People who experience difficulty with emotional regulation often falls into one of two groups. The first group will be those who act impulsively without thinking things through. The second group will be those who become so emotionally disturbed by their thoughts, that they become upset and over restrained. In some cases they also develop panic attacks. The 4 steps towards emotional regulation will be focused on the second group.
What makes Anxious Thoughts Unbearable?
Anxious thoughts become unbearable when the thoughts rapidly transition from on worse case scenario to the next. Before the person has fully imagined just how awful his or her life could get he or she transitions to an even worse scenario.
After several cycles of this negative thought process, the person typically becomes handicapped by his or her feelings associated with the anxious thoughts. This handicap may look like a panic attack or a milder version where the person stops engaging in productive activities.
Changing Your Thoughts
The obvious solution to this situation would be to change your anxious thinking to thinking which influences you to feel calm. This is obviously easier said that done, as people in these situations tend to become emotionally stuck. This makes any on going problems they are dealing with worse, as they disengage from their daily activities.
The following are 4 steps towards strategically transitioning from anxious thinking to more a rational and calmer thinking process.
Step 1 Acknowledge the Negative Thoughts
The first step is to acknowledge your anxious thoughts. It is highly recommended that you write down your anxious thoughts. The mere act of writing down your anxious thoughts helps you take a break from ruminating as you focus on writing down what your inner mind is telling you. This process where you are involved in listening to your inner mind, also influences you to begin exercising calm in the moment.
Step 2 Pick a Healthier Thoughts
Once you have listened to your inner mind, you will then pick thoughts that are the opposite of what you were worried about. For example, if you are worried about the possibility of having failing health, you will then pick thoughts regarding you having excellent health. It is normal during this exercise, for people to find picking an alternative thought unrealistic. Especially if they are faced with evidence which validates their worry. It is important to remember that worrying does not solve problems. Instead, what solves problems are planned actions.
So go ahead and pick healthier alternative thoughts, don’t worry about if you don’t have a plan to bring these thoughts to reality, just write these thoughts down, and make sure they are the exact opposite of what you are worried about.
Step 3 Identify Feelings Associated with the New Thoughts
The next step after you identify healthier thoughts to focus on, will be to identify natural and logical feelings you will experience with these new thoughts. So, if you are experiencing health complications which have you worried, a natural thought to focus on would be one where your body heals itself. The feelings which would accompany these thoughts would be synonymous to relief and joy. So next to the healthier and preferred thoughts you have identified, go ahead and write down the positive feelings which would go along with these thoughts.
Step 4 Create an Action Plan
By the time you reach step 4, you would have been focusing on positive thoughts and feelings for some time. This means that you have successfully transitioned out of your previous anxious state, and subsequently stopped your anxious thinking.
Next you will now be tasked with refining your healthier thoughts for the purpose of making them a reality. By refining, I mean making them more feasibly to put into practice. Remember, the goal is to get you to a more calm and relaxed mindset. Your action plan should be detailed oriented and a plan you can come back to, for the purpose of keeping track of your progress and making revisions.
For more severe cases, you will most likely benefit from the services of a therapist.
Ugo Uche is a psychotherapist and expert in anxiety and related disorders. If you would like to learn more, you are welcome to call and book your first appointment or fill out my contact form and click Send.
Ugo also provides Online therapy for those who cannot travel to his office.