Calming anxious thoughts may be easier than you think. Often, simply using a modified self-dialogue can make a significant difference.
Anxious thoughts are exhausting because they are often cyclical. One thought leads to another, which leads to another, etc. Anxious thoughts are strongly tied to the imaginative mind, located in the right hemisphere of your brain. The right ‘brain’ is outside of the box, if you will. The right brain knows few limitations. The right brain is not only imaginative, it is also intuitive, spontaneous, emotional and artistic. So, it stands to reason that, if you can think your way into anxious thoughts, then you can use your imagination to pull you back into less anxious thoughts. What does this look like? It all starts with self-dialogue using your imagination/creativity. For example, if Mike and Jim are both fired from a job, notice the self dialogue that follows:
Mike says to himself:
-“I knew I could never be successful.”
-“I am a failure.”
-“I will never be able to provide for my family.”
Jim says to himself:
-“I needed a break from this job anyway; I need to spend a bit more time with my family; they miss me.”
-“I was hired before; I will be hired again.”
-“Just because I failed at this job does not mean I am a failure; there are lots of things I can do.”
Two very different self dialogues. Which set of thoughts do you believe leads to more anxious thoughts? If you said “Jim” – you were right. Self dialogue is paramount to calming anxious thoughts. Life is not about what happens to you; it is all about the story you tell yourself about what has happened to you. So, next time you find yourself resorting to self-shaming language, envision a red ‘STOP’ sign and give yourself a check-up from the neck-up. Replace negative/shaming thoughts with positive/empowering thoughts and notice what happens.
Calm mind. Calm body.
~Lisa Schiro, M.S., LPC