For us to be successful in overcoming anxiety, we can't entertain our negative thoughts and allow them to fill our headspace.
Let's move past your negative thoughts by considering these two truths:
Our anxieties and negative thinking are often irrational.
We are often far harder on ourselves than we are on others.
Knowing this, it is important to practice "getting out of our head."
When you allow thoughts to snowball in your head, it is easy to get carried away. For someone with anxiety, your husband not responding to a phone call might go from "he's just busy" to "he is hurt or in urgent trouble" within 30 minutes.
Write It Out
For people who suffer from these kinds of grandiose, fearful thoughts, it can be helpful to write down your anxieties or say them out loud when you are feeling panicked.
Writing out "I'm afraid my husband is dead because he did not pick up the phone" might help you to see that your fear sounds extreme or irrational. Writing out "I'm scared that she will leave me and I will never find happiness and die alone" might help you to see that you are assuming a worse case scenario and sabotaging yourself in a new relationship.
This exercise is best for someone who suffers from irrational, obsessive thoughts, and who is able to recognize the irrationality of the thought after writing it out.
For anxieties that cannot be rationalized away, such as "I can't handle this work-load" or "I don't have enough money to pay my bills", getting out of your head might involve a different strategy.
Give Yourself The Same Advice You Would A Friend
A good way to shift your perspective is to pretend you are giving advice to a friend.
- What would you say to your friend who is suffering from a similar issue?
- What solutions would you offer them?
- What would you say for support?
- Would you offer to help them in any way?
This exercise does a lot of helpful things:
- It allows you to show yourself some compassion- We are so hard on ourselves, and switching roles and talking to yourself as a friend may help you to see how harsh your internal monologue has been and how your negative self talk is adding to your anxiety.
- It can help you find new solutions- This is a good exercise to get your mind thinking about your problem in a more objective, detached way. You may offer solutions to a friend that you wouldn't think of for yourself because you are blinded by emotions like pride or shame.
- It allows you to see what help is available to you- Imagining what help you'd be willing to offer a friend in a similar situation may open your eyes to resources that are available to you. If you would offer to attend therapy with a friend who is struggling with OCD, or if you'd offer to lend money to a friend in a difficult situation, chances are, someone may be willing to do this for you, too. If you do not have a friend or family member available for this, there are often social services available with people who can fill these roles.
Getting out of your head can also include simply going for a walk and changing your scenery, or seeking out a healthy outlet like helping out a family member or participating in an act of service.
Practice This Exercise:
Try the writing out your fears or giving advice to a "friend" exercise, whichever you find more helpful. After the exercise, ask yourself, "In what ways do my concerns feel more manageable?"