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?
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.
Lewis Carroll had his character Alice, remark on the very idea in Alice In Wonderland,
… “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast” ...
This is a healthy way of looking at the magnifying mind. If only we could use our powers for good and not evil.
We possess the ability to take the same mind that creates those fears to equally create calmness. Some guided meditations focus on a happy place. Creative minds can focus so much on the idea that they actually feel like they are in that place. 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.
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.
Feelings Are Not Facts
Being able to challenge your thoughts can be freeing; 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 = Anxiety Management
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 manage anxiety require that same commitment and time as racing. Therapy is essential to move through this learning process.