“You don’t have to control your thoughts. You just have to stop letting them control you.”
I haven’t written an article for a few months now.
Well, that is not entirely true, I’ve written a number of articles in that time, I’ve just not hit the ‘publish’ button.
Because I’ve been able to put anxiety so far out of my mind that it’s not been so easy to write about it as before.
My focus has been on other things and to be honest, it’s been great.
This is because when you’re able to let go and stop caring about your thoughts and the way you feel, it just makes getting on with life so much easier to do.
And when you can do this, you’ll find that it enables your recovery from anxiety to come to you.
It gives your mind the break it is screaming out for, to allow it to rest, heal and return to factory settings, which is a calm and relaxed you.
All the over thinking and over analysing you do is what keeps you trapped within the cycle of anxiety.
It’s what creates the feelings of dread and panic, not relieve it.
It creates worry on top of worry, stress on top of stress and then you wonder why your mind doesn’t seem to be functioning as it should.
I used to spend hours trying to think my way out of how I felt and once, in complete desperation, at the end of my tether, I even tried banging my head against a wall in the hope it would literally knock the anxiety out of my mind.
Well, when you’re pushed to your limit, you end up trying anything just to stop feeling the way you do.
And therein lies the issue, the more you try to get better and the more you want to be ok, you’ll often find, the worse you feel.
When you care too much about not feeling anxious, the stress and worry this produces creates the very thing you were trying to avoid.
You’re giving anxiety its fuel by showing yourself the power it has over you.
Isn’t it time you cut off that fuel?
Why fighting anxiety is wrong
When something is not right in our lives we want to do something about it.
So it seems logical to try and fight the way you feel and spend as much time as you can looking into what can be done to feel well again.
But, by trying to internally fight your anxiety, all it will do is focus yourself and your thoughts inwards and this inward thinking is the very reason your anxiety was able to begin.
Over the years, although I found many things which helped ease my anxiety and improved the way I felt, nothing worked as well as just leaving it alone.
This does not mean hiding away and using avoidance to try and control it, it simply means to just let it be and allow it to do whatever it wants to do.
It’s not easy, because your mind is telling you something is wrong and doing nothing feels like completely the wrong thing to do.
But when you’re able to stop fighting it and just let it be, you’ll find you will be able to stop caring about it and just let it go.
This is what enables you to remove its fuel and to stop perpetuating the cycle.
Only your thoughts create the anxiety
In order to see why letting go of your thoughts and stopping caring how you feel is so crucial in recovery, you firstly need to understand one important thing:
Only you create the anxiety, it’s not the situations or world around you which make you anxious, it’s your thoughts about them which do.
Let me give you an example to show how this works…
Two people are both getting ready to attend a big party.
Jack is busy getting showered and dressed, he’s got the music on loud and he’s been texting his mate to organise what time they are meeting there. He hasn’t even thought about the party, just that he’s looking for a good fun night out.
Jill on the other hand is sat around trying to get ready but is spending more time thinking about the night ahead than getting dressed. Who will be there? What questions will people ask about me? Will there be a point when everyone’s eyes are on me while I’m talking? Will my mind go blank and will I freeze in front of everyone? With each thought she is getting more and more nervous about the party.
By the time they both arrive Jack is feeling great and ready for the night ahead, while Jill is on the edge of a panic attack and thinking about turning around and heading home.
Now this is the same party, with the same people at the same place, yet we have two people with completely different reactions.
Their thoughts, nothing else.
The party is just as safe for Jill as it is for Jack, yet by thinking and believing her thoughts she has ended up a near nervous wreck.
Letting go of your thinking
A lot of anxious thinking is uncontrollable, it’s also often subconscious which means you can feel anxious without really knowing what you’re even worrying about.
Eventually you get to a place where the anxious thinking is just about feeling anxious in the first place.
This is often the point at which you vow to try and fight it, but as we have seen, doing this only fuels your anxiety further.
The only option seems to be avoidance, to shy away from anything which you makes you feel on edge.
Now although this may reduce the extreme anxiety and panic, the general day to day anxiety will always persist.
But there is another way, and that’s to learn to let go of your thoughts.
So what does this mean?
It means to be able to have your anxious thoughts and feelings and not try and fight them, but at the same time, to understand they are just thoughts and that they do not mean anything.
Everyone has anxious thoughts, but the difference between an anxious person and a non anxious person is that the non anxious person just pays them little or no attention.
By doing this they do not provide the fuel to have that same thought over and over again.
When you do continually focus on them, it often leads to new and ever more frightening thinking and you become stuck inside the anxiety trap.
Thought on top of thought, feeling on top of feeling, and the mind just cannot cope, it stops working properly and it ends up making you feel the way you do.
Thankfully it’s not broken, it’s just got lost inside itself.
The only way to fix it is to give it the time and space it needs to recover, by not piling on more stress and worry by continuing to over think every thought you go through.
How to stop over thinking
You over think your thoughts because they mean so much to you.
When you think something scary or worrying you believe it and this creates the fear your anxiety feeds off.
Now even though I don’t know you, I’m going to tell you this…
The majority of thoughts you have in a day are nothing more than a load of pointless crap
They mean nothing, they are nothing, they’re just your mind chewing the fat.
Yet when you have a good thought and are feeling upbeat and happy, you don’t question why you’re feeling the way you do.
So why put so much time and effort into the negative thoughts, surely it is better just to treat them in the same way, and just accept that you have these too?
Real useful thinking is done when you’re focused on something tricky; a problem at work, learning a new skill or your next move in a game of chess.
Funnily enough these are often the moments when your anxiety seems better because the more useful and worthwhile thinking is occupying your mind instead.
The majority of the rest of your daily idle thinking is nothing more than random thoughts and feelings which just because you have them, doesn’t mean they have any basis in fact.
If you’ve ever seen a person get the wrong end of the stick before and fly off the handle at someone, it is simply because they had a thought about the situation which was not true.
Once corrected, they realise the truth and the original thought goes away and they return to being calm again.
So let me be the the person to correct you:
The anxious thoughts you are having are not true, they are just thoughts, nothing else.
Don’t fight them, don’t try and push them from your mind, just allow them to be and when you stop reacting to them they will gradually lose their power and you will just naturally stop thinking them.
Now this might sound easier said then done, so here are some steps you can use:
- Allow the thought or thoughts to just be, let your mind wander and do not try to fight it or distract yourself
- Allow yourself to feel anxious, even invite it on because you know it cannot hurt you, it’s simply your reaction to a thought on top of your already stressed out mind
- Remind yourself that just because you are thinking something doesn’t make it true
- Smile and even laugh at yourself because you realise how much better this is than fearing a thought
- Remain like this until the thoughts start to fade and then go and get on with your day
What you are doing here is allowing your mind to go through the process without fighting or reacting to it.
If you try to fight or react then all you are doing is adding to the stress and anxiety and making it worse. This is what then keeps the mind in a state of perpetual anxiety and leads to more and more anxious thoughts.
When you’re able to stop caring about your thinking and just let it go you’ll find those thoughts stop being so scary, your anxiety doesn’t get its fuel and it begins to create less and less anxious thoughts.
However, you will always get a certain amount of negative and anxious thoughts, I still do on a range of things.
The difference now?
I’m just not interested in them, they hold little to no weight in their importance and I am able to just let them slide on by. Sometimes the absurdity of them really does make me laugh!
I’m not trying to stop them or fight them, I’m just treating them the way they should be treated, as something which is of absolutely no threat to me.
I remain calm and my anxiety is not spiked.
Why does this work
Your mind can only cope with so much. So when you spend all your time overthinking everything you get to the point when, just like a computer, it literally starts to crash.
You then start to feel anxious, spaced out and you notice something is wrong because your brain is no longer functioning as it should.
But by not fighting the thoughts and instead just observing them and not reacting to them, you are giving your mind the space it needs to work efficiently again.
It wants to work well, and by stopping adding further stress from every new thought, you’ll give it the break it needs to do so.
When doing this, try not to think of this as you ‘beating’ your anxiety, you are not. Instead you are simply removing the fuel which powers it and letting the mind heal itself.
This will take time and you’ll have good and bad days, and during those bad moments you will start telling yourself that you should be trying to do something and that you need to fight it again.
But you must resist this urge and continue to just let the thoughts flow. Put no value on them and just let go of the way you feel.
Do not care if you feel anxious or not, if you mind wants to chatter away, then just let it.
Remember, that just because you’re now not fighting your thoughts but just allowing them to be, you haven’t stopped the anxiety, you’ve just ended your battle with it.
It will still come and go but, just as before, those thoughts and feelings will pass and you need to do nothing else but allow the process to flow.
Don’t fall for its tricks making you believe that something is wrong and that you have to do something about it.
Because when you truly stop caring about how you feel and let go of your thoughts by seeing them for what they are, then and only then will you remove the power anxiety has over you.
In turn, this is what will allow your mind to heal.
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