3 Ways to Challenge Your Thinking to Reduce Anxiety

Anyone who has felt anxiety will know how terrible it is when you begin to panic and become the only thing you can focus on. Once you get into an anxious mindset, a whole wave of anxiety, fear, and lots of physical symptoms goes through your body.

1.       Accept your anxiety

Anxiety, like all other feelings, is just a feeling. You can start accepting anxiety by reminding yourself that it is an emotional reaction. Acceptance is important because it is often compounded by the attempt to fight or suppress anxiety. This perpetuates the debilitating dread of anxiety. But to accept your fear is not to like it or to condemn yourself to a wretched life. It only means you’d accept reality as it is–and reality includes anxiety in that moment. It is less than desirable to experience anxiety, but it is not unbearable. It helps to eliminate embarrassment, shame, anxiety, and obligation for trying to fix or judge yourself.

2.       Question your thoughts.

If people are anxious, their brains begin to come up with all kinds of unrealistic thoughts, many of which are highly unlikely and doubtful. These thoughts only increase the already anxious state of a person.

For example, your employer would ask you to give a presentation at a work event. Thoughts like “Oh my God, this is not something I can do. It’s going to kill me, ” could run through your brain. Know this isn’t a tragedy. In fact, no one died giving a presentation. The worst thing that will happen is that some people will get a few chuckles and that they will have forgotten about your presentation by tomorrow.

Ask yourself these questions when challenging your thoughts:

  •  What’s the evidence that the thought is true? That it’s not true?
  • Is there a more positive, realistic way of looking at the situation?
  •  What’s the probability that what I’m scared of will actually happen? If the probability is low, what are some more likely outcomes?
  •  Is the thought helpful? How will worrying about it help me and how will it hurt me?
  • What would I say to a friend who had this worry?

3.   Use a calming visualization.

Practice the following meditation on a regular basis, which will make access easier if you are anxious.

Imagine yourself in a favorite park, beach on or outside on the riverside. Observe leaves passing by the river or clouds floating through the sky. Place your fears, thoughts and feelings in your clouds and leaves and watch them flow through.

This differs greatly from what people usually do. In general, we assign certain qualities such as good or bad, right or wrong, to emotions, thoughts and physical sensations. It also exacerbates anxiety. Always remember this is only information.

Wait, relax and note what’s going on now. Even if something serious happens, concentrating on the current situation will improve your management skills. Although you’re anxious, you can live your life, and you’re going to get things done. Get busy with life.

3 Mindfulness Benefits for Anxiety

You may have heard or read that meditation aids with anxiety. Most people misunderstand that meditation is not like a magic elixir that reduces their stress and anxiety effortlessly. Yet meditation’s primary purpose is not to dissolve anxiety.

According to a recent review, regular practice in mindfulness will help you relax your mind and move past negative emotions. A study in 2013 showed that mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) was associated with significantly greater anxiety reduction and improved positive self-statements. In fact, a meta-analysis in 2012 suggested strong support for anxiety sensitivity meditation. A 2015 report in The Lancet indicated that incorporating a tapering off of treatment with MBCT is as effective as consistent prescription dosages.

1.       Focus on the present

The primary purpose of meditation is to help you become more present now. The anxiety reduction is just a satisfying side effect. We are often nervous because we are focused on the past or the future. However, you become deliberately focused on the here and now when you’re meditating.

2.       Quiet overactive thoughts

Sometimes it feels as though the mind is on constant overdrive for someone with anxiety— thoughts are scattered but not getting anywhere. We are anxious because we give into our thoughts and feelings. We take them and get confused at face value. Yet this undivided focus is not justified by our feelings.

Meditation helps us to avoid overactive thoughts and feelings, helping us to silence the mind, relax our bodies, and gain some clarity.

3. Cultivate an attitude of nonjudgmental acceptance

The aim is not to get to a point where your life is trouble-free — this is not realistic — but rather to be able to acknowledge the presence of these problems without overvaluing them. You can empower and support your meditation practice by being mindful. Just as a well-tended garden grows flowers and trees, mindfulness will help nurture all attitudes of mindfulness. A famous Shakespeare’s quote from Hamlet encapsulates this: “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”

Patience and dedication are the keys to meditation. Meditation requires patience because it takes commitment and when so many things fight for your time, it’s easy to quit.

Although meditation is not a cure-all for anxiety, it is still extremely helpful. Eventually, meditation helps one slow down, gain perspective, and think more critically, with less reactivity. Thus, we can become less anxious in our lives.

5 Self-Care Tips When Living with Anxiety

Approximately 20% of people in the United States have some form of anxiety disorder, making it the most common in the country. So many people are worried, and it can be hard to turn off from a connected world where we document and post everything online. When you want to get away from the world, you need to take care of yourself first using these five strategies.

1.      Exercise

A consistent exercise routine not only offers health and wellness benefits but also helps treat anxiety. There is evidence that aerobic exercise (dancing, walking, swimming) can reduce anxiety and improve your daily and ongoing anxiety.

When you change your habits so that you are rewarded with more energy, better memory, better mood, and even a better immune system.

2.      Use your creative skills.

Research has shown that artsy DIY creations can help your mental health. Spend time making a beautiful object can be used, worn or offered as a gift. This allows you to develop your confidence, to feel valuable, and to improve your skills. Let your creative powers run wild to create a safe space and take a break from the rest of the world, be it through knitting, weaving, drawing, sculpture, or anything else.

3.      Take part in a meditation session

A meditation session can affect your sense of calmness, trust, and gratitude even more profoundly. If you light a candle and play relaxing music, a mindful meditation becomes a soul-friendly ritual. Find positive words to help the mind get rid of everyday stress and experience a daily dose of calm.

4.      Enjoy nature

The influence of nature on our wellbeing is often misunderstood, and too many of us are used to urban lifestyles. When you feel your life has become too stressful, take a walk to the woods and see the trees. Greenery in your home can also help to make your mind feel at ease. Going outside helps to “shut off” your brain parts that cause negative thinking and aggravating depression.

5.      Make your own self-care routine

Do you find the self-care trend on social media overwhelming and almost too perfect? One of the best ways to take care of yourself is to see a therapist and work together to come up with a custom self-care plan. Self-care doesn’t have to look like face masks and bubble baths. You can take care of your mental well-being by watching TV or making yourself hot chocolate. The physical and mental well-being of your body by creating joy and satisfaction is an important part of life with or without conforming to what self-care should look like online.

Anxiety management is a lifelong process. By improving your relationship with yourself by maintaining your physical and mental health, you will become more resilient and able to survive difficult times and enjoy the good times. 

5 Ways You Can Support a Loved One with Anxiety

To watch a loved one suffering from anxiety is hard to witness, and it is more difficult when you are worried about it. Your loved one may feel too ashamed to avoid acting or acting in ways that your own anxiety is inconsiderate or that. This could look like your partner who puts off important tasks or conversations all the time or a best friend who feels lonely after divorce but still to go on dates.

While seeing these people suffer is debilitating and upsetting, you can do some things to help your loved one.

1.Understand how anxiety works

We are wired to respond to anxiety through fight, flight, or freeze because of evolution. One of these solutions usually dominates for different people. Once you know that anxiety is a natural response for us in a state of risk, it’s easier to understand and to have empathy for someone who feels scared (or stressed). You will understand their habits and be in a better position to help by paying attention to how anxiety develops in the person you care for.

2. Ask how you can best support them

Research shows that people with an avoidant attachment style (generally those who have had previous caretaker rejections or relationships) will probably best respond to strong displays of pragmatic support. Many people would prefer emotional support, particularly those who have a secure or preoccupied attachment because of fear of abandonment or of the overwhelming emotions they have for others. It’s best to ask someone what kind of help they want instead of guessing! 

3. Support someone who wants to change their anxiety

While you can learn more about anxiety through a therapy session or reading more about different models of anxiety, you can also use a cognitive-behavioral strategy for anxious people.

People with anxiety tend to think of worst-case scenarios. You can ask them to answer three questions: 

  • What is the worst thing that could happen?
  • What could be the best thing?
  • What is most likely or most probable?

So if your loved one is anxious to hear from a high-stakes job interview a few days ago but doesn’t, you can suggest he or she takes into consideration some of the worst, best, and most probable reasons for the lack of contact.

4. Give support but only encourage

We may often feel taken out by doing things to our obvious loved ones and feeding them unintentionally when they want to avoid situations or things that make them anxious. Encourage them to step out of their comfort zone by offering to go with them to therapy if they choose and make an appointment with a therapist, for example. One key principle to keep in mind is that people need to help themselves, not do things for themselves. 

5. If they have more severe anxiety, reassure them

What if your loved one has anxiety from a more severe condition such as PTSD or panic disorder? You can offer support by reassuring them that you care for them, no matter what they’re going through, and helping them stay connected to their true selves with hobbies or interests.

There are several ways to help people with anxiety. Select one or two appealing ideas that you and your loved one find manageable. Be ready for exploration. Remember you’re doing your best to support your loved one.

colorado anxiety depression counseling self doubt

I would like to share a short story about a fictional person named Sally. One day, Sally has a rough day and hits an emotional roadblock. It sparked a conversation with a friend about some barriers with her boss. A slew of negative thoughts crept in whispering, “You are lazy. You are going to fail at this. You need to be managed like a child”. She notices these thoughts and immediately voiced them aloud to her friend, who of course, refuted everything. She wanted to believe his encouragement and kindness, but her own words had already become a stronghold. Discouragement and a deep sadness flooded in.

The next morning, Sally woke to the heaviness of apathy and disappointment. The words continued to be difficult to shake off. She knew her internal dialogue was not only unfair and unkind but also counterproductive to where she needed to be. Throughout the rest of the day, Sally was mindful of the pain, and reframed her thoughts to be gentle and compassionate: “You’re feeling pretty disappointed right now about not reaching some of your goals. You wish you had more follow through. It’s okay that you’ve been feeling stuck.” Something shifted the moment she tapped into some self-compassion. By the end of the day, the heaviness was gone and a newfound determination kicked in.

.     .     .  

Our inner dialogue reflects our deepest vulnerability. It holds so much power over how we view and treat ourselves, and how we are able to engage with the world. In my work as a therapist, it’s common for me to hear statements such as “I’m so stupid”, “I’m useless”, “I am the biggest failure in the world”, “I don’t deserve anything good to happen to me”.

These words are deeply painful and defeating. We would never say these statements to anyone we care about, even to strangers, but allow this to be a familiar repertoire of self-talk. What this reveals is that we are often harsher and more cruel to ourselves than we are to anyone else. Some view this negative self-talk as a motivator to improve or change, whereas others become attuned to the vicious internal cycle that deepens symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Don’t let self doubt create anxiety, depression, fear, and uncertainty. Talk to a professional counselor to learn how to get past defeating thoughts and feelings.

There has been considerable research that has helped psychologists to identify specific factors that can help people lead happier lives.  This same research has also identified some common mistakes that people make when they pursue things they think will make them happy, but don’t.

The following is a list curated from leading psychologists and counselors of the “Top Ten Tips for Happiness”, we hope these suggestions will help you find more happiness in your own life.

1.  Make working on having good social relationships a TOP priority.

Most people find it easy to understand that they must work hard at their jobs, but they don’t always realize that this kind of thinking should apply every bit as much to their relationships.

Having good relationships is incredibly important for happiness. Virtually every psychologist who studies happiness has found very powerful effects of social relationships on happiness. Strong social relationships – in marriage (or other romantic relationships), friendship, family relationships – all positively affect physical and mental health, happiness, and mood. People often prioritize making more money at the expense of neglecting their relationships. This is a common mistake – and a big one.

2.  Focus on attaining a sense of accomplishment and meaning in your life and maintain it on a continual basis.

It is essential that you find a sense of accomplishment and meaning in your life. This can be through your work, but it doesn’t have to be. As quoted in a recent New York Times article: “What’s crucial to well-being is not how cheerful you feel, not how much money you make, but rather the meaning you find in life and your sense of “earned success” – the belief that you have created value in your life or others’ lives.”

This sense of meaning could very well be from your job. If you view your career as a “calling,” you are fortunate. But it is important to acquire this sense of meaningful accomplishment from somewhere in your life, and on a regular basis.

3.  Take Risks.

The word for “risk” in Chinese is made up of two words, “danger” and “opportunity.” Simple, elegant, brilliant composition. There is usually no opportunity without accompanying danger. The danger may be economic, or it may be purely psychological. To try to do something different, and better, invites the danger of failing, and this may feel like a humiliation.

It is the same with making changes in yourself via psychotherapy. To try to break self-defeating patterns can be uncomfortable, as one ventures out into the unfamiliar and the unknown. The safest position is lying on the floor. You can’t get hurt that way. The only problem with that is, well…you are lying on the floor. You’re not going anywhere. Go somewhere. Take a risk.

4.  Diversify your sources of self-esteem.

Many people make the mistake of investing too much of their sense of self-worth in one particular thing (“I am worthwhile because I am great athlete,” “I am worthwhile because I make a lot of money,” “I am an expert on fine wines”, etc.). This invites psychological disaster, because things can change, and your self-esteem can come tumbling down like a house of cards. Realize you are complex, with many different strengths (and weaknesses). Recognize your various individual strengths, develop them, and use them.

But even more important is to internalize your self-esteem as much as possible. In other words, be wary of tying your self-esteem too much to an externally-based factor (money, a fancy car, etc.) because you can lose it (i.e., you may be laid off from a high-paying job). But an internalized sense of self-esteem – qualities you like about yourself, such as your personality and character traits – is something that no one can take away from you, except yourself.

5.  Work on Goals, not Circumstances.

Happiness is a process, and not just a set of good circumstances. This may sound basic, but how often do we think we would be happy if ”I only had that, or this, in my life? If a person hopes to win a certain award, working for the award had better be enjoyable, because the award itself will produce only a short burst of happiness. In contrast, activities and striving for our goals is a lifetime endeavor.

Focus and find fulfillment in working on your personal goals, not in the attainment of any one particular thing.

6.  Develop a wiser relationship with money than most Americans have.

Research on the relationship between money and happiness is substantial and clear. More money yields significantly more happiness only when one is struggling to pay bills and is saddled with major money worries. Once a person attains enough money to not have to greatly struggle anymore, more money yields almost no greater happiness compared to relationships, personal meaning, and many other parts of life.

People think that doubling or tripling their income will bring great benefit to their levels of happiness. They are wrong. All that happens is that people adapt to their new income and soon find themselves wanting more and more. There is even a name for this phenomenon, the “hedonic treadmill.”

Love, satisfaction from work, and meaning yield much longer lasting gains in happiness.

7.  Become curious about yourself.

Introspection is often neglected or even looked down upon in our culture (“naval gazing”). While self-absorption is not a good thing, curiosity about oneself certainly is. If we can identify our self-defeating patterns, and our motivations for getting into these self-defeating patterns, we can navigate our life onto a better course.

Knowledge is power, and self-knowledge yields the most important power of all. By becoming curious about ourselves, and honing our ability to examine ourselves productively, we can greatly facilitate our well-being in terms of our ability to work and to love.

8.  Keep anxiety and depression at bay.

Related to #7, although distinct from it, is the importance of minimizing the disruptive and wasteful presence of unnecessary anxiety and depressive feelings. Healthy worry and sadness is one thing, and can be enormously useful. Obsessive, repetitive worries and paralyzing anxiety can block our ability to move forward and attain our personal goals, whether in our careers or in our relationships.

Recognizing, addressing, and removing these obstacles, whether by oneself or with a psychologist, is necessary if we are to more fully enjoy our lives.

9.  Make a conscious effort to avoid the trap of “Reference Anxiety.”

“Reference Anxiety” is one of the greatest threats to the happiness and emotional well-being of all Americans, and indeed all humanity. Despite this, most people fail to make an on-going conscious effort to recognize and minimize its painful effects. Strive to push anxiety back and refuse to let it run your life.

Reference anxiety is the process by which people compare what they have, materialistically, with their peers. It is a more scientific term for what has been called for a long time “Keeping up with the Joneses.”

If you have a four bedroom house, but everyone else in your neighborhood has a five bedroom house, you feel unhappy. However, if you have a three bedroom house (actually one less bedroom), you will tend to feel happier if you live in a neighborhood where your neighbors have two bedroom houses, because you have more, relatively speaking (vs. in an absolute sense of actual number of bedrooms).

It isn’t that you are actually uncomfortable with the number of bedrooms (or any materialistic possessions, for that matter). It’s that you feel you are not doing as well and have less – and perhaps feel you are less as a person – because your peers have more.

What people don’t realize is that there is often a hidden cost to having the bigger house or expensive car (not always, but often). From my own practice, consider the case of a patient who worked very long hours in a corporate job which he disliked intensely. He had a two-hour commute to work (long commutes have been found to be associated with decreased happiness), hated his time at the office, and had very little free time in his life. But he felt that unless he had a big, fancy house, he would not see himself as a “winner.” He could not be happy with himself knowing that others, to which he compared himself, had more. Despite all of his hard work, he did not fully realize that in terms of happiness, he would always have less than other people.

By the way, this patient eventually dropped out of psychotherapy. Why, you ask? Because he had “no time for therapy.” He had to work long hours, you see. Reference Anxiety was ruining his life, and he couldn’t get off the merry go-round.

10.  Be Afraid. But do things anyway.

Throughout the day in my work, I listen to people tell me how they would like things in their life to be different, but they are terrified of all the dangers associated with making significant changes. It is often not enough to tell ourselves that we should change, or to have someone else tell us that. We usually know that already. What we often lack is courage.

For example, you may be afraid to pursue a personal goal because you may try and fail. If you fail, you may experience it as a confirmation that you are “a failure.” This is one reason why many people don’t make changes, even when they know they should. They can hide behind the fact that since they didn’t try, they can’t conclude they have confirmation that they failed and, hence, that they aren’t “good enough.”

Similarly, the fear of rejection can be paralyzing, and it prevents people from trying to make any changes. The fear of the unfamiliar and the unknown can keep people in unhealthy and counterproductive patterns. But staying in the familiar, even if counterproductive, provides you with a map of how to live (“the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.”). It is safe, even if it is unhealthy and is a map to nowhere. It is not anxiety-producing. To step out into the unfamiliar, sometimes with the possibility of rejection or failure, or a thousand other unknown dangers, is scary. One can often feel anxious.

The tip here is not to say “I won’t be scared.” Of course you may be scared. The point here is to be afraid and do it anyway. In order to do that, you must tap into your courage. It has been said that courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is being afraid and doing things anyway.

You may be able to make sufficient changes by yourself. Sometimes, however, people need another person, often a trained professional, who understands their anxieties and fears, but who also is invested in helping them attain their personal goals. Talk toa licensed professional if you want help tapping into your courage. They can “encourage” you, and help you make the changes you need to make in order to become a happier person.

We hope you found this helpful. Have a happy day!

Anxiety disorder sufferers do not wish to have anxiety. They do not wish to have their lives disrupted or to disrupt the lives of those who love them. There is nothing worse than feeling out of control, knowing you are out of control, and not being able to stop the behavior. Here are five ways you can help your loved ones suffering from anxiety.

  1. Reinforce the fact that suffering from anxiety does not mean your loved one is mentally deficient. Show empathy and support, but not sympathy. They need help, not pity. Encourage them to seek help from a medical professional.
  2. Educate yourself about the links between triggers – thoughts – behaviors and how to reframe anxiety thinking.
  3. Show positive reinforcement of rational behavior rather than criticism of irrational fears, etc. Knowing you are pleased will lead your loved one to want to repeat the rational behavior to keep that good feeling longer.
  4. Maintain your own support system. Having someone you trust to talk to is vital to your continuing ability to give the support your loved one needs.
  5. Spend time with them, as much as possible. Try to do outdoor activities to help them get as much exercise as possible. Let them know it’s okay to talk about their anxiety, you’re there to listen and not to judge.

Your loved one needs to exercise, eat healthy meals and snacks, and get enough sleep. It is very important for their well-being, as well as your own. Don’t forget to take care of yourself while you’re helping them. 

Learning to deal with anxiety and give the best care are full of ups and downs. There is a learning curve you both have to go through before you reach an oasis, but you will get there. Do not give up. These five ways to support your loved one with anxiety seem simple, but they are very important and so are you! We are here to help.

Living with anxiety can be daunting, but you can empower yourself with self-help strategies to ease anxiety symptoms. The right approach to self-help and anxiety therapy, you can manage your anxiety and live with freedom and happiness.

Here are 5 scientifically proven self-care tips to help you cope with anxiety in day-to-day life.

Maintain healthy diet and exercise

Eating well and exercising regularly keeps you healthy – not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America recommends aerobic exercise for anti-anxiety effects through elevated endorphins and stress-relieving effects. Adding just ten minutes of exercise into your everyday routine can reduce anxiety symptoms and help you go through the rest of your day with calm and clarity.

Find hobbies and activities you enjoy

A creative hobby can give you an outlet for expression. Having a hobby or activity you enjoy will give you a focus for anxious energy as well as a way to find fulfillment and contentment when you develop new skills or achieve a personal goal.

This can be anything from gardening to yoga to writing fiction – an activity to stimulate and provide a personal source of happiness and fulfillment. 

Practice mindfulness and meditation

Mindfulness exercises have a number of empirically proven psychological benefits and can help you cope with situations of heightened anxiety, as well as reduce anxiety symptoms over time.

The American Psychological Association promotes mindfulness practice for reducing rumination and stress, which can improve anxiety in daily life. Taking some time to yourself in your day for a brief meditative moment can help reduce depressive and anxious feelings.

Reach out to your personal support network

You don’t have to manage your anxiety alone. A strong social support network can help you manage stress and anxiety.

Work on strengthening your social support network as a self-help resource.

Seek anxiety therapy

In addition to your personal support network, you can also seek the services of an anxiety counseling professional. Anxiety counseling can assist you with developing self-care methods to use in your everyday life.

If you are seeking anxiety therapy in Parker, Counseling Services of Parker can help you identify the cause of your anxiety, and work side by side with you to cope and thrive in everyday life. Contact us today to discuss how we can help you.

As a mental health counselor and anxiety therapist, I often times listen to concerns which manifest feelings such as worry, fear, panic, insomnia, and fatigue. These are all common symptoms of anxiety. Other symptoms people may experience include irrational thoughts, muscle tension and nausea. While anxiety is a natural reaction and we cannot eliminate it, there are techniques you can learn to reduce the symptoms and live a less anxious life.

  1. Exercise

    Exercise is one of the best ways to manage your anxiety. Not only does it help work out the stress, but it naturally increases the levels serotonin and dopamine in our brains. Anxiety therapists suggest exercising for 30 minutes a day.

  2. Deep Breathing

    Deep breathing techniques can help reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety such as heart palpitations. It can also help slow down the racing thoughts in your brain. Try inhaling for a count of 5, holding for a count of 5, and exhaling for a count of 5. These techniques are often suggested and used by anxiety counselor and therapists.

  3. Progressive Muscle Relaxation and Meditation

    This technique helps slow your body down. You will want to find a quiet place where you can either lie down or sit comfortably. A good way to start learning this technique is through a guide either in person or through a recording. If you would like to try this Counseling Services of Colorado suggests downloading an application on your phone such as Insight Timer –https://insighttimer.com/.

  4. Limit Caffeine and Alcohol

    Both of these are mood-altering substances and can increase levels of anxiety as well as depression. Many studies have been done stating the negative impacts of caffeine and alcohol on mental health.

  5. Get Adequate Sleep

    While insomnia is common for people who have anxiety, it is important to try to get the recommended amount of sleep. Lack of sleep will also increase anxiety. Try a deep breathing or muscle relaxation exercise to help you relax before trying to go to bed.

  6. Coloring (Yes, with crayons or Markers!)

    Counseling Services of Parker Colorado often suggests breaking out the crayons or markers and buying a coloring book. Adult coloring books have been proven to reduce stress and anxiety. Give them a try and have a little fun and make something beautiful. Many of my friends who are anxiety therapists shared the following link to affordable and popular coloring books for adults –http://www.amazon.com/Adult-Coloring-Book-Relieving-Patterns/dp/1941325122/ref=zg_bs_books_9.

  7. Acceptance

    Adverse feelings such as anxiety are normal. You’re not alone. The goal is not to eliminate the feelings rather to learn how to manage them. If you need help working through your thoughts and feelings, get in touch with a local anxiety therapist or anxiety counselor. We have a lot of experience helping people through their anxiety.

These techniques done in conjunction with therapy can help you learn your best practices for coping with your anxiety. You may also want to consider talking with your doctor about medications that can help with the physical symptoms. Counseling Services of Parker Colorado is happy to discuss this further with you. Please feel free to contact us whenever you’re ready.