Challenging Anxious Thoughts

As businesses and schools begin to open again, many of  you will return to the workplace for the first time in months.  As a result anxiety and overwhelming fearful or negative thoughts may begin to present themselves. These are uncertain times and it can be difficult to stop the repetitive thinking that often accompanies this stress. However, acknowledging and recognising these thoughts for what they are, and being able to challenge them, may help you work through some of that anxiety. Here are a few different types of these thoughts, called cognitive distortions, and suggestions on how you might challenge them:

  • All-or-Nothing Thinking: Thinking in absolutes such as “always”, or “every”.
  • Overgeneralisation: Making broad interpretations from a single or few events.
  • Focusing on the negatives while filtering out the positives: Noticing the one thing that went wrong, rather than all the things that went right.
  • Mind Reading: Interpreting the thoughts and beliefs of others without adequate evidence.
  • Catastrophising: Seeing only the worst possible outcomes of a situation.
  • Emotional Reasoning: The assumption that emotions reflect the way things really are.
  • “Should” Statements: The belief that things should be a certain way.
  • Personalisation: The belief that one is responsible for events outside of their own control.
  • Magnification and Minimization: Exaggerating or minimizing the importance of events. One might believe their own achievements are unimportant, or that their mistakes are excessively important.

Challenge your negative thoughts by asking yourself:

  • Do I have evidence that this thought is true, or not true?
  • Is there a more realistic way of looking at the situation?
  • How likely is it that what I’m scared of will actually happen? What are some more likely outcomes? Am I overestimating the threat.
  • Is the thought helpful? How will worrying about it help me and how will it hurt me?
  • What would I say to a friend who had this worry?

Additionally, you may try saying the following statements to yourself as a way to  take the edge off the anxiety.:

  • This is temporary.
  • One day at a time. One hour at a time. One minute at a time.
  • Just because I feel anxious at this moment doesn’t mean in reality things are worse.

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