Recognizing and dealing with 'Unhelpful thoughts'.

amathus

amathus

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#1
Challenging unhelpful thoughts

The way that we think about things has an impact on our anxiety levels. Many of these thoughts occur outside of our control, and can be negative or unhelpful. It is therefore important to remember that they are just thoughts, without any real basis, and are not necessarily facts. Even though we may believe a lot of our unhelpful thoughts when we are anxious, it is good to remember that they should be questioned as they are often based on wrong assumptions.


Being judged negatively by others:
•They think I'm useless
•They won't like me
Being unable to cope: •I'll make a fool of myself
•I'm too anxious to manage that
•I'll have a panic attack
Something terrible happening: •What if I have an accident?
•What if I lose my job?

It is clear to see how this kind of thinking might make us anxious. Do you ever think in any of the ways outlined above?

Patterns of unhelpful thinking

First you need to be able to recognise an unhelpful thought. Then you can challenge it. Being aware of the common patterns that unhelpful thoughts follow can help you to recognise when you have them. Here are some of the common patterns that our unhelpful thoughts follow:



Predicting the Future:

When we are feeling anxious, it is common for us to spend a lot of time thinking about the future and predicting what could go wrong, rather than just letting things be. In the end most of our predictions don't happen and we have wasted time and energy being worried and upset about them. For example: • Assuming you will perform poorly at your job interview.
•Spending the week before an exam predicting you will fail, despite all your hard work studying and your previous good grades.

Mind Reading:

This means that you make assumptions about others' beliefs without having any real evidence to support them. For example: •My boss thinks I'm stupid.
•People think I'm weird.
Such ways of thinking naturally make us apprehensive.

Catastrophising:

People commonly 'catastrophise' when they are anxious, which basically means that they often blow things out of proportion. For example: •They assume that something that has happened is far worse than it really is (e.g. that their friend is going to dislike them because they cancelled a night out).
•They may think that something terrible is going to happen in the future, when, in reality, there is very little evidence to support it (e.g. I'm going to get into serious trouble for calling in sick).

Focusing on the Negatives:

Anxious people often have a tendency to focus on the negatives which keeps their anxiety going. For example: • They focus on the one person at work who doesn't like them, ignoring that they are very popular with the rest of their colleagues.



Should Statements:

People often imagine how they would like things to be or how they 'should be' rather than accepting how things really are. For example: •I should have got an A in History.
•I should never be anxious.
Unfortunately when we do this, we are simply applying extra pressure to ourselves that can result in anxiety. Instead it can sometimes help to accept that things can't always be perfect.
Over Generalising:

Based on one isolated incident you assume that all others will follow a similar pattern in the future. For example: • When enrolling on a college course, you meet a future classmate who you find irritating. As a result, you worry that everyone in the class will be the same and you won't make any friends.

What If Statements:

Have you ever wondered "what if" something bad happens? For example: •What if I have a panic attack at the party?
•What if I don't make friends when I start my new job?
This type of thought can often make us avoid going places or doing the things that we would like.

Labelling:

Do you find that you attach negative labels to yourself? For example: •I'm weak.
•I'm a waste of space.
•I'm always anxious.
Labels like these really influence how we see ourselves and can heighten our anxiety levels.

Patterns of unhelpful thinking

First you need to be able to recognise an unhelpful thought. Then you can challenge it. Being aware of the common patterns that unhelpful thoughts follow can help you to recognise when you have them.

Once you have recognised an unhelpful thought the next stage is to challenge it. To do this, you can ask yourself a serious of questions. See the example below:



Situation: The end of year exams are approaching.



How you feel: Nervous, stressed and apprehensive.


Unhelpful thought: I'll definitely fail my exams miserably!




Challenges to an unhelpful thought


Now you can challenge your unhelpful thoughts by asking these questions.


Is there any evidence that contradicts this thought?
•I've always done well in my previous exams.
•I've been scoring well in my coursework.

Can you identify any of the patterns of unhelpful thinking described earlier?
•I'm 'predicting the future'. I have no evidence to suggest I'll fail.

What would you say to a friend who had this thought in a similar situation?
•I'd say don't be silly, you've always done well. As long as you've studied hard, you should be fine. Besides, you can only try your best.

What are the costs and benefits of thinking in this way?
•Costs: It's making me feel sick with worry.
•Benefits: I can't really think of any.

How will you feel about this in 6 months time?
•I'll probably look back and laugh about how silly I was being.

Is there another way of looking at this situation?
•I've always done well in the past so I should be ok. I can only do my best anyway; after all I've studied hard. At worst, I'll just have to re-sit next year.

Once you have asked yourself these questions, you should read through your answers. Try to come up with a more balanced or rational view. For example:



Worrying about failing is doing me no good. I've always done well before so I should be fine, especially since I've prepared properly.

Try to apply these questions to the unhelpful thoughts that you notice. It can help to reduce your anxiety levels. You can use this technique to test your thoughts are realistic and balanced.

(MOODJUICE - Anxiety - Self-help Guide)
 
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A

archeryaddict

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#2
Thanks for posting this, it was an interesting and useful read
AA
 
N

NervyOne

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#3
Thank you for this, so much of it seems applicable to me. "Catastrophising" in particular is something I've often done, same too with predicting the future.

I have actually tried to change the way I deal with things a little lately. No rule book as such, just making a conscious decision to either not think about the things that worry me, or convincing myself the things that do worry me aren't that big a deal (and they aren't to be honest).

Thanks again amathus :respect:
 
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button

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#4
Thanks for posting this, it's really interesting and helpful. Hope I can put it to good use :) x
 
J

JD1234

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#5
Thanks for the post. I hope I can change some of the ways I think now.
 
esthergreenwood

esthergreenwood

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#6
This is really wonderful. Thanks for this. I will have to try my best to put it into practice.
 
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PsychoticSam

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#7
Brilliant

I'm gonna print out that series of questions and call upon it whenever i need it :)
 
The Big Dawg

The Big Dawg

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#9
I have a big problem when it comes to thoughts, I can not say to much about it as I feel it would be inappropriate for this forum but I have thoughts about females that I interact with and I end up getting into a situation where I end up falling in love with somebody and then feeling sick about my thoughts and the thought of being cheated on.
 
R

RumpleSS

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#10
Thanks :) I'm going to work on challenging those unwanted thoughts.
 
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Member67

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#12
I find that changing strategy every week or so helps
For example sometimes using cbt to challenge unhelpful thoughts works, but can be exhausting after a while
What I find has been working for the last couple of days is just not thinking of anything at all, good or bad
It's a lot more peaceful and I'm calmer and not worrying about worrying
Just think to the times when you are happy and confident, in the state you're usually not saying anything to yourself at all
 
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notrealname

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#13
^I second that. I think everyone should experiment to find the right thing for them. I'm already over-cognitive and not 'in my body' enough, so the focus on cognition in CBT just ramped up my anxiety. I not rarely experience anxiety but for me the answer was to calm the thoughts altogether rather than engage with them. By trying to 'feel' rather than 'think' I am generally better able to manage and I do not get worked up quite so much. For me, this just means retraining myself to focus my attention on my stomach or do a quick body scan to see how I feel. Then I focus on physical sensations and emotions to keep me calm.

Also, if you need to challenge a disruptive or insistent thought, I have found simply asking yourself "Why is this important?" is a quick-fix anxiety deadener. One problem with CBT was that the focus on challenging a disturbing thought encouraged me to think that what I was thinking about was in fact important. However, in the scheme of things, it usually isn't. So, for example, if you do have thoughts about 'that person thinks I'm an idiot' etc., then instead of looking for evidence they don't (which reinforces the idea it is important for other people to not think I'm an idiot), I ask myself what is so bad about that after all? Is it really important if another person thinks I'm an idiot?

Everybody's different, but in my experience, going for a simplistic calmer such as "does this actually matter at all?" and then focusing away from cognition is the most helpful thing I have learned.
 
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ajz8771

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#14
Being judged negatively by others:
•They think I'm useless
•They won't like me
Being unable to cope: •I'll make a fool of myself
•I'm too anxious to manage that
•I'll have a panic attack
Something terrible happening: •What if I have an accident?
•What if I lose my job?

this is exactly what i do , i loved your post :) NOW BESIDES MY MEDS WHICH I TAKE HOW DOES ONE COPE WITH ALL THESE FEELINGS
 
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notrealname

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#15
this is exactly what i do , i loved your post :) NOW BESIDES MY MEDS WHICH I TAKE HOW DOES ONE COPE WITH ALL THESE FEELINGS
A few different ideas in this thread if you read through :)
 
H

handheart

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#16
I think thoughts are the most powerfulthings in this world and people should be very careful what they think because its create our reality .Many people say blaa bla bla Law of TTraction its just wisful thinking its not real but in my opinion its very real everithing its by the mood you think .And anxiety its also dependent on thoughts ,you must be careful what you think .anxiety usualy its caused by a big trauma shock ,stress etc that cause a drauma in your life .So change thoughts focus on positive things find what you love and think only there and easy easy you will change your life
 
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Stella139

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#18
Thanks for the great comments. I seem to find myself ruminating the past. For example I just attended a family get together and I can't stop re-playing conversations in my head. My family can be a tough crowd, and while I'm glad I forced myself to go, I'm sure I didn't handle it very well. I'm a person that is sure if my foot isn't in my mouth, it would get lost....... The party was on Saturday the 30th, and I'm still struggling with left over anxiety. I didn't sleep at all last night, and I'm feeling pretty fragile.
Does anyone else do this?
 
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Nerdy

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#20
Thank you very much for posting this !!! I really need it..!!! The last 2 days I have been excessively anxious with no reason exept that my siblings are here for summer but I am very glad that are here so I can"t understand why i felt like i did..anyway..today i felt really bad for myself cause i was thinking "i will never feel normal again","i will always feel anxious and sooo bad like i did", "how am i suppose to find a job if i become anxious every time i live the house" and thoughts like that..and i really felt very bad for myself until i read this and gave me courage..thank you!!!
 

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