• Dr K

How to Challenge Anxious Thoughts

The human brain is an extremely skilled risk evaluator. When faced with uncertainty, it can run through all of the potential outcomes in order to warn us about any pitfalls to look out for. It's just doing its job and trying to keep us safe.

The difficulty is, sometimes it can be overprotective and this can lead to unnecessary anxiety. In these cases, we can think of the brain like an overprotective parent. It just wants the best for you, and it doesn't want to see you come to any harm.

But in doing so, it can overestimate the likelihood of things going wrong, and how unbearable life will be if they do.

In addition, our minds can sometimes underestimate our own resilience. So we assume that we won't be able to cope when the worst happens. Even though the evidence might tell us that in the past we've coped perfectly well through tough times, and come through the other side.

If you find yourself in this situation, here are a few questions to ponder...

Of all the possible outcomes in this situation, am I focusing on the worst-case scenario? If so, what are all the other potential endings to this story?

How likely is it that this worst-case scenario will come true? Do I have reason to believe that it is the most likely outcome, or am I elevating it above the other ones without any evidence?

If it does happen- and sometimes things do go wrong- will I be able to cope? Which of my strengths will I need to draw on to get through it? What past experiences have I been through that have shown me my own resilience.

Will this situation still affect me a month later? A year later? 3 years later?

And finally: Even if things don't go how I want them to, might anything positive come out of it?

Hopefully these reflections can bring about a more balanced perspective in times of anxiety.

Finally, a little mantra to remind yourself of when your 'protective parent' pipes up unnecessarily:

"Thank you brain for trying to protect me from harm. I hear your warnings, but right now I'm safe."