While doing my usual weekly research on the subject of anxiety, I wondered about the cause of anxious thoughts. I mean, where do anxious thoughts come from? Is it simply enough to say that they are a result of generalized anxiety disorder?
With generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), you’d expect to suffer from anxious thoughts. But what about people who don’t have generalized anxiety disorder? Everyone can have anxious thoughts whether they usually have high anxiety symptoms or not.
Anxious Thoughts Are Not Real – where do anxious thoughts come from?
The heading above may take some people by surprise. Many folks would undoubtedly argue that anxious thoughts are definitely real, but I have to tell you that they are not.
Most, if not all anxious thoughts are about events that are going to take place in the future. They are anticipatory anxiety thoughts. Because they are simply imagined outcomes, they are not real outcomes at this point in time. This thought leads to the logical conclusion that anxious thoughts are not real.
Anxious thoughts come from you. The future event that you feel anxious about has no control over your anxiety. That event is simply waiting to happen, but you are waiting for it to happen with problems. Who says that it will cause problems? You do.
Examples of Anxiety Thoughts:
- What if I meet her and I can’t think of anything to say?
- What if my mouth dries-up while giving my speech next week?
- What will happen if I’m too nervous on my driving test?
- What will everyone think if I fail my exams?
- What if I am not merely shy, but I actually have a social anxiety disorder?
- What happens if he doesn’t like me when he meets me?
- What do I do if I don’t do well in my job interview?
- How will I look if I don’t have anything to say at the meeting?
The list above could go on and on.
My Anxiety Formula and How It Helps Combat Anxiety Symptoms
Many years ago I came up with a way to express my own anxiety. My formula goes like this:
- Your level of anxiety is equal to the amount of importance that you place upon the event.
Simply put, the more important the upcoming event is to you, the more anxious you will be. After all, we don’t tend to get anxious about things that don’t matter to us, do we!
Events such as exams, job interviews, and passing driving tests are all pretty high on people’s ‘importance’ list. Events like these have the right to make you anxious, don’t they?
Not in my book!
The heading for this section says: “My Anxiety Formula and How It Helps Combat Anxiety Symptoms.” So where does the last part of my title get a mention? The combatting bit?
Because my formula reads: Your level of anxiety is equal to the amount of importance that you place upon the event. It also makes sense that anxiety can be reduced if you reduce the significance of the event.
So here’s how I started to reduce the importance of events to reduce my anxiety. Three examples for you. You’ll quickly begin to see a common theme emerging:
- What happens if I don’t do well in my job interview? Reduce the level of importance —> I won’t get that job, and I’ll have to apply for another one.
- What will happen if I’m too nervous on my driving test? Reduce the level of importance —> I’ll probably fail it, and I’ll have to retake it at some point.
- How will I look if I don’t have anything to say at the meeting? Reduce the level of importance —> I’ll probably look dumb and won’t be invited to the next meeting.
The format for reducing the importance of the event is to answer the question in a blatantly obvious way. It’s like asking: What happens if I eat a lot of food? The blatantly obvious answer is that you’ll feel very full!
With most of our anxious thoughts (which are mainly What If questions), the usual tendency is to leave the question unanswered. Instead of giving a 100% honest reply, we brood over the problem for hours, days or even weeks. It’s no wonder that our minds can’t rest and let go of the anxious thoughts because we are avoiding answering the fundamental question that would calm down the anxiety. Just answer the question!
Here’s an additional tip though, when you give the honest reply to the question, answer it in a very casual manner. Answer the question as if the question were something straightforward such as: What are you reading right now? The answer: I’m reading a post about anxious thoughts. See how easy it is? Once a question gets answered, the mind feels able to let go of the question because it has been resolved. No anxious questions are remaining on the subject.
In answering the question posed in the title of this post, where do anxious thoughts come from? The answer is that they come from you. But what you haven’t been doing is answering the questions that the anxious thoughts have been asking. And as you have seen above, the answers are really simple.
You don’t need to do an internet search for ‘how to stop unwanted thoughts‘ or ‘anxiety thoughts and feelings’ you simply have to give your mind answers to the questions that it asks you. Anxious thoughts are just questions, so answer them and answer them 100% truthfully. Your mind will understand that you are being totally honest and that you aren’t trying to play any tricks on it, so it will readily accept your answers.
Give it a try!