“A good way to prevent anxious thoughts from arising is to give ourselves more credit. We are exactly where we need to be and everything is perfect the way it is right now.”~ Kelsey Olin
Sitting on the edge of my bed, I was once again thinking about what career path I was going to take. Having graduated from McGill university the previous year with a bachelor’s degree, I couldn’t understand why I was still so confused.
Shouldn’t I have figured it out by now?
I mean, sure a diploma at a fancy university does not guarantee your success but it should help. In my case, it just made me berate myself for not having figured it out. Then, I realized every career choice I contemplated had a common denominator: Me.
Dealing with Your Anxious Thoughts
I was turning promising opportunities into unlikely scenarios by overthinking. When I realized my thinking was the issue, I wanted to find a healthy way to deal with my problem. Dealing with my anxious thoughts led me on a lengthy, tedious but ultimately rewarding journey. Here’s one of the things I discovered along my journey: an anxious mind can be interrupted, challenged, or prevented.
Before we begin, I want you to notice that I don’t refer to anyone experiencing anxious thoughts as an anxious person. I make this conscious distinction since we are not our thoughts, we experience them.
This idea was introduced to me by Michael A. Singer in his book: “The Untethered Soul”, he explains that the constant chatter in our minds are thoughts that we experience. Our thoughts are just like floating clouds while our mind is the clear blue sky.
This distinction is made because we constantly have our mind, however, when we think of a thought it stays for a moment just like a cloud passing by. Therefore, it would be inappropriate to label ourselves as the thoughts we experience because we are so much more than that.
Now, here are the daily techniques that helped me calm my anxious thoughts.
How to Deal with Your Anxious Thoughts in The Face of Change
1. Interrupt the habit by being mindful
There are many definitions for what anxious thoughts are. My favorite and probably the simplest is by Mel Robbins. In an interview, she explained how anxiety is the habit of excessive worrying.
To get out of this habit, she used her “5 seconds rule” which is to count backward from 5 to 1 and when that countdown was done she would immediately re-focus her attention on what she is currently doing. Her explanation about anxious thoughts made sense with what I was learning at the time about the 2 different sections of the mind: the conscious and subconscious mind.
While the former is about what you are doing right now. The latter seeks patterns especially when it comes to our thoughts and emotions. When you experience a worrying thought with a strong emotional reaction, your subconscious mind is more likely to store that event in your long-term memory. The subconscious mind replays that anxious thought over and over in order to keep you protected and in your comfort zone. In general, this part of the mind is in control of our body 90 to 95% of the time.
Therefore, to break a habit you would need to transfer from thinking within the subconscious to the conscious mind. Hence, another way to calm your anxious thoughts would be to work within the conscious mind. Focusing on what you are doing right now!
This can be accomplished by focusing on your breath and your five senses (sight, touch, hearing, taste, smell). Being present in the moment also helped me observe and recognize the thoughts that triggered the excessive worrying. Every time you catch yourself in the habit loop of worrying, think of the anxious thoughts as a cloud passing by and refocus your attention on either your breath or one of your 5 senses.
Try this technique as much as possible on a daily basis and you’ll notice other benefits such as a reduction of your stress level [https://psychprofessionals.com.au/5-benefits-of-mindfulness/].
2. Affirm a different narrative
Another technique is to challenge the initial thought that caused your anxious thoughts. As I made the final choice to focus on entrepreneurship, the career path that I always desired. More anxious thoughts started to appear. The first step was to find out exactly why they were coming up. By simply observing my thoughts, I discovered that most of them were either about fearing uncertainty or lacking money.
I was afraid because so many things were changing around me. I also thought that quitting my corporate job would be difficult financially. The reason for that belief was that most people around me made money from their corporate job and the ones that tried to venture out struggled a lot.
The second step was to gently challenge the beliefs that caused my anxious thinking. I realized I needed to be gentle with myself with a lot of soothing and comforting. I started by saying affirmations such as “I am safe, it is safe for me to follow my heart or everything will be fine”.
Those affirmations helped me tremendously. I had to remind myself that I am safe even in the face of uncertainty.
Then, I challenged the original narrative I had about struggling entrepreneurs by finding examples of successful entrepreneurs. I read about them, hung up photos of them on my vision board, and kept affirming boldly that it is possible to be financially stable and prosperous when you operate your own business.
To make this practice successful, find out the REAL causes behind your worrying patterns. Take time to meditate in order to notice what type of thought comes up frequently when you are worrying. Lying to yourself about what makes you afraid will only add fuel to the fire.
Then, be gentle with yourself when anxious thoughts come up. Say affirmations that feel good for you and bring you comfort. They also have to challenge the initial belief you are trying to end. You’ll create positive, long-lasting, and empowering thoughts patterns by repeating affirmations as much as possible. In my case, after a while, those affirmations become almost a reflex when my anxious thoughts would try to creep back in.
A good way to prevent anxious thoughts from arising is to give ourselves more credit. We are exactly where we need to be and everything is perfect the way it is right now. When I started to look for the good in myself and my current situation, I became at ease. I also realized that there were a lot more things to be grateful for. That’s when journaling became a part of my daily routine.
For instance, you could journal about the things you are proud of yourself for doing or being. I write about 3 of my accomplishments every day to remind myself of all the good work I do. It is easy to forget all the wonderful things we do in a day. We tend to focus on what we did not do or what we missed.
Looking at the glass as half-empty, instead of hall full. You could write about how proud of yourself you are for the way you handled a situation or the way you communicated your feelings with ease to someone. Whether it is something that is considered small or big, celebrate the wins.
Acknowledge the accomplishments that make you proud and that are meaningful to you. This will help you notice that you are on the right path and make you less prone to worrying about the future.
After a couple of months of mindfulness, affirmations, and journaling, I have seen tremendous changes in my life, especially in my career. I am more optimistic, happy, and confident than I’ve ever been. I was able to start my own wellness business without getting overwhelmed by anxious thoughts. I realize now that experiencing and finding ways to overcome this pattern had to be a part of my journey in order to find what I was truly passionate about.
Everything happens for a reason!
Therefore, don’t forget to be easy on yourself. These patterns will not disappear in one day, however, it will get better every time you practice one of the techniques I shared. Take it moment by moment!