Correcting Mistaken Beliefs About Anxiety Symptoms
Days 9, 10, 11.
Anxiety Is One Big Mistaken Belief
Thinking about anxiety creates anxiety.
If we're one of those people who copes with life by trying to think our way out of a situation but ends up anxious, we can easily get caught up in a loop.
This loop starts with a negative thought an it can be anything:
"She doesn't want to see me anymore"
"I can't face going out to that party"
"I'm going to die when I do my presentation today"
Those types of thoughts start the anxiety response where the body is trying to protect us by getting us ready to Fight-Or-Flight.
The brain acknowledges there's a problem and sends cortisol to the muscles and organs, before we know it we're on a FULL ALERT program!
How to stop this happening?
Correcting mistaken beliefs about anxiety reduces our fear of having anxiety and when we have less fear of anxiety it will stop happening.
But, ‘positive thinking’ isn’t enough.
If our heart is beating rapidly and we say to ourselves “I’m sure I’ll be ok” there may not be enough belief in that thought to reduce the fear.
We have to replace our mistaken Fight-or-Flight thoughts about anxiety with the actual reality about our symptoms.
If we bring to mind the reality about our rapid heart beat – that it is simply a result of the Fight-or-Flight response and we are in no danger whatsoever – the stronger belief in those thoughts will help stop further ‘misinterpretation’ and ‘catastrophizing’ and our symptoms will die down.
What Are We Really Afraid Of?
Many of our anxious thoughts are surface worries – thoughts that arise as a result of our underlying fear. We may not even be aware which we may not even be consciously aware of.
For example, if you get highly anxious in a shop you may think, “I need to get out of here”. That thought is not the ‘fear’ thought – it is the ‘escape’ thought. The deep fear is the thing that’s causing the feel of needing to escape. Our deeper fears can vary according to whatever situation we are in.
We may be fearful about our physical health, our mental health, what other people are thinking about us, our future and so on. In each case there are sequences of questions that can help you uncover the inner, deeper fear.
Complete this exercise to help you confront you deeper fears and then challenge them
Think about what your surface worry is that’s causing anxiety.
The first part of this exercise will help you dig down until you find the deeper fear. The second part of this exercise challenges you about the deeper fear and helps you see that it may not be true.
Do this with as least 5 surface worries.
The Dig Deep Exercise
The key to this working properly is to do it over and over again. It's important to establish new habits. By putting in place this new type of thinking over and over, we create new thought patterns.
Go through this exercise with all your worries over the next 3 days.
Do it on an hour-by-hour basis.
Every time you think of something that causes that spike in your heartbeat, promptly go through these questions until you see you anxiety patterns.
This intense work will bring your focus towards a more realistic mind-set and help you break away from catastrophic thinking.
As your fear of anxiety lessens, so does your anxiety. Just remember how long you’ve had anxious thoughts. They won’t change over night.
We have to work at new positive habits. It takes commitment but we need to assess what our other options are; limited to medication and therapy. Both take time and resources to work.
For things to change, we have to change. We can be the change we want to see.