We have about 60,000 thoughts a day.
If you put high anxiety into the mix, you could probably add another 10,000 to that tally.
It’s impossible to try and control all these thoughts, but it is possible to manage them better.
Here are five powerful ways to help you deal with negative and OCD-related thoughts.
1. Recognise the useless thoughts
If you look at most of the thoughts you have on a daily basis, a high percentage of them will be useless and negative. What thoughts are keeping you trapped? Which thoughts are limiting you and stopping you from living your life? These are the ones you need to let go of, and not dwell on or hang on to. The more power you give these thoughts, the more your life will be dominated by negativity.
2. Don’t fight your thoughts
It’s a little like trying to fight with anxiety – pointless. You can’t win a fight against something that is well and truly implanted in you. Rather than fight the thoughts that are no go for you, accept them, no matter how bizarre they might be. Don’t sit there saying I’m fine I’m fine I’m fine if you’re not. Accept that you’re not having a good day. The acceptance will give you immediate comfort.
3. Rationalise and challenge your thoughts
If you don’t do an OCD related task or routine, will there be a consequence? If you’re convinced there will be, what is your reasoning based on? Can you predict the future? It’s time to start dealing in facts, and facts will tell you that nobody suffered from a consequence they made up in their head.
4. Stop catastrophizing
When you’re anxious, you always think the worse. You enter the world of what if…? and in this world nothing is good. Everything goes wrong, and there is always a catastrophe waiting to happen. Grab hold of those what ifs…. and don’t allow them to spiral onto more negativity.
5. Divert your negative thoughts
The more you internalise your thoughts and hold them within, the more power they’ll have on you. Release your thoughts by going outside of yourself. The most effective way of doing this is by helping others. Ask somebody how their day was and listen to them. By doing this, your negative thoughts are being healthily diverted away from your mind, being replaced by positive thoughts – the sort of thoughts that will enhance your day, not destroy it.
You might say these things are easier said than done. But are they? Who has the power over your thoughts if it’s not you?
One of my favourite quotes is from George Adair.
‘Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.’
I like it because it’s so true.
Everything you want is on the other side of fear, and to get what you want, you have to break through your fear.
You can also call fear anxiety, apprehension, or worry if you like. It links to everything we do, including what, where, when, and how we do things.
Fear can either push you to achieve things you never thought possible, or keep you frozen to the same spot.
Maybe you’ve got a big goal in mind, like overcoming agoraphobia, social anxiety, health anxiety, or you want to be able to get a plane? Or maybe you just want to ask somebody out on a date?
Using this three-step simple technique, it will help you breakthrough your fears, so you can start moving forward in a positive direction.
1. The Upside vs the Downside
Think about the goal you want to achieve – something you’ve been fearful of doing. Now, out of 10 (ten being the worst thing that can happen), rate the downside of you trying it and it not working. Let’s say, for this example, it’s a 5. Now, rate the upside of you doing it and it working. It’s a 10/10, right? Rate the upside against the downside, and if the upside outweighs the downside, go for it!
2. Pain and Pleasure
We do things to either get pleasure or to avoid pain. Avoiding pain is where the power lies, because we’re much more likely to do something to avoid pain. That’s why I want you to think about what your life would look like in five years if you didn’t overcome your fear. What would it mean to you? How would you feel? Now think about the pleasure it would bring to your life if you overcame the fear. What difference would it make to your life? How different would your life be?
3. I’m Excited!
There is an emotion that shares the same feelings we get when we’re anxious. You probably guessed it from the title. Being excited is the same as being anxious. We get an adrenaline rush when both of these things happen. Next time you get anxious or scared, I want you to tell yourself: ‘I’m excited!’. It’s much easier to transform anxiety, fear and panic into excitement compared to calmness because being calm is the opposite feeling. So, the next time you’re faced with a challenge, tell yourself: ‘I’m excited!’. This will be the final hurdle to help you push past your fear.
Go make it happen.
When anxiety bites, it’s the worst feeling in the world.
It takes over your body and mind, and before you know it, you’re totally consumed by it.
When you get into the habit of using these three quick and easy techniques, you will instantly break its grip on you, and stop your anxiety escalating.
1. Change your physical state
You can change how you feel in an instant by changing your physical state. How does an anxious person look and act? Pacing up and down, biting nails, a look of terror on their face, and quick breathing, right? All these acts are sending a message to their brain saying: ‘continue to be anxious’. Do the opposite to break the cycle. Slow your breathing down, put an instant smile on your face, and watch your favourite comedian and start laughing. You might not feel like it - but that’s the point. It’s the hardest acting job in Hollywood, but you have to fake it ‘til you make it. With time and practice, this will get easier to do.
2. Change your environment
When you begin to feel anxiety biting, don’t stand still. Anxiety will catch up and attack you. Immediately change your environment. Get out the house. Get in the car and go for a drive. Go for a walk, cycle or run, and burn off that excess energy caused by anxiety. Water only stagnates when it’s not moving. It goes from clear to murky when there’s no flow. Keep moving and don’t stand still.
3. Realign your focus
Whatever you focus on you’ll get more of. Keep your focus on anxiety, and there are no prizes for guessing what you’ll get in return. Rather than focus on those racing negative thoughts, focus on something you can control – like the next action you’re going to take to change how you feel. Make that next action to focus on the present moment. Most of our anxiety comes from what has happened in the past and worrying about what will happen in the future. These things become insignificant when we appreciate that the only thing that is real is this moment, right now. Get back to being present.
ABOUT CARL VERNON
Carl Vernon is a best-selling author & speaker, talking and writing about all things anxiety, stress & well-being.