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Anxiety Busters: Welcome your Thoughts

Updated: Oct 16, 2022

Hello, hello! I can't wait to hear from you about your sunshine and sweat challenge is going. It's helped me this week to refocus on spending more time outside with intentional movement. I hope it's helped you reset or reduce your anxiety symptoms as well.

We're on to our final anxiety buster tip: Welcome your Thoughts. I'll explain what I mean by that

in just a moment.

Let's set the scene for you first: You woke up this morning and you felt your anxiety already lingering from poor sleep the night before. Your mind drifts to prepping for the day ahead, and instantly you are filled with dread. You think to yourself, "Why can't I get it together like everyone else? What is WRONG with me?" Then you feel bad for thinking those thoughts and you attempt to push them down. Your brain then rebels even further and introduces an image of you crashing your car on the freeway while driving to work. "Whoa! Don't think about that, don't dwell on that. Quit thinking about that," you mumble

to yourself as you attempt to get ready for the day. The anxious thoughts increase, and you feel worse and worse as the day goes on. In fact, the more you try to push down these anxious and unhelpful thoughts, the more intense and intrusive they get.

Whew. That's a scene that I know feels familiar to many of us. It's like I was in your brain for a second, wasn't it? I know what the anxious brain sounds like, because I have one as well. Mine is very creative when it comes to worst case scenarios.

Let's break down what is going wrong in the picture we painted above. Anxiety typically works like this: activating event+ thought= consequences (namely the behavioral or emotional responses we ultimately exhibit). In this particular case, we saw the activating event, which was getting ready for work after a poor night's sleep + the negative thoughts about self and the intrusive images of crashing your car while driving to work = increased anxiety response all day long.

What can we do to break up the formula above and reduce our anxiety response? We 'welcome the thought.' The mistake many of us make with anxious thoughts is we attempt to push them down, much like you would push a beach ball beneath the water and hope it doesn't pop back up again. We all know what happens in that case. The ball not only pops up above the waves again, but it also pops up even higher than before. It's similar with anxious thoughts. When we attempt to shame them into going away or push them down, they come back either in the form of more thoughts or increased physical symptoms related to your anxiety. Welcoming the thought would look like: When our brain introduces the image of the car crash, like in the scenario earlier, we would say internally, "oh hey there anxiety, I hear you. You're trying to protect me. Thank you for showing up today. I think I've got this." Then we take a deep breath, and we repeat it every time a thought or image like that appears. We 'welcome' the thoughts by thanking our anxiety for showing up as a protective part.

Your anxious part loves to project worst case scenarios as a way to “prepare” you for, and thus potentially prevent future loss. The problem is some things in life— no amount of worrying could prevent them or the emotional fallout afterwards. Ask any mom who’s had a child die. Or a widower. Or a young man diagnosed with terminal cancer. They all know now. Anxiety did nothing to prevent tragedy. All worrying does is steal time and joy from the present. Joy is the most difficult and fragile human emotion because we are constantly scanning for danger, thus diminishing our happiness. We think to ourselves, “There is no way this indescribable joy will last. Something will come along and take it, so I won’t stay present for it. Because losing this would be too painful and I wouldn’t survive.”

The secret is, most of the things we worry about don't actually happen, and worrying about them didn't prevent bad things from happening anyways. All we can do is thank our anxious part for being here, because it's obvious it cares about our wellbeing. When we listen to our anxious thoughts, often they become quieter. And when they are quieter, we can find space to use other coping to help us manage in times of difficulty.

Let me know what you think in the comments below! Welcoming the thought takes practice. Don't give up after two or three times. Your anxious thoughts may not quiet the first few times, because you've been ignoring or shaming them for so long. I believe in you.

Take care of your circle and yourself,


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