Do I have an anxious Mind?
Anyone who has a mind, that works like the above title, knows exactly what I am talking about.
- Does your mind often contemplate the worst case scenario for situations in your life?
- Does it prepare you for these outcomes?
- Do you fear the worst case scenerio like it is happening right now?
- Do you rumminate about these feared scenerios?
Many people I see with Generalized Anxiety Disoder have catastrophizing minds. They tend to ruminate or think on repeat of a worst case scenario and plan for the fall out. This type of anxious mind is distracted by repetitive thoughts, constantly cultivating the worst instances that could happen, like Murphy’s Law will occur at any given moment. It is terribly consuming and feels so real to the sufferer. I often try to shed light... that yes, this certainly is one possible outcome, but there are a hundred other outcomes that you have not considered.
How many times does the worst case actually occur?
Anxious individuals often feel the lingering fear is real, but it isn’t. Thoughts are not actions and therefore cannot be outcomes. They are just thoughts. But learning this takes time and exposure to your worst fear. Inhibitory learning occurs not when we reassure ourselves of that our fears are not real but when we lean into the possiblity that it could occur. Repeating that thought practice changes the way we react to our thoughts. Today your worst case fear is related to whatever is most important to you today. But a month from now it will be related to something else. So learning how to deal with your threat sensitive mind is really where the work begins.
Mental Heigine consists of thought practices to help be more mindful of your day to day thoughts.
We possess the ability to take the same mind that creates those fears to equally create calmness. Some use guided meditations and focusing on the present moment. This can help to create a safe foundation (when done several times throughout the day), which is essential in changing the way the anxious mind operates. In the trauma world it is called building your tolerance for positive affect, which in turn builds your tolerance for negative affect. So if you can practice feeling good, it will be easier for you to exposure yourself to your worst fear.
There is some cognitive challenging work where one can begin to notice anxious thoughts and deliberately shift the thought process to something else. I do not think this changes how we feel, but it can keep the state of an overly emotional mind in check and further develop awareness that these are merely thoughts, not actual phenomena. This can feel like thought wrangling which is not helpful but if done as a thought check, it is helpful.
Feelings Are Not Facts!
Being able to challenge your thoughts can be freeing; The following are All DBT skills noting the facts, breathing, mindfulness, exercise, and engaging in hobbies mindfully (to distract from your anxious mind) are effective interventions for treating anxiety. In therapy we search for what works for you as well as discovering what deters you from utilizing skills.
Becoming an Expert is needed to faciltate Inhibatory learning with your anxiety.
Remember you must be an expert in skills utilization for this to work. This takes time and practice to develop. You could not ride your bike the first time you got on it, you had to practice, fall, and maybe even scrape your knee before you learned. If later you want to race on your bike, you must practice alot to have a chance of winning. Skills to change the way you react to your anxiety require that same commitment and time as racing. Therapy is essential to faciltate this learning process.