time you feel anxious, try to write down everything running through your mind. See if you catch any distortions that Burns identifies:

Emotional reasoning: You assume that your negative emotions reflect the way things really are.

  • “I feel afraid, so something really bad must be about to happen.”
  • “My heart races when I’m on the elevator, so I must be in danger.”

Fortune-telling: You predict that things will turn out badly.

  • “I feel out of control, so I must be about to go insane or die.”
  • “This bad circumstance will result in disaster.”

Mental filter: You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively.

  • Obsessing on a body sensation such as “butterflies” in your stomach or on a bizarre, socially unacceptable thought that flits into your mind.

Magnification: You exaggerate the importance of your problems and shortcomings.

  • “It's a disaster if others don’t approve of me.”
  • “Feeling anxious is so unbearable, I can’t survive it!”

Think new thoughts

If a distorted thought makes you feel anxious, rethink it. This takes practice. Don’t just accept that all your thoughts are true. Be willing to write down the ones that upset you and challenge them:

Examine the evidence: Is there any proof that your thought is valid?

  • Anxiety doesn't make you go insane or die suddenly. The symptoms just feel threatening.
  • Research what the actual symptoms of cardiac arrest or insanity are.

The experimental technique: Is there a way to test whether your thought is really true?

  • If your doctor says your heart is healthy, test thoughts of near death when you feel anxious. Go for a walk or jump up and down. A person in cardiac arrest can’t do that.
  • Challenge your fear that you're insane or losing control. Stand up on a park bench and belt out a tune, or waddle around making duck noises. Chances are you won't be willing to do that. This shows you are in control.

The double-standard method: What would you say to a close friend who had a similar problem?

  • Would you believe it’s the end of the world if someone disapproved of your friend?

The survey method: Ask those you trust if they believe your thought is valid.

  • You will learn that everyone has weird thoughts on occasion.
  • You will discover that everyone has felt anxious before.

Practice and be patient

Be patient and keep working on catching thoughts that make you feel anxious. As you retrain your thoughts, the physical feelings of “threat” will become more manageable over time.

Be sure to tell your doctor or a mental health professional about anxiety and other symptoms that concern you. Look for someone trained in cognitive-behavioral psychology if you want to try the above suggestions but need help getting started. 

By Laurie M. Stewart
Source: The Feeling Good Handbook by David D. Burns, MD. William Morrow and Company Inc.,1989; Dr. Robert P. Miller, The Cognitive Behavioral Health Center, Charlottesville, VA.

Summary

You can learn to identify anxious thoughts, rethink them, and lessen feelings of anxiety.

Do you tend to worry and feel anxious often? Your thoughts might be stirring up anxiety.

Thoughts can be distorted

David Burns, M.D . writes in The Feeling Good Handbook  that distorted thoughts, not realistic ones, cause anxiety.

Catch your thoughts

The next time you feel anxious, try to write down everything running through your mind. See if you catch any distortions that Burns identifies:

Emotional reasoning: You assume that your negative emotions reflect the way things really are.

  • “I feel afraid, so something really bad must be about to happen.”
  • “My heart races when I’m on the elevator, so I must be in danger.”

Fortune-telling: You predict that things will turn out badly.

  • “I feel out of control, so I must be about to go insane or die.”
  • “This bad circumstance will result in disaster.”

Mental filter: You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively.

  • Obsessing on a body sensation such as “butterflies” in your stomach or on a bizarre, socially unacceptable thought that flits into your mind.

Magnification: You exaggerate the importance of your problems and shortcomings.

  • “It's a disaster if others don’t approve of me.”
  • “Feeling anxious is so unbearable, I can’t survive it!”

Think new thoughts

If a distorted thought makes you feel anxious, rethink it. This takes practice. Don’t just accept that all your thoughts are true. Be willing to write down the ones that upset you and challenge them:

Examine the evidence: Is there any proof that your thought is valid?

  • Anxiety doesn't make you go insane or die suddenly. The symptoms just feel threatening.
  • Research what the actual symptoms of cardiac arrest or insanity are.

The experimental technique: Is there a way to test whether your thought is really true?

  • If your doctor says your heart is healthy, test thoughts of near death when you feel anxious. Go for a walk or jump up and down. A person in cardiac arrest can’t do that.
  • Challenge your fear that you're insane or losing control. Stand up on a park bench and belt out a tune, or waddle around making duck noises. Chances are you won't be willing to do that. This shows you are in control.

The double-standard method: What would you say to a close friend who had a similar problem?

  • Would you believe it’s the end of the world if someone disapproved of your friend?

The survey method: Ask those you trust if they believe your thought is valid.

  • You will learn that everyone has weird thoughts on occasion.
  • You will discover that everyone has felt anxious before.

Practice and be patient

Be patient and keep working on catching thoughts that make you feel anxious. As you retrain your thoughts, the physical feelings of “threat” will become more manageable over time.

Be sure to tell your doctor or a mental health professional about anxiety and other symptoms that concern you. Look for someone trained in cognitive-behavioral psychology if you want to try the above suggestions but need help getting started. 

By Laurie M. Stewart
Source: The Feeling Good Handbook by David D. Burns, MD. William Morrow and Company Inc.,1989; Dr. Robert P. Miller, The Cognitive Behavioral Health Center, Charlottesville, VA.

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, assessments, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological, or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2019 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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