Managing your anxiety by changing the way you think about things
The world right now is uncertain and it is natural to be worried about ourselves, our families and friends and our customers. If you find that these feelings are becoming more intense than normal, it’s helpful to sit back and take a moment to check what might be driving them and to consider what steps you can take to reduce our anxiety.
It’s the thought that counts
When we are stressed or anxious, it’s hard to just stop feeling that way. In fact, it can often feel like we are “out of control.” However, there are things we can do that can alleviate some of the stress. For example, it is best to focus on those aspects of our lives over which we have control and influence; such as our thoughts and behaviour.
It may not seem like it, but we really can choose what to think. As our thoughts shape our emotions, we should aim to think in ways that ease our anxiety. In the current climate it is all too easy to think scary thoughts and in turn distress ourselves. But, we could step back a little and adjust our perspective. Instead of solely dwelling on the worst possible scenario, we can start to tune into other information that provides some balance.
When we are anxious and believe that a bad thing is inevitable, we will only ‘see’ information that supports that view. And the more we do that, the worse we feel. To stop this ever-increasing cycle in its tracks, seek out opposing information: facts that dispute your catastrophic take on the situation.
So, yes, it’s important to hold a balanced view at these times. After all, the situation will pass one day.
The below example illustrates how our mind operates and the ways in which our thoughts, feelings (including bodily sensations) and behaviour all interact. The situation is the trigger, but not the cause of the anxiety. This is really important to understand as it places the power back in our hands.
By thinking in a more balanced and rational way, the feelings we have will be much less intense and we will tend to act in ways that support us. We’ll take reasonable precautions and follow the other protocols. But we won’t spend hours on end worrying that the worst is going to happen.
Changing perspective is a method of reframing: of interpreting a situation in a healthier and helpful way. Here’s a bit more about the technique and how to apply it.
Reframing in its most basic form, is about coming up with a different interpretation of an event or experience. It’s a technique that helps you to change the meaning of something and therefore change the way you feel about it and in turn what you do.
How to 'Reframe' anxious thinking:
- write down the situation or problem
- write down your thoughts about the situation
- write down what feelings and emotions you feel
- write down the evidence that supports the thought
- write down the evidence that doesn’t
- work up an alternative thought based on this new evidence
- list evidence to support this alternative thought
- rehearse this new and improved way of thinking until it starts to gain traction in your mind
- carry out this sequence for all unsettling thoughts
As you work to change some of your thinking and lessen your anxiety, always remember that a moderate degree of concern is perfectly normal. So, it’s unlikely that you will eliminate all traces of anxiety, but you can ease it to a level that more fully matches the totality of the situation.
Example: Sitting at my desk after listening to others talk about panic buying and worrying that we will run out of food and my elderly mum won't have any.
Evidence that supports the thought:
- supermarket shelves have been empty..
- it’s been on the news…
- people have been panic buying…
Evidence that doesn’t support the thought:
- we have been told that there is enough supply in the chain
- supermarkets are setting aside time for the older people to shop
- supermarkets are limiting the number of items we can buy
Although people have been panic buying and there have been empty shelves there is enough food and measures in place to stop my mum not getting what she needs.