Things your anxious mind doesn't tell you
We have all experienced anxiety from time to time in our lives. But for some people, anxiety can be intense and interfere with daily living.
When intense anxiety occurs, it feels very real. It feels like it is in control.
Let's look at what is happening. There is a very primitive part in your brain that's called the amygdala. When it senses danger, it sets off the fight or flight response. Emergency! Danger!
There could be an actual emergency - someone threatening to harm you or a near miss car accident for example.
But usually it is set off by a false alarm - a negative thought or belief - I will fail, they won't like me, I'll look like a loser, they won't hire me, it's not safe to leave my house, it's not safe to drive...
Your anxious mind doesn't tell you that this is a false alarm. It feels like it's true because you're so anxious, and you have actual physical symptoms, so you must be in danger. Something terrible is going to happen. It feels like it, so it must be true. It can feel like there's a dangerous animal in the room.
Your anxious mind doesn't tell you that this is FEAR - False Evidence Appearing Real.
Your anxious mind doesn't know it's a false alarm because your thoughts are coming from your emotional mind. While the logical part of your brain has temporarily shut down and has been hijacked.
Here's the good news - you can calm the anxious mind in 4 easy steps:
Ask yourself: What is the evidence that this thought is true? Think of this as being real evidence that you could present in a court of law! It will be hard to come up with any real evidence. But this draws on the logical side of the brain and has a calming effect.
Instead of feeling that the anxiety has taken over, think of externalizing the anxiety. You can do this by giving anxiety a name and talking back to it (in your mind of course or out loud if you're alone). I like to call it "Anxious Andy." It helps to add some humor to the situation because when you're anxious, there is no humor - nothing is funny. So let's talk back to Anxious Andy. Keep in mind that he tells lies - lots of lies. You're going to fail; you won't get the job; blah blah blah! If you kept track of what he says and followed up to see if it came true, you would see that his prediction rate is very inaccurate. For example, if Anxious Andy shows up in the car and is telling you scary things, you can tell him you're going to let him out at the next corner because you don't want to hear his lies today.
Use an empowering affirmation. Instead of trying to avoid the anxiety, face it! Affirm in your mind: Bring it on, I can handle it! This helps you feel brave rather than fearful. When you face and go through the anxious situation, this builds your courage. Most times, you see that things turn out better than you predicted.
Lastly, remember to breathe deeply when feeling anxious. Breathe from your lower stomach. This has a grounding effect and brings you into the present moment. Calming the body helps calm the mind.
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Hi! I'm Beth Matthews. I'm a Registered Psychologist who is driven to helping people feel better about themselves. I help people who are struggling in their lives gain an awareness of how they can cope with anything that comes their way. With my easy-to-use strategies, you can feel better and be your best you!