How to challenge your irrational anxiety
Sometimes, anxiety just chatters away in our head, moving from one worse case scenario to another. Do you ever notice how when that happens you hardly ever end up on top? Anxiety tells us a lot of stories and almost none of them have happy endings.
Our minds are made to keep this chattering going, to make sure that we're safe and protected. Have you ever noticed that your anxious thoughts are irrational? Yet they completely take over, logic begone.
I invite you to challenge those anxious thoughts, especially the worst-case-scenario ones that are especially illogical. Heres how:
1. Allow yourself to write down or think specifically about what you're worried about.
If I don't pass this exam, I will not graduate, I will be broke, and my parents will hate me.
2. Ask yourself: How likely is it that your worry will come true? Give examples of past experiences, or other evidence, to support your answer.
I haven't studied very much, but I have only ever completely failed one other test in my life. I might do very bad, as I don't understand this material, but it will only be one class. It is unlikely I'll completely fail out of college, and even if I disappoint my parents, they love me.
3. If your worry does come true, what is the *worst* that could realistically happen?
If I fail this exam, the worst that could happen is that I don't pass this class and I will have to retake it. If I really cannot pass this class, I will have to switch majors because it's required.
4. If you worry does come true, what is the *most likely* to happen?
If I fail this exam, I might be able to make it up later in the semester, or get a different instructor or a tutor next time.
5. If your worry does come true, what are the chances that you'll be okay.... in one week? ___% In one month? ___% In one year? ___%
In one week, there is a 40% chance I'll be okay. In one month, it's 80%. In one year, I will 100% be okay.
Next time you notice your anxiety telling you a story, invite yourself to write a different narrative instead. One inviting reality to make an appearance. One where you are wonderful exactly as you are. One where people love being around you and cherish your thoughts. One where your anxiety doesn’t get to tell you what kind of person you are or how you have messed everything up. Anxiety is a damn good storyteller, but you can be better.