Anxiety alters your consciousness and perception of the world. You can get stuck in imagining worst outcomes and your inner critic can become very harsh. You can imagine people are saying nasty things or be afraid of being judged. Any risk or uncertainty feels impossible to deal with.
The way we think when we are anxious is different to the way we think when we are calm.
Typically when you are anxious you will feel very uncomfortable with any risk; risk will feel intolerable. Most people work comfortably with risk every day – getting into a car for example and driving to work. When you are in anxiety the idea that something terrible might happen fuses with the feeling that it is happening. It is as if the thing you fear is already happening and your body is in the state of it happening.
Uncertainty feels threatening when you are anxious and it becomes linked with the possibility of disaster. Our imagined catastrophic scenarios feel like they are likely to occur. We all deal with uncertainty everyday. Will we get that job? Will the bus be on time? Will the courier arrive in time for your meeting? When you are anxious those uncertain outcomes can feel overwhelming. You may feel the need to control these outcomes and be in a super anxious state because you can’t.
During anxiety we can get sticky thoughts. No matter how much you may want to stop thinking about that very uncomfortable, anxiety provoking thing, such as that meeting where you have to speak in front of a group, you can’t stop thinking about it.
Notice how when you are anxious you become hyper sensitive and hyper aware. Sounds, smell and sensations can really jar. Things can feel hyper real which can make you feel even more vulnerable.
Predictive Anxiety One of the most distressing aspects of anxious thinking is that feared thoughts feel like they predict future events. Your anxious thoughts about flying makes you believe that something awful will happen if you do fly, so your thoughts can feel unsafe.
So what do you do with your anxious thoughts?
Anxious thoughts go hand and hand with anxiety, you can pay attention to them and know they are not real, they are a symptom of anxiety. Watch them but don't battle them. Do the thing they tell you not to do. So if you feel too anxious to get up and go to the bathroom because people might look at you, just get up and go to the bathroom.
I believe that to work with anxiety you have to work with the unconscious and body first. Don't forget the amygdala is triggered to release the flight or flight. This is your automatic system. You don't get a choice, it just happens. Your conscious thinking doesn't kick in until after the anxiety chemicals are released.
You cannot think yourself out of anxiety. What you can do is work on bringing your nervous system into a more relaxed state so that you are less likely to be triggered.
If you are suffering from anxious thinking I suggest:
See a hypnotherapist or somatic therapist or any therapist who understands how to calm an overactive nervous system
Do whatever you can to calm your nervous system. Diaphragmatic breathing, meditation, yoga all help enormously. While breathing imagine those anxious thoughts floating out the top of your head and leaving.
If you have suffered from trauma or have PTSD, find a therapist who does EMDR
Remember, anxiety is not something that happens 'to you'. There will always be a reason why you are triggered even if you are not aware what it is.