Do you tend to have a lot of anxious thoughts? Do you find it difficult to escape from negative thoughts? Does your anxiety hold you back from stepping out of your comfort zone or doing things differently?
We spend a lot of time in our own heads, hearing and becoming a symptom of our own negative thinking, which is why it’s so important that our internal dialogue is in a nice place to be.
When those thoughts become increasingly anxious, or negative it can impact the way that you feel about yourself, how you view the world and your relationships.
When you develop the ability to slow things down and recognise your anxious thoughts, it can help you to learn more about your anxiety.
Why do I need to know more about anxiety when I’m just trying to get rid of it, you might ask.
Learning more about your anxiety can help you to challenge some of the ways anxious thinking can prevent you from living a full life so that you can feel calmer and more in control of your anxiety, rather than letting it control you.
Negative thinking does not mean automatically mean
you are a negative person,
thinking of yourself that way can be just as
harmful as the negative thoughts themselves.
When you are able to recognise your anxious thoughts and what anxious thinking looks like, you can find helpful ways to challenge what some of those thoughts are and while we can’t necessarily make anxious thoughts go away completely – there are some coping techniques that we can adopt to help reduce our anxiety and find healthy alternatives to manage anxious thinking.
Normalising Automatic Negative Thoughts
Negative thoughts are commonly referred to as automatic negative thoughts or abbreviated to A.N.T’s (which helps you to remember and I think the imagery also can be quite effective to think of these thoughts as little annoying ants and to not take automatic thoughts so seriously).
When you have recurrent anxious thoughts, it might feel as though you are just a really negative person, as your thoughts tend to be filtered through a pessimistic lens.
It may cause you to question why you don’t seem to think or feel the same way as everybody else. Firstly, negative thoughts and anxious thinking is completely normal, we all have some experience of this.
Experts believe that on average we have between 60,000 – 80,000 thoughts in a day, so a large proportion of our thoughts are bound to be negative or unhelpful in some way.
We might have an intrusive thought about doing something bad or behaving in a way that is socially unacceptable, although we have these sometimes alarming thoughts, it doesn’t mean that we will act out on them, and largely they are just thoughts.
There are some common terms to help you to understand whether you have anxious thoughts, and whether some of these thoughts are becoming more frequent to your more rational thinking. Once you become acquainted with what anxious thinking or your A.N.T look like, you can begin to recognise when these thoughts are becoming more frequent, and more importantly, manage your anxious thinking.
Your thoughts can be described as having a negative filter if your first thought in any given situation is to always assume the worst.
It can be the difference between optimism and pessimism (glass half full, anyone?)
You assume that if you step out of your comfort zone and attend that party, you’ll end up making a fool of yourself, or everybody will see that you are anxious and avoid talking to you and it will probably be the worst party you have ever been to.
Having a negative filter can really hold you back from stepping out of your comfort zone, trying new things or meeting new people.
Facing uncertainty or the unknown fills you with dread, in an attempt to avoid this feeling of discomfort, you play it safe, sticking with what you know.
Black and White Thinking
This can also be termed as all or nothing thinking.
Most things are not merely black and white, there is a lot of grey area, but if you do find the way that you process things is either one way or the other, then thinking can become very rigid and a difficulty in accepting wider thinking or an alternative perspective.
Situations are rarely one way or the other and having a rigid thinking style can really begin to hinder your relationships.
Working on assumption and always assuming you know what somebody else is thinking, namely about you, and most of the time, its’s something negative.
If you are ignored or left out, it means your friends don’t like you or you assume it’s because there is something that you’ve done wrong.
Mind reading leads you to jump to an immediate irrational thought that often has a negative underlying belief.
Everything always has the worst possible outcome. If something goes wrong not only will it happen to you, but in your eyes it will happen in the worst possible way.
Any small thing that could go wrong usually does. It might not happen as often or as bad as you think if does, but your negative thinking doesn’t allow you the opportunity to have a balanced perception, immediately drawing on past negative experiences and filtering out past positive experiences, or times when you have overcome something challenging.
Constant overthinking about the things that you’ve done or said, or haven’t done or haven’t said.
Regretting certain interactions in your mind and replaying them over and over.
You Imagine different scenarios, if only if you hadn’t said this, or if they said that instead then you would respond with the perfect comeback. Often these thoughts come late at night when you are trying to sleep, every perceived negative thing you’ve ever said comes to remind you of how inferior you feel.
Being critical toward yourself can be really harmful to your self esteem and self worth.
If you always see yourself as not good enough or thinking that somebody, anybody else can do things better than you, then you can start to believe what you think.
Being critical can manifest in many different ways, it can cause you to doubt your abilities, question your confidence and always have you second guessing yourself.
You can also become unnecessarily critical about your appearance, and become obsessive with not looking the right way, saying the right thing or fitting in.
Minimising and Maximising
Thinking of your achievements or success as no big deal, not recognising when you do something well or even taking the time to acknowledge when you’ve achieved something positive. If it was for anybody else, you would be proud and offer congratulations, but when comes to self praise, you let it pass by without giving yourself the credit you deserve.
Similarly, when you make a mistake or an error in judgement, you don’t let yourself forget about it easily. You go over it repetitively, thinking it is one of the worst things you could have done or one of the worst feelings you could ever experience.
Everybody seems to do a better job than you. There is always somebody more talented, prettier or even better at being anxious than you are.
You are excellent at seeing the greatness in others, perhaps even putting others on a pedal stool. It seems like everybody else can get things right or just don’t seem to struggle as much as you do. You might spend a lot of unhealthy time on social media comparing everybody’s highlight reels of having a fun and living an adventurous life, or having the perfect tidy home or the ideal family, where you feel stuck and as though you everybody else’s life, appears to be better than yours.
Comparison becomes an unhealthy and toxic behaviour that constantly fuels your inner critical voice.
Negative thinking does not mean automatically mean you are a negative person and thinking of yourself that way can be just as harmful as the negative thoughts themselves.
It’s more helpful and beneficial to you to ask yourself where these thoughts have originated from and where you may be mirroring the behaviours from other people in your life. A critical parent, past experiences of bullying, other past negative experiences that have subconsciously influenced your thoughts or behaviours.
As unpleasant as negative thinking can be, you do have the power to change your thoughts and work on your rational thinking by systematically challenging some of the thoughts that have been holding you back.
Do you need further support with how to manage your anxiety? Do you wish you knew some practical coping strategies that work and help you to manage your anxiety more effectively?
I’ve created The Anxiety Workbook with you in mind. It’s a self paced 30 page e-workbook that identifies what anxiety is, why we all get anxiety, and some surprising facts that can help to understand and most importantly manage your anxiety more effectively.
It includes an anxiety checklist, journal prompts, anxiety affirmations, coping strategies and more.