When was the last you had a passing, somewhat intrusive thought that appeared to come out of nowhere, from way outside your immediate realm of collective thoughts?
If you’re like most people, then the answer might be closer than you initially realized.
Now, we all get wound up between fleeting and excessive thoughts sometimes and that becomes the new normal (unless you mindfully train yourself to think less and drop the thoughts). You see, now and then (more frequently than we might like it to be actually), we all have passing thoughts that might seem out of our control.
When they begin to consume you, they can pose a serious chronic problem. Because overthinking activates the same parts of the brain that are involved in fear and anxiety, psychologists believe people with a history of anxiety disorder are more vulnerable to this state of mind.
How Our Brains Respond to Anxiety.
Our thoughts can manifest as physical reactions in our bodies. Our bodies, in response to the flight-or-fight response, trigger stress hormones into the bloodstream the moment they’re subjected to any type of anxiety. These stress hormones, if not put to rest in quick time, can manifest in responses such as accelerated heartbeat, headaches, nausea, sweating, muscle tension, stammering, and trembling. Worse, over time and due to negligence, they can also weaken the immune system and leave us vulnerable to a host of ailments.
For some, intrusive thoughts might be an everyday routine, making it the trigger for periods of panic and intense anxiety. They might also be the result of anxiety itself and can add a layer of fear and stress to what the person is already experiencing.
These types of intrusive thoughts can be overwhelming, forcing the person to think of them to obsess about them. For instance, you have a task in front of you. It’s simple and straightforward.
You’ve probably even done it before. But the thoughts in your head might overload you with endless information and possibilities, most of which might be unnecessary and unwanted.
“What if something unknown crops up, what might those unknown things be, and will I be able to handle it?” “What if I can’t, what if I fail, will I be judged? “What if I get a panic attack when I’m doing this task?”
These thoughts are very real and put the person experiencing them into a frenzy, sometimes even forcing them to opt-out of the task.
Negative and Unwanted Thoughts
Sometimes, these thoughts might seem outside of our character too. The content may feel unknown, unlikely, bizarre and perhaps even hostile too. And because they seem so radical, they can come back to haunt us time and again, triggering feelings of guilt, disgust, anguish, despair, and helplessness.
If experiencing these thoughts aren’t stressful enough, the person might have to constantly live in the fear of enacting them out. This lethal combination of guilt and fear can make one feel less worthy, forcing them to be withdrawn and secretive of their condition.
The more you try and avoid them, the stronger they return. The more you try and reason out with them, the more vehement they become. It can look like a vicious cycle with no escape route. Only there is. Not one, but several doors to a calmer and more peaceful mind space.
Here are some effective ways to help silence those thoughts:
Accept that these thoughts are automatic and might come and go at their will. Don’t avoid them.
Remind yourself that they are unimportant, intrusive thoughts that do not define or become you.
Believe that this time too will pass. Give yourself time.
Expect the thoughts to come back again.
Remind yourself that you are above it and will be prepared to address it when it does come back.
Continue with your tasks, focus on doing them well. Be aware of the anxiety, but don’t engage with or attach to it. The tasks might help you achieve this.