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Three things that are true for almost everyone experiencing intense anxiety. Anxiety is a forward-looking disease. Almost always, anxious thoughts focus on what will happen. Not what is currently happening. These are examples of anxious thoughts. But they are not are happening in the current moment. I have yet to die while driving. No one has yet had the opportunity to have an opinion on my humanly worth. I need to stay in the present. Re-connect to the current moment.
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And stop trying to figure out all the scenarios. Its not helping me. I say this one not to minimize the experience, but to normalize it. Not everyone has a diagnosed anxiety disorder.
- I am not alone in experiencing the effects of my thoughts..
- Challenging and changing stress-producing thinking.
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But it is the most common mental health issue in the US. And imagine all the people who have anxiety but have not been diagnosed. Part of the experience of anxiety is the experience of isolation that comes with it. Sometimes anxiety makes you feel like you are crazy. And you are the only crazy one. The fact is, we all have different anxiety triggers.
Our anxiety will be different than other people. And that is ok. Which leads me to the last, key thought that I use to manage my anxiety-riddled mind. Let me say that again for the cheap seats. There is no reason to feel ashamed about your anxiety. Feeling shame about anxiety only makes your anxiety worse and makes you feel more alone. Its the shame that fuels all the negative self talk. So now, I remind myself to stop fighting my anxiety. And if I need to process a fear or take some time to think through my anxiety, then it is OK for me to do that.
That is a normal part of the human existance. But if that is what I need to work through in my brain, so be it. And I have the tools to get through the thought. As long as I stop trying to put that thought in a box and hiding it away. So when you have an intense spike in anxiety, seek out soothing thoughts instead of critical ones.
We all struggle. But it can get better. Not perfect, because there is no perfect. Look for thought distortions, dispute them, reframe them, and come up with alternative, balanced thinking. Remember that healthy self-respect and attention to one's needs are not selfishness. Competing interests: None declared. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U.
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Journal List West J Med v. West J Med. Felice E Miller 1. Author information Copyright and License information Disclaimer. This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Negative interpretation Figure 1 shows a physician's initial negative interpretation of the clinical situation in the opening line.
Open in a separate window. Figure 1. Thought distortions When a person encounters a difficult situation, it is common for the initial reaction to then continue to spiral downward.
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Challenging those negative thoughts Several steps can be taken to manage a stressful situation in an effective and healthy way. Identify common thought distortions and use the questions to evaluate them. Same situation, different outcome Figure 2 shows that the downward spiral can be interrupted by this process of realistically evaluating your thoughts. Figure 2. A realistic and healthy evaluation drawing by Malcolm Willett. Conclusions In any difficult situation, identify your negative thoughts and the resulting effect they have on feelings, physical symptoms, and behavior.
Table 1 Common thought distortions and how to challenge them. References 1.
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Quill T, Williamson P. Healthy approaches to physician stress. Arch Intern Med ; : Gabbard G. Role of compulsiveness in the normal physician. JAMA ; : Seligman M. Learned Optimism.