Why do thoughts make us anxious?

why do our thoughts make us anxious

Do thoughts make us anxious?

Well, not all thoughts of course! There is such a thing as positive worry, which is the polar opposite to the worry we all know, which is negative worry.

Negative worry is using thoughts and images to predict the future. This could be something that you feel is imminent, or something ominous further into the future. These predictions, or assumptions, can lead us to feel very anxious as the brain senses the information as threatening. Once threat is established the brain will issue the fight or flight response.

This response readies us for a fight or an escape. So, the heart rate will increase, breathing becomes choppy, dizziness is experienced, there is an adrenaline rush, and the blood is pumped into the muscles. Now this response is ideal in the face of real threat as it would help us to evade danger, or if we have no other choice than to defend ourselves, it helps us to fight!

However, thoughts are not real but the reptilian brain picks up the information as very real, hence the anxiety. So why do thoughts make us anxious?

The level of belief you invest in an anxious thought will determine the level of anxiety you feel.

We worry for a number of reasons. To prepare ourselves for a bad outcome, to try and solve the worry somehow through thought, or to magically make it not happen. I often hear clients say that if they worry about something, they keep it in check, whereas if they take their eye off the ball, it may be likely to come true!

So what kind of thoughts make us anxious?

It could any kind of thought from worrying about seeing your boss for a meeting, to worrying about not paying a bill on time, right the way through to thinking more catastrophic thoughts about harm to members of your family, or health worries etc.

If we take the example of seeing your boss for a meeting they have called, and you are the only person they wish to see, then if you are a worrier, you may think “oh no, they want to tell me something really bad… what if I’m not performing and they want to make me redundant!”.

Now, if you believed in that thought 90%, then chances are that you will feel very anxious. If you only believed in this thought 10%, then you probably wouldn’t feel much at all.

Thats why thoughts make us anxious, the level of full belief in the thought.

Positive worry is the reverse. This is predicting the future in helpful ways. Seeing it go the way you want it to go. Not many people adopt this method of course, as human beings, we have learned to look out for danger.

If you do find yourself jumping on board a scary thought about something you fear may happen, just ask yourself a few questions.

  1. Where is the evidence that this thought is true?
  2. Is this thought based on absolute fact, or is it based on an assumption?
  3. What do I get in believing in this thought?
  4. Do I have any evidence that goes against this thought?

Try to find an alternative, more balanced and helpful thought that is more believable and based on reality, and not just scary made up fantasy.

Remember, 90% of the time you worry about something bad happening, it doesn’t!

And on the odd occasion where it does come true, you will find that you do cope with it. The worry is pretty much always about not being able to cope in a situation.