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6 Ways To Deal With Irrational Thoughts And Anxiety
We fall victim to irrational thoughts every now and then, particularly when we are feeling vulnerable.
Perhaps we make leaps of logic, get paranoid, or jump to conclusions, such as thinking, “Why wasn’t I invited to that party? Am I out of the loop? Are they all talking about me behind my back? Am I a social pariah now?”
Sometimes we think the worst of a situation – after a bad breakup for example, thinking, “No one will want me now. I’m damaged goods. I will remain single until I’m old and grey, until I die in front of the TV, only to be found days later, partially-eaten by my cats.”
Perhaps we become superstitious – “They didn’t win the game because the MVP wasn’t wearing his lucky shirt” – or think in terms of absolutes – “If I don’t get this job, that’s it for me. I’ll never work in the industry again. I might as well go to vocational school and start all over again.”
The problem with such thoughts is that they bring with them unwarranted anxiety and stress. If you would rather not experience the emotional fallout due to irrationality, there are ways to arrest this kind of thinking.
1. Consider negativity as a red flag. Irrationality is often characterized by negativity. Perhaps the idea came from your own insecurity or it could have been an insinuation from another person that you somehow internalized. But whenever you put forth a thesis that somehow brings you down, stop. Take a step back. Ask yourself: what is the basis of this idea that I have? Am I being paranoid? Am I blowing this incident way out of proportion? Am I being inflexible? More importantly, if I continue with this line of thought, is it in any way conducive to personal growth? Am I not hurting myself with this kind of thinking?
2. Turn negativity into affirmation. Decide not to passively accept defeatist and irrational thinking. Ask yourself: “So what? Even if it were true, does it necessarily mean that I am powerless to change it?” Restructure your thinking in such a way as to encourage positive change: “I will rise above this. I will not put myself down. I believe I am a good person and I deserve to be happy.”
3. Meditate and be mindful of your strengths and weaknesses. Meditation is one way of keeping yourself grounded, and keeping your thoughts in line. It can be partly introspection, partly therapy. You can discipline your mind to be calm as you sort out these thoughts, plucking out the ideas that cause the worst damage and the ideas that are just harmless spins from your mind’s meandering. Face your fears from a safe headspace.
4. Ask for advice. You are not alone. Do not be embarrassed to ask for advice. You may also compare your version of reality with that of other people, particularly those people close to you whom you can count on to tell you the truth. This is not about letting other people think for you – it’s about looking at all sides of the equation. So you have a theory. Test your theory. Gather more data. Compare or contrast. Alter your version so that it encompasses more than just your narrow viewpoint. This is also a way of gaining perspective.
5. Be kind to yourself. You are not the first person to think or behave irrationally. You will not be the last. People do it all the time. The point is not that you have irrational thoughts but what you do to minimize their impact on you. Maybe, just maybe, your over-thinking is just a signal to take better care of yourself. Are you eating or sleeping right? Manage your habits. Are you stressed at work and haven’t had a vacation in a while? Go on leave and pamper yourself a little. You do not have to be strong all of the time. You do not always have to have your ducks in a row. Give yourself a break.