5 ways to get rid of anxious thoughts
There are tons of pieces of advice on how to deal with anxious thoughts but everyone deals with it in their own way. I’d like to give you a list of things that helped me get rid of the gloomy thoughts in my head. I hope you will find a strategy that will work for you among these 5 tips. I learned that it takes time, however. The discouraging voices you might have will not disappear in one week. Remember your strategy, write it down and don’t forget to practice.
1. Distract yourself
I’d like to start with the easiest one. Distract yourself by doing something with your hands. Bake a cake, learn a language or play the guitar. I love getting distracted by baking because it forces my mind to focus on details like weighing and measuring the ingredients. Your mind is only able to think of one thing at a time which is why working on a recipe is a great thing to do. And in the end, you will be rewarded with something delicious. It can be anything else though, as long as there is coordination going on: reading a task and get your hands to work.
2. You are not your thoughts
You might have heard this one before. Tell yourself: ‘I am not my thoughts’. You are not, you are only a listener. This means it is also possible not to listen to them. To be honest, I find this the hardest of all because for it to have an effect it needs repetition. A lot. It’s also an easy one to forget. However, it’s a good starting point. Knowing that you are not your thoughts might make it easier to use other strategies.
3. Think of a fictional character
Or another character or person you like. This one worked very well for me. Every time I felt my mind was running wild, especially before trying to sleep, I imagined Doctor Strange popping up. His appearance made my thoughts disappear into thin air. (Why Doctor Strange? Because I had just seen the movie. It might as well have been Iron Man or Barack Obama.)
Doctor Strange would explicitly say ‘having bad thoughts again?’ and I’d feel relieved right away. ‘Doesn’t really do much good, does it?’ It worked because I wasn’t blaming myself for my negative thoughts. It worked because the advice came from someone else other than myself, someone fairly realistic and credible. And he was funny. So pick someone who can make you smile and get you distracted for a while. As they say, laughter is the best medicine.
This is a tactic I started to use quite recently because the idea interested me. I read about labeling while reading Solve for Happy by Mo Gawdat. He explained that the type of thoughts we have are rarely about the present. It’s either about something that has happened or something you’re afraid of happening.
When you start to label your thoughts it is not only a distraction, you will also realize how little time you spend in the present. There are only a few thoughts you need right this moment, most of all positive: being grateful, being comfortable, feeling thankful. By labeling your thoughts it becomes easier to spot the positive ones and live in the moment.
5. Feel the emotion — completely
Once, I gave my anxiety all the space I could and let it roam freely in my body. I decided to just let it be and tried to feel it, instead of listening to it. And it became just that — a feeling. It lost all its meaning and what was left was just another emotion I had, not much different from all the others I have during the day.
It might seem scary but give it a try: completely ‘feel’ your anxious thought until it is not much more than just a feeling somewhere in your body. You might notice that it will lose its meaning. Until another one pops up, but now you know how you can deal with them.