You can’t enter a battlefield armed with only an arsenal of interrogative statements. However, acquiring a database of questions can definitely tame a few pesky weeds. For example, I might worry intensely every day. But maybe I can search inside myself to transfigure at least a good chunk of those worrisome thoughts into a mindset focused on recovery. Questions are a great medium to begin identifying and treating anxiety-related thoughts. Even then, your mind might still feel like a ship with holes in its rudder, and when water floods inside, you’re overwhelmed with nerves. I myself knew that I was too stuck on small matters, so I remedied sessions and readings to help me. I’ve learned from those experiences that some questions are worth asking more – and these ones may help propel you to begin treating anxiety’s intense grip.
Anxiety is an enraged chihuahua. It starts off small, but when intimidated it can bark and snap like a rottweiler. No doubt, it’s difficult to identify when a thought is related to anxiety or a separate issue. But what’s it like identify an anxiety-related thought and converge it into the light of clarity? Let’s begin with these questions to help pinpoint a thought which may make you anxious.
1. Is this thought rational, realistic, and self-respectful?
2. Do people whose opinions I trust and respect agree that this thought is irrational, unhelpful, and unrealistic?
3. Is this thought balanced with healthy thinking or is it exaggerated and rigid in nature?
4. What thinking errors might this thought rest on?
5. What does this thought mean about me?
6. Would I suggest someone close to me to engage with this thought?
7. What unhealthy meaning did I attach to a preceding event which lead a behavior?
8. What are some behaviors, emotions, and thoughts associated with engaging this thought?
9. What mental health professional should I ask to help identify a thought?
10. Am I remembering a traumatic experience or am I too stuck on something else?
With practice, you’ll determine an anxiety-related thought in a breeze. Don’t give up even if those thoughts still tend to cocoon in the dark environment below your consciousness. Just properly labeling some of them as anxiety thoughts at least some of the time can help reduce their intensity. Now the next question is, how can we manage them?
Embarking on a journey to interpret and differentiate the lump of thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors that make up your mind is exhilarating. I’ll let you in a secret: when I was younger, I used to hang out with some of my most self-destructive core beliefs. Self-destructive meant that they exacerbated anxiety, compulsive behaviors, and unhealthy emotions like rage and profound sadness. Core beliefs are essentially the main essences of how we perceive the world. You should know that I haven’t tackled my self-destructive core beliefs completely, but am slowly managing and subduing them. So if you’re ready, let’s get to it!
1. What’s a core belief behind a self-destructive behavior?
2. What’s a more realistic, rational, and self-respectful meaning to attach to an event which I am likely to experience unhealthy thinking from?
3. What are the effects of forming beliefs about an unhealthy core belief and acting upon it for myself, others, in the short-term, and long-run?
4. How can I dispute an unhealthy belief with a healthier one until the healthier one is more probable to choose?
5. Am I taking care of my daily hygiene well?
6. Am I breathing normally?
7. What is one thing I can observe and focus on to help benefit myself right now?
8. What assignments did a mental health professional suggest I work on?
9. How can I aline the assignments I am working on with the ones I’ve worked on before?
10. How much do I feel comfortable sharing with a mental health professional?
I’m not the one to feel afraid to admit that I live with self-destructive, anxiety-related thoughts and am tempted to act according to them often. I’ve come to believe that managing those thoughts is far from enough. You still have to make time to help yourself recover! So this leads us to our final, possibly most important question: how can I treat myself well?
Treating Yourself Well
Treating yourself well is a continuum of self-care, self-respect, self-acceptance and value. The problem is that sometimes people teach us to believe that statuses of power and pleasure are what qualify for this hallmark of mental health. Don’t fret though, learning the skill of treating yourself well or even better than before is ubiquitous because therapists, mental health workers, psychiatrists, family and friends, can teach it and personalize it for you. Finally, let’s ask these questions to help find the unique mind in that machine of yours.
1. What’s something exciting and new I can incorporate into my daily routine?
2. Is there any valid criticism which I used to find offensive but can now dissect and catalyze into self-improvement?
3. What are some virtues and personal principles that will help me aline with who I ultimately want to become (e.g. politics, spirituality, relationships, career)?
4. What’s an interest worth pursuing that will help me get outside and meet new people?
5. What’s a healthy recipe I can prepare today that looks tasty?
6. How much time and effort should I allocate into enjoying and relaxing myself daily?
7. Who have I communicated with today has also made me feel better?
8. What communities and groups need to hear my voice?
9. What enjoyable physical activity am I willing to work on?
10. What’s something soothing and peaceful I can add into my nightly routine?
I’m not going to lie to you. It can take years – even decades to recover. Regardless, I hope you experiment with these questions. If one doesn’t suit you, work on another. Try asking yourself one during a tense situation, when you feel lost, and just to admit to yourself that you deserve better. Finally, what should you ask yourself to cope with anxiety?
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Author: Tiana Clark
Tiana is a high school student who imagines. She's dedicated to transforming any life into something remarkable. You can also find her writing at Lifehack.