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Keeping Anxious Thoughts in Perspective

if you suffer from very anxious thoughts then a helpful approach is often to try to put them in perspective by reminding yourself in a balanced way of what the reality of the situation is. Ask yourself some questions to challenge your negative perceptions, such as:

How to Put Anxious Thoughts in Perspective

Let's look at the hypothetical case of Tom who experiences anxiety and see how he might put his anxiety in perspective by reminding himself in a balanced way of the reality of situations he is in:

Tom experiences high levels of anxiety when he has to attend meetings at work. he doesn't tend to say that much at meetings as he worries about making a fool of himself or attracting criticism from others. He has a meeting to attend tomorrow where he knows he is going to be called upon to give an update on a project he is working on. He is worried that he will not savy very much and that the others at the meeting will think he is incompetent.

Tom experiments with 4 different techniques to create statements to put his anxiety into a realistic context and perspective:

Technique 1: Imagining what you might say to a friend who was in a similar situation with similar worries.

Technique 2: Trying to assess objectively evidence both for and against his anxious conclusion in a balanced way without exagerrating or minimising the positives.

Technique 3: Facing the fear - examing how serious it would be even if the anxious conclusion or prediction were true and what you could do if it happens.

Technique 4: Looking from a different perspective - what is another way of looking at the situation at the whole which is more constructive.

Tom comes up with 4 different possible reminders to help him balance out his anxious worry that he will make a fool of himself in the meeting:

 

Anxious Thought

Technique used
(see above)

Putting the anxious thought in perspective
'I'll say something stupid and make a fool of myself'
1
'Write down the main points you want to make in advance, then do your best. You'll probably do fine and many of the people may not notice anyway!'
As above
2
'Sometimes you may appear nervous in meetings but on the whole you have had good feedback.'
As above
3
'Even if you do say something stupid, it's unlikely to jeopardise your job. There are plenty of aspects of your job you are good at.'
As above
4
'If you keep it short, some of your colleagues may be grateful as they think the meetings are too long anyway!'

 

To help allay his anxiety Tom reminds himself of these points as he feels his anxiety rising. It helps to keep him calmer as he prepares for the meeting and when he attends it he is able to get through his presentation without the extreme problems that he was worrying about.

Try any of the Techniques 1-4 above
to help you put your own anxious thoughts in perspective when they occur.


 

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