How to Tame Anxiety
When bad thoughts churn inside us over and over again, they make us feel all kinds of negative emotions: sadness, despair, bitterness, stress, worry, and ultimately, unhappiness. Perhaps the most prevalent outcome of these negative thoughts is anxiety.
Anxiety is when you worry at a subconscious level, focusing on all the things that can go wrong. You then begin to tell yourself repeatedly that things probably will go wrong. You fear everything. Though anxiety is a disorder in itself, it also paves way for other, perhaps more dangerous, mental conditions, like “catastrophizing” (expecting only the worst to happen), panic attacks, or obsessive compulsive disorder.
Renowned American psychiatrist Professor David Burns took to the field of “Cognitive Therapy” in the early 1970s. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) propounds that our thoughts, feelings, and behavior are all interconnected. You can cure yourself of any mental disorder simply by working on the quality of your thoughts.
In his best-selling self-help manual, Feeling Good, Dr. Burns provides a simple technique that is widely used by psychotherapists worldwide to treat patients suffering from anxiety disorders.
A little philosophy before we get to the technique, as the underlying principle is that of stoicism. It was at first developed and practiced by Roman philosopher Epictetus and then the greatest Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Dr. Burns explains stoicism beautifully in one sentence: It is not the world events that make you unhappy or anxious; it is your views about the world events that make you so.
Stoics maintain that it is important to deliberately acknowledge that all our emotions are created from within us. Marcus Aurelius used stoicism on anxiety and stated:
“Today I escaped anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions—not outside.”
Dr. Burns worked on the principles of stoicism and developed a rather neat technique that you can physically use to overcome bad inner thoughts and curtail the onset of anxiety. I interviewed a friend struggling with anxiety and have relayed her example (with permission).
Step 1. Ask yourself: What do you actually say to yourself when you are at your worst?
“I’ll never find a good loving man.”
“All my relationships have ended badly, there has to be something wrong with me.”
“I’m totally worthless.”
Step 2. Nespan style=”font-weight: 400;”gotiate it practically<>: Okay, let’s hear some evidence. Can you make a list of any loving and successful relationships you’ve had? Do you contribute anything to the society in general?
She took a day to think over it.
Both my siblings love me immensely and look up to me for advice.
I ended two of my relationships myself because they weren’t faithful to me.
I was loyal in all my relationships.
I am a successful doctor. I have saved numerous lives in my career. My patients and their families see me as a lifesaver.
Step 3. How do you reconcile your list with what you tell yourself?
I don’t know—I must be crazy.
I’m amazed that I berate myself so much.
This method has been known to save the mental health of millions of people worldwide. It gives a true picture of how our perception can make or break mental peace. So, the next time you tell yourself something bad, think about what proof you have to substantiate that bad thought.
Key Takeaways That You Can Pin Up
Tell yourself good things about you every day. It’ll help you to overcome anxiety.
Tomorrow, we will tackle the most prevalent mode of creating negativity within us through self-talk.
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