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5 steps to reframing your negative/intrusive thoughts


Did you know that over 80% of our thoughts on a daily basis are negative? Yet those thoughts aren’t always recognizing consciously, they are there! I like to think about anxiety as an annoying neighbour with a giant speaker system. Imagine you’re in your apartment listening to some nice, soothing music and your neighbour our of nowhere starts BLASTING their music. Now you may start to get frustrated, and even bang on the wall, but there is nothing you can do to magically turn the music off. This is the same with anxiety. Of course there are ways to soften and support yourselves through these negative thoughts, but there is nothing we can do to magically get rid of them right away. Thats why today I wanted to focus on reframing your thoughts as a way to help navigate anxiety as it arises. Thought are thoughts are NOT facts, many of them can seem VERY convincing especially in times of stress and anxiety. We’re going to be working through 5 steps to begin reframing and acknowledging these negative and often intrusive thoughts as they arise. Simply remember to RELAX.


ONE. RECOGNIZE.


We can’t heal what we don’t allow ourselves to recognize. A valuable first step in reframing our thoughts is to acknowledge when we are having negative/intrusive thoughts. It may be helpful to either call them out verbally, or to simply give those thoughts a name of their own. I call mine ‘Francis’, and Francis can be a really meany sometimes! Give them whatever name you’d like, but ensure you focus on reminding yourself that these thoughts are NOT you. Even though they are in your mind, they do NOT reflect who you are as a person. Let’s continue to step two now that we have given these thoughts a name and called them out!

TWO. EVIDENCE.


Most often these thoughts may begin with the daunting words ‘what if..’ and now we have started to recognize when these thoughts happen we can begin to look for evidence. Many of these thoughts often have little to NO evidence to support them, yet they feel SO real. A helpful practice can be to look for evidence for and against this thought. For example if you have the thought ‘What if I have a panic attack right here’ you can begin writing out for the again column all the times you have gone out with no panic attack, or begin to reassure yourself that you have the tools to move through any event that happens. This is a list that you can keep with you and refer to anytime that you’re feeling this way to slowly remind yourself that these thoughts are NOT based in evidence.


THREE. LET GO OF CONTROL.


Now that we have looked at evidence, we’re now going to work on letting go of the control around these thoughts. A common practice is to try and ‘get rid of’ these thoughts and try and control what we’re thinking about. Now I am all for a helpful visualization exercise, but if you’re trying to ‘CONTROL’ when these thoughts come and go, that may be doing the opposite of what you wish. Begin reminding yourself what you CAN control, which is your response to these thoughts when they come up, rather than trying to not allow them to come up at all. This mid shift can help allow these thoughts to dissipate over time.


FOUR. ACCEPTANCE.


The fourth step is acceptance, and acceptance is something that takes practice and consistency. Now I want to clarify that acceptance does NOT mean accepting that these thoughts are just ‘the way you are’ and thinking you will feel like this forever. Acceptance is truly allowing those thoughts to be present without judgement or resistance. If you’ve worked through the first three steps so far, this may feel a little easier than it was before. You may feel more prepared to sit with them. If you’re not yet, thats okay! The best thing we can do is simply be kind to ourselves in those moments.


FIVE. E’X’PECTATIONS.


Our fifth and final step is all about expectations. Now without even realizing, we may place heavy and often rigid expectations of what healing looks like, and this may create even more pressure for ourselves. If we begin to think that these thoughts will go away if we practice these steps once, we’ll feel defeated and discourages EVERY time they arise. Instead, we can begin to go with the flow of healing. Acknowledging that there will be good days and bad days and that overall you’re improving. When we become less rigid with our expectations, we begin to create space for the journey of healing.


If it helps, I’ve created a worksheet around reframing your thoughts here that can help you write out these thoughts as they come up. You can download this here: https://www.healingtheanxiousmind.com/_files/ugd/482d0e_3759725e9ffb4a6f948b734e0b6d7bf8.pdf


I hope these tips resonate with you, and help to remind you that in the midst of negative and intrusive thoughts that you can RELAX through them as they pass.


Sending you so much love,

Carly

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