What is common amongst anxiety-based disorders (e.g., social anxiety, OCD, panic disorder) is that it’s often caused by distorted, negative, critical, and biased ways of thinking. To be more specific, when you are feeling anxious your emotions are being influenced by what and how you think. This is the central principle and theory behind cognitive-based therapies, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy.
So, what’s the secret to stopping thinking in negative and biased ways? You have to challenge negative thinking with more balanced thoughts. Notice that the goal is not to think more positively. The goal is to make your thinking more balanced and evidence-based.
Questions to help balance your thinking
To help you understand what I mean by balanced thinking, imagine the following situation: You are busy doing your work and all of a sudden you boss contacts you. She says she wants to see you in her office right away.
An example of negative and biased thinking is that you might tell yourself, “On no! I bet you she’s going to fire me!” Or, “She heard about that thing I did last week and I’m going to get in trouble for it. That’s it. I’m doomed.”
In order to think more balanced thoughts, ask yourself the following questions:
- Where is the evidence or proof that I’m going to get in trouble?
- What are some other reasons for why this happened or is happening?
- What is the worst thing that could happen? How likely is it that the worst thing will happen?
- How much will this matter in 1 week? in 1month? In 6 months? In 1 year? Will I even remember this in 5-years from now?
- When I think to myself “I’m going to get fired,” is this fact or opinion?
Again, if you notice that you are uncomfortable about your emotional state, pay attention to what you are thinking. Chances are that you are likely making assumptions or predictions over things that are not completely true or for which you have no knowledge about.
Hope this tip helps with your change, healing, and growth.