How to Overcome Anxiety and Negative Thinking

Positive thinking is a cornerstone of good mental health, yet it may be challenging to shift negative thought patterns. Here are some tips to help you break free from anxiety and negative thought processes.

Identification and labeling of negative thoughts is the first step toward managing them more effectively. Recognizing cognitive distortions and remembering that thoughts do not equal facts is also helpful.

Overgeneralization

Overgeneralization is a cognitive distortion that happens when we extrapolate from one negative experience and apply it across similar situations, often with catastrophic results. This often leads to far-reaching conclusions that are hard to disprove; for example, if your first presentation stuttered badly you might conclude that speaking in public again will always be challenging – an unhelpful outlook which limits opportunities in life.

Polarized thinking is another type of overgeneralization, in which everything falls into either/or categories, such as viewing people as either good or bad and refusing to find any gray areas between. Such an outlook can quickly lead to disappointment when people don’t meet your expectations. Such views are unhealthy and could even provoke feelings of hostility when others fail to live up to your idealized perceptions of them.

Emotional reasoning is another type of overgeneralization, in which individuals interpret their emotions as truth. This thinking distortion is common among those suffering from anxiety disorders and can have devastating effects on self-esteem, as it limits your ability to regain control of situations and leaves you feeling helpless when anxious feelings surface.

Negative thoughts can affect anyone, but those with mental health conditions like depression or anxiety are particularly susceptible. Additionally, people suffering from these disorders are prone to experiencing rumination; which involves repeating negative thinking that can cause physical symptoms like shivering or heart palpitations.

When overgeneralizing, it is essential to recognize and confront these unfounded thoughts by looking at evidence, asking questions of yourself and looking for gray areas within situations which might seem black and white. You could also engage in positive self-talk practices or seek assistance from friends or family who can help you see things differently – this will reduce frequency of overgeneralizations while improving overall quality of life.

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Labeling

Though we all experience negative thoughts at some point in their lives, for those struggling with mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression they can be crippling. Negative thought patterns can alter how one feels as well as lead to physical symptoms like increased heartbeat or sweaty palms.

Step one in changing negative thinking involves recognizing and learning to recognize distorted thoughts, such as jumping to conclusions, catastrophizing or labeling thoughts which can create cognitive distortions that make changing your mental processes challenging without assistance from professionals.

Jumping to conclusions is a cognitive distortion often related to fear of the future and an all-or-nothing thinking style. People susceptible to jumping to conclusions tend to believe they can predict how something will turn out based on past experience; usually this prediction ends badly; an all-or-nothing approach might make someone believe everything will go wrong when in reality it won’t.

Catastrophizing is another harmful form of thinking that involves visualizing the worst possible outcome of an event or situation, often to cause anxiety and increase panic attacks, which are marked by feelings of terror and fear. Catastrophizing is linked to depression and other mental health conditions because it fosters hopelessness and pessimistic outlooks for one’s own future.

Labeling is a form of negative self-talk which uses derogatory and disparaging terms like ugly, stupid, weak, fat and loser to describe yourself. This type of negative thinking impedes your potential as you only see yourself through the lens of whatever negative label has been applied. Although stopping these cycles of negativity may seem impossible at times, with practice and support from a professional it may become possible.

Writing down negative thoughts in a journal is an effective way to identify them and replace them with more positive thoughts and behaviors. While this process may take some time, eventually it should become part of your routine. For further assistance contact Baptist Health’s behavioral health providers today.

Should statements

Your self-talk has a dramatic impact on how you feel. While you might not realize you use should statements frequently in daily conversations, should statements are cognitive distortions which can lead to self-blame, shame, guilt, anxiety depression and conflict with others – as well as unreasonable expectations on yourself and other people.

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Should statements are negative thoughts that tell us what to or shouldn’t do, and can create unnecessary stress by setting binary conditions which are difficult to achieve. They’re difficult to break out of as they’ve likely become part of our language over time – however you can learn to identify should statements by paying attention to how you talk to yourself and looking out for patterns in conversations between yourself and other people.

Taken personally is another common form of negative thinking. This occurs when one isolated event becomes personal to you and turns into an attack against yourself or another individual. This tendency can be particularly dangerous among those suffering from anxiety, as it often leads to self-blame, guilt, depression and avoidance behaviors – it may seem impossible to break this cycle but there are steps you can take in order to change this pattern of thought.

Practice mindfulness to shift negative thoughts by becoming aware when you use should statements and consciously replacing them with more realistic positive thoughts. You could also try scheduling “worry time,” whereby setting aside a certain period each day for dealing with anxious feelings.

If you are still struggling with negative thinking and anxiety, professional assistance could be invaluable. A therapist can help you understand why these negative thoughts exist as well as provide new techniques for dealing with them. They may even suggest exercise or meditation practices as ways of relieving anxiety in daily life. Furthermore, they could teach about various forms of negative thinking as well as ways of recognizing it within yourself.

Avoidance

One way people deal with anxiety is through engaging in avoidance behaviors. These can range from overt to subtle – such as avoiding situations or people that cause anxiety to small rituals designed to make you feel safe (such as standing near doors in case you need to escape quickly). Although these tactics might work temporarily, over time they may increase anxiety significantly as dependency grows on these’safety behaviors’ such as medications or always having an exit plan in place.

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Avoidance coping is detrimental not only to mental health but can be physically dangerous as well. For example, it may cause you to hyperventilate (overbreathe), leading to dizziness and feelings of suffocation. Furthermore, avoidance can trigger adrenaline production that raises heart rates and increases tension levels in your body.

Avoidance doesn’t address the source of discomfort, instead teaching your brain that it is incapable of handling uncomfortable feelings or situations, which in turn reinforces feelings of fear and anxiety that lead to further avoidance behaviors – creating an endless cycle that is hard to break but vitally important for both mental and physical wellbeing.

Change your avoidance coping behaviors can help you manage anxiety and live a happier, more fulfilling life. If you need assistance to change these avoidance strategies, talk with a mental health professional; there are numerous resources such as Good Therapy or Psychology Today which may assist in finding one who meets your needs or you could use the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration treatment locator tool to locate one near your location.

Learning to accept your thoughts and feelings until they naturally pass will decrease your need for avoidance coping, such as avoidance reactivity. You can do this through mindfulness techniques like slow breathing and focusing on the present moment, cognitive flexibility by identifying thinking traps, learning more adaptive interpretation of experiences or physiological self-soothing techniques such as deep breathing to lower heart rates and relax the body or learning physiological self-soothing skills such as practicing deep breathing to slow down heart rates and relax bodies.