4. Practice strategies once a negative thought pops up.
Thankfully there are strategies we can practice to calm our anxiety and tame our negative thoughts which I list below.
- Label your thoughts. Instead of saying, “I’m stupid,” say, “I’m having the thought that I’m stupid.” Instead of saying, “I’m going to fail this test,” say “I’m having the thought that I’m going to fail this test.” The difference may seem small; however, it can help you gain the perspective that you are not your thoughts.
- Thank your mind. If you’re having anxious thoughts such as, “I hope this plane doesn’t crash,” say, “Thank you, mind, for trying to keep me safe. But there’s nothing you really need to do right now. I’ve got it covered.”
- Let them float away. This one involves imagery. Imagine placing each negative thought in your mind on a leaf, and watch it float down a stream. When you have another thought, as you will, put it on another leaf and watch it float on by.
- Sing your thoughts. Try singing your thoughts to the tune of the alphabet song or Row, Row, Row Your Boat. Your thoughts will certainly sound absurd this way, which is the whole point.
- Say them in a funny voice. Try saying your thoughts in a funny voice, maybe imitating a cartoon character.
- Name your stories. Often, our thoughts are repetitive and involve the same stories. When a thought like, “You’re going to embarrass yourself” comes up, say, “Oh, here’s my I’m an embarrassing loser story,” and then just let it go.
- Do it anyway. Perhaps the most important tip is to remember that you can have a thought and perform any kind of behavior at the same time. If it’s something you care about, it’s worth it to let the thoughts simply be. You don’t have to do anything about them. Remember, you can function even when you’re anxious.
- I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. When the what-ifs are bombarding you with tales of future disaster, it’s helpful to know that you don’t need to solve anything right now. When you recognize that you’re worried about a future event, think to yourself, “I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.”
Being aware and careful about your future is a smart thing to do, but if you are constantly feeding yourself negative thoughts, and making yourself anxious, then that’s a big problem. If you give in to the worst-case scenario mindset all the time, your anxiety will never leave you, and you will feel miserable and scared all the time. Now, is that really a way to live life?