Learn to change Unhelpful thinking styles
In the previous article we saw how physical factors such as low levels of fitness and poor health can make symptoms of stress and anxiety, worse. We also looked at various techniques to help deal with panic attacks or extreme anxiety and now will examine the negative thinking styles or thoughts that can make you more vulnerable to these problems.
How we interpret experiences and situations will influence how we feel about them and hence our emotional responses. For example, if you think you are going to have a panic attack in a crowded shopping centre, you may find yourself very nervous and anticipating the attack, every time you go shopping. By predicting anxiety, you increase the risk of a panic attack happening. Then once the attack happens, it strengthens the belief that you will always have a panic attack in that situation and that it is inevitable. Thus you have given yourself a negative message!
Another unhelpful aspect of these interpretations is that they are over-generalisations. For example, after having a panic attack on a train, you may assume that you will have similar attacks on all forms of public transport, thus creating a vicious cycle of avoidance of all situations that you predict will lead to anxiety but never testing them out to see if they are false. Before too long, you may become locked into a restricted and fearful life.
Here are some examples of negative thinking styles:
Having identified your negative thinking styles, the next step is to change those to more appropriate and positive ones. There are three ways of challenging your negative thoughts:
To practice challenging negative thoughts, it is often helpful to keep a record of them for a period of time, as shown below.
List Your Negative thoughts in various stressful situations;
The next stage is to substitute more positive thoughts for the unhelpful negative ones. Taking your situations from the last example, substitute a positive thought for the negative one listed. At first this may seem difficult but will become easier with practice. It is often helpful to have someone else help you with ideas, at this stage.
Next; examining ways of dealing with the physical sensations of anxiety and panic.