Anxious thoughts have a way of overtaking your day by overtaking your mind. We try to fight off the thoughts and refocus on our work, kids or book but keep coming back to those thoughts!
If you have had similar struggles as I have, you may have gotten frustrated with your anxious thoughts, try to push them away and just do anything to forget.
I have tried to go out and exercise, talk to a friend or even my therapist. I try the skills taught to me and the thoughts come back as soon as I am triggered.
There are a few things that I have found to work to fight off anxious thoughts to improve your focus that is outside of the norm:
Don’t block the thought
While we are often taught or told to find something to do to distract from anxious thoughts, it does not help to rid the thought long term.
To fight off anxious thoughts to improve your focus you have to know the thought and let it flow and process. This does not mean you have to believe the thought, you just have to think about it.
Identify any proof for the negative thought
Now that you have allowed the thought in, it is time to process it. Here is how you do it! Identify any proof for the negative thought. While this may seem counterproductive, it allows you to think about the why behind the thought.
If you cannot think of any proof for the negative thought, that is great. If you can, that is great, and make note of it.
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Challenge the negative thought with proof of the opposite
This step is one of the more difficult because for so long we have been thinking and trying to fight off the anxious thought to stay focused in life.
Now, I am telling you to think of ways this thought is not true. There is no proof too big or too small to counter the anxious thought!
What is a more helpful thought
It may be easy to do this step by simply taking the anxious thought and negating it.
Sometimes it is difficult to think of a more helpful thought especially when you have been thinking a thought for so long.
Anxious thoughts can be difficult to fight off as they are rooted in worry and fear of the worst case scenario for you.
So you have to be sure that you are allowing yourself to think of the best case scenario and challenge anxious thoughts whenever they seep in.
Identify any proof for the helpful thought
In order for the more helpful thought to resonate and process in your brain, it can be helpful to think of any proof for the new thought.
Simply allow the good to seep in and the worry to fade.
The Ultimate Anxiety Workbook goes more in detail about the way the brain processes the new information and even offers a worksheet where you can write out helpful thoughts (with a little help from me).
Validate Your Feelings
This is not a step you will find in a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or other evidence based therapies as a way to combat anxious thoughts. Though I think it is implied that you should validate your feelings, I don’t think anyone spells it out.
Be sure to comfort yourself and recognize that those anxious thoughts did not arise overnight. An event occurred that reshaped your mind and life, no matter how small, it made a lasting impact.
Do not invalidate your feelings, you more than anyone should understand your anxious thoughts and that you would wish them away if you could. Do not belittle that! Embrace your feelings and journal it out (you know I am a huge fan of mindfulness).