Where Are You Letting Your Thoughts Take You?
The Anxiety Response
Anxiety is a response to a perceived threat. Sometimes, there really is a threat. We have to jump out of the way of a car or are in a dangerous place. Often times however, we are actually in a safe place with no threat in sight. Yet threats in our minds (our thoughts) can often create the same anxiety response as a real threat right in front of you.
Taking a Step Back from Your Thoughts
What is a thought anyway? Really, it is a string of words put together. We use words in language everyday to help us communicate various types of information and meaning, not only to others, but to ourselves too! Unfortunately, we can’t control what thoughts come into our minds, and sometimes anxiety provoking things come up. People can get caught up in their thoughts and let what this thought is telling them become entire focus of what is going on, rather than just being in the moment – with no real threat!
So what is the difference between having a thought and believing a thought? It’s the difference between looking AT your thoughts, rather than FROM your thoughts (Hayes, 2000)? The difference between being a cast member in a play, compared to watching it from the audience. When you are in the play (or caught up in your thoughts) it is hard to have a grounded perspective about what is really going on. But as the observer, you have the luxury of just noticing and observing. You can choose what you react to and what you focus on. This allows us to just step back and just be an observer of all of the chaos that goes on inside your mind, rather than being swept up with it.
Taking Action: Changing your Relationship with Your Thoughts
The good news is, we can control our relationship with our thoughts, what we believe, and how we focus our minds. There are several ways to do this, including engaging in mindfulness activities and starting to really look at and observe your thoughts. Here is one example of an activity that can teach you what it feels like to look at your thoughts.
Once you start noticing your thoughts, don’t just buy into what they are saying, question them! Instead of just reacting to thought that increases your anxiety (like “I’m going to fail”), start really evaluating the thoughts.
What is my mind telling me right now?
Is this a helpful thought?
Did my mind just hook me with this thought?
If I let this thought tell me what to do, am I going to get closer to or farther away from things that are meaning full to me?
Creating a different relationship with your thoughts is just one way to change your experience with anxiety. If you or someone you know experiences anxiety, cognitive behavioral therapy is a very effective treatment. To learn more, check out our CBT resources page to find books and other resources to help you manage your anxiety. You can also contact us at Behavioral Associates, Los Angeles to find out more about what treatment may be right for you.
Michelle Dexter, Ph.D., Associate | Behavioral Associates Los Angeles
Hayes, S. C. (2000). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in the treatment of experiential avoidance disorders.
Behavioral Associates Los Angeles is a group of cognitive-behavioral therapists specializing in the treatment of anxiety and mood disorders. To find out more, contact us by phone at 310-205-0523 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also request an appointment with a Behavioral Associates LA psychologist by submitting a brief patient assessment form on our Website. Our clinical staff will follow up with you within 24 hours of submission.