Am I Having Anxious Thoughts?
Anxious thoughts can take many forms and can have many effects on women, regardless of their age or stage in life. As a wild, yet predictable rule: anxious thoughts can be about anything or anyone at any time. It’s not at all uncommon for women to come to counseling at Guided Wellness Counseling and share that they’ve been having thoughts that concern them, or even prevent them from living a happier life.
These anxious thoughts can range from unrelenting worries about a misworded email or text message you’ve sent (which has received no reply…) to the fear you feel as you consider the loss of a loved one or relationship. Other anxious thoughts are attached to the unknown: what if I’m late, what if I get sick, what if COVID turns us into mind eating zombies? Anxious thoughts know no limits.
Why Am I Having Anxious Thoughts?
Believe it or not, anxious thoughts are how your brain is trying to take care of you. It is your brain’s best attempt to problem solve or anticipate discomfort. The brain science goes something like this:
- You experience stress and your brain interprets that as a lack of safety.
- The lack of safety clouds our judgment. Things that were once small now seem big or confusing.
- As our brain tries to establish a basic sense of safety it loses its ability to problem solve and think clearly.
… and as a result, you find yourself unable to sleep, plagued by anxious or repetitive thoughts or feeling jittery, ‘caffeinated’, on edge and irritable.
Therapy Can Help Women Cope With Anxious Thoughts
Therapy can help you cope with anxious thoughts. In therapy, your counselor may help you take the first step by taking a stance of gratitude and curiosity for your anxious thoughts. It may appear backwards, but if we can thank our brain for attempting to care for us, it won’t fight so hard when we try to resolve the problem from which it is trying to protect you.
It’s hard to be mad at yourself or ashamed of yourself and create healing growth at the same time. So having a nonjudgmental, patient therapist set the tone of sessions and encourage your growth can make all the difference. Self compassion can grow from this and enhance your peace of mind and reduction of anxious thoughts.
So, step one: “Thank you brain, for trying to take care of me.”
Can Therapy Help With A Mind-Body Approach To My Anxious Thoughts?
At Guided Wellness Counseling we take a holistic approach to your healing and goals. That means we cannot ignore your body and it’s nervous system. Breath work is a great way to soothe your nervous system (which, you’ll remember, is hyper aware of your need for safety and security).
See, your mind and body are connected. When your brain gets worried, it sends a message to your body to get ready for an emergency. Your body then sends the message to your brain that you’re ready for danger, reinforcing our brain that there is an emergency. This creates a cycle that increases your anxiety.
When we take deep breaths, it breaks that cycle, calming our body down and stopping the anxious feedback loop between our body and brain. Plus, breathing slows down our heart which also helps our body calm down.
An easy way to guide your breath is to follow along with a guided meditation. Click the button below to listen to one we really like at the St. George, UT therapy office. It will guide you through a pattern of inhaling for a count of 4, pausing, exhaling for a count of 6, and pausing again.
Women In St. George Struggle With Relationship Based Anxiety
Some problems are very upsetting but, really, are not our problems to be anxious over. We don’t get to solve it if a family member is failing at something. We don’t get to solve it if someone we love is addicted. To do so is to encourage a pattern of codependence or enabling. What we can do is support and love them. When our relationships are fueling our anxiety we must admit if the problem (e.g. source of our anxiety) is really yours to solve.
If it is not your problem to solve to change the channel in your brain. Thinking is a behavior, and like any behavior we want to increase, drills are a very effective way to do that. If we want to play the piano, we practice our scales. If we want to increase our muscle strength, we lift heavy weights. If we want to stop thinking worrisome thoughts…we think about something else when we notice that we are focused on worrisome thoughts.
Self-Soothing and Self-Care For Women With Anxiety
As licensed therapists who work with strong, ambitious women week after week, we know this can be easier said than done. Practice, repetition and the support of a therapist make all the difference. Once we have realized we are preoccupied with someone else’s issue, we can choose to think about something else. This may include:
- Refocusing on your own need for self-care
- Journaling about what you can control (as opposed to what you cannot)
- Creating a change of scenery
- Employing your own support group of friends, family or coworkers
- Engaging in something you’re passionate about like a hobby or activity
- Switching up the energy with music, podcasts or a guided meditation.
Remind yourself it is not your problem to solve, that you are there to support them, and then choose to think about something else. Do this over and over until your brain does it on its own.
How Do I Calm My Anxiety Over Life Stress?
If it is your problem to solve, do your best to solve it. Sometimes our anxiety asks scary questions but then won’t let us focus on finding a realistic answer. Because our brain is scrambling for safety, it may tell us the answer is as scary (e.g. worst case scenario) or worse than the question. This leaves us hanging in no-man’s land where we are tormented by questions but then not allowed to solve or answer them.
For example, the owner of Guided Wellness Counseling, Melissa Spaulding, has an active family with members that often take day-long rock climbing trips deep into Zion National Park. Melissa reflects that when it’s getting late and dark it’s easy to imagine awful things, like someone being hurt or stuck on the rock wall. Or what if someone fell? What if they broke a leg and can’t hike out? But then she reminds herself that she knows what to do if there is an emergency or missing person. Then she turns on a movie, knits, reads, goes for a walk or enjoys a nice dinner in a calm, peaceful house (a rare treat!).
Facing stress is always better than not facing it. If necessary, solve the problem as far as you can, prove to yourself and remind yourself that the rest is out of your hands, and change the channel. For example: “I’ve planned as much as I can for an emergency on the rock wall. All I can do now is focus on how proud I am of my active family, look forward to their return and enjoy my free time until then.”
Therapy For Women Managing Anxiety In St. George, UT
Acknowledging that you struggle with anxiety is a brave step. Our anxious thoughts can make us feel weird, broken and ashamed. But many women struggle with anxious thoughts and feeling like they can’t ‘let it go’. There are steps you can take to reduce your anxiety.
Weekly counseling sessions with a therapist at Guided Wellness Counseling can help. At Guided Wellness we support women with a two-fold holistic approach. This means that we teach you and apply coping skills for acute, in-the-moment stress and we also address the source of the stress including past trauma, codependent relationships, people pleasing or poor boundaries. Next, as you progress through this healing we ensure that your head (e.g. thoughts), heart (e.g. emotions) and body have a positive response and sense of relief.