Exercise: For a few weeks, write down troubling thoughts as soon as they occur to you. When you write troubling thoughts down, you will not need to carry them with you anymore. You may notice that many troubling thoughts are not as powerful as they initially were once a few hours have passed and especially after you have had a good night’s sleep.
Exercise: Is what I am saying to myself truly balanced, fair, and realistic? In order to understand that, ask yourself the following:
- Have I been in a similar situation before? What happened before?
- What would I say to my best friend if they were in a similar situation?
- What would my best friend say to me?
- How much is what happened going to matter to me in one month? A year? Five years?
- To what extent am I responsible for what happened? What about the others? To what extent was what happened beyond my control? Am I blaming myself for something that is not 100% up to me?
When you worry less, you will have more energy to be spontaneous, creative, and flexible.
How tell yourself the right things?
You have been reading about paying attention to your thoughts and assessing how realistic they are. Next, you will read about how to consciously encourage yourself to think more helpful and encouraging thoughts instead of bullying yourself with worrying.
Make a list of general comforting statements that you can tell yourself at any time. You can write them down in an e-mail, on your phone, or on a post-it note to be able to look at them whenever you need to. Repeat those statements every day for a couple of weeks. In the beginning, it may seem unnatural and fake, but as you go on, you will get more and more used to them and they will begin to ring truer (because they are!). With practice and time, helpful thoughts will occur to you automatically.
- the world is actually a pretty safe place
- I can do this
- nothing bad will happen to me
- I can get used to most things
- I can manage things despite feeling anxious
- anxiety does not stop me from following my dreams
- it is just anxiety – it is just a temporary inconvenience and not dangerous
- these are just my anxious thoughts and I do not have to believe them
- I do not have to assume the worst
everything is actually OK…
You can come up with helpful thoughts for various specific situations. For example, if you have to discuss a topic in front of the class and you are afraid that you will mess something up and the others will start to laugh, write down and repeat the following:
- What does it matter what the others think? Their answers will not be perfect either when it is their turn.
- I could do something similar a year ago and I can do this now.
- I have time to practise and I can also ask for help.
- I am smart, I will do fine!
- I can do this – I have been in embarrassing situations before and that feeling will not last forever!
- Even if I do screw up – so what? I will laugh at myself with the others and carry on!
- Aha – anxious thoughts again! I do not have to believe them; I can just let them go…