I’ve always struggled with the notion that we choose to be anxious. I don’t choose the knot in my stomach or the tightening in my chest. I don’t choose to lose the feeling in my extremities or the shivering and shaking however I’m realising that I choose how I react to these sensations.
I’ve lost a whole day of my weekend to anxiety and guilt. It’s been building up for about a week now. Every time those physical sensations arise my brain starts pulling up past mistakes and I go over and over the same thing, guilt consuming me and panic rising. I’ve been doing a lot of reading around staying in the moment and focusing on rational thought but it’s so hard to do. Very often by the time I’m realising that I’ve slipped in to these ruminations I’ve maybe been worrying about them for 15-20 minutes, just zoned out, going over and over things that I can’t change or fix.
I’m trying a combination of things to stay in the present but to distract myself from the thoughts – such as writing this blog post – but it’s easier said than done. I don’t know about you, but I find that I do so many things on auto-pilot that it’s so easy to slip back in to negative thinking regardless of what you’re doing. I’m reading a particular gripping book at the moment but even little things like when they talk about people making mistakes instantly brings me back to the perceived problem that my brain just can’t get past.
There’s a CBT technique around correcting your thinking that I’ve also been trying when I can catch the thoughts early. The idea is that when the negative thought arises you recognise it for what it is and call it out. If you continue to do this, eventually, in theory when the negative feeling/thought crops up your brain will automatically correct it before it causes anxiety.
I suppose I’ve always believed that we have the choice to not be anxious (at least on the thoughts side) but I’ve just never found a way to execute that. I understand that living in the moment is the only way to truly be happy. We can’t change the past and have no control over the future – rationally I know that worrying about either is just a waste of energy, taking away from the positive experience I could be having of the here and now, but try as I might, no matter how often I remind myself of that, I just can’t shut off the worrying part of my brain.
Do you struggle with controlling your negative/problematic thinking? Do you have any techniques that you find helpful? Let me know in the comments.