As we discussed in the previous blog, anxiety is the bodies way of responding to being in danger. The adrenaline rushes into our bloodstream to enable us to run away or fight and as we covered previously sometimes this happens when the danger is perceived rather than in reality. People that are anxious are constantly looking for danger, and are hyper alert to what is going on around them, which leads to thoughts like ‘something bad is going to happen’ or ‘I am not going to be able to cope’
So how do we take the control back? We can start by looking at our thoughts. Our minds get into a habit of thinking in a particular way due to life experiences, upbringing and culture as a way of making sense of the things going on around us. It goes without saying that we have no control over the thoughts that pop into our head but we do have control of how we react to those thoughts.
So, if you look at the form we completed in the previous blog, and the form below, you will see that it asks for a lot of the same information, but is in a structured chart. You will also notice that it asks you to look at the emotions and the thoughts further. This chart is called a thought diary and it will help you identify what we call a ‘hot thought’.
The form below is completed with Abbey’s information.
To find her hot thought, she would need to put a percentage next to each thought to represent how much she believed it to be true. As you can see her thoughts were ‘Something bad is going to happen’ and ‘I am letting people down, they will be so angry with me’ then puts a percentage on these thoughts. As you can see, she has put 100% on the first thought – ‘something bad is going to happen’ and 70% on the 2nd thought –so the hot thought will be the one with the highest percentage. She also graded the emotions from 0 to 10 to see which emotion or feeling was at its worst. Abbey felt that the anxious feeling was a 10.
Lets now look at the columns that say ‘evidence for and evidence against’. What we need to do now is take the hot thought and write down evidence to support that particular thought. In Abbey’s case, her hot thought is ‘something bad is going to happen’. Here is Abbey’s completed form, where she has completed the evidence to support her thought. As you can see, she has written ‘I just know something bad is going to happen as I am jinxed’. If we are to look at that thought, is it assumption or fact? She also wrote ‘Last time I went and met the girls for coffee I nearly spilled my drink as I was nervous’. What can we say about this thought? This may be a fact, but she didn’t actually spill the coffee and others may not have even noticed that she was shaking.
Now for the evidence against the thought. Abbey has written ‘I have been for a coffee with the girls many times and nothing has gone wrong – I am amongst friends so I know they will support me. – I can tell my friends how I feel and I know they will understand. Looking at the evidence against the thought that Abbey has supplied, are they assumptions or facts. I would say they are factual, and quite often people can find a lot more evidence against the thought as apposed to evidence to support the thought. What we can see from this form is that the hot thought is a negative thought, and when we have negative thoughts, they can sometimes run away with us.
Jane was then asked to think about the situation again and come up with a new positive thought. As you can see, she wrote ‘I will go for the coffee and I will let my best friend know I am feeling a little wobbly as she will support me’.
At this point Abbey would then give the new thought a percentage of how much she believes it in that moment – this may not be 100% as it takes time to believe in positive thoughts when we have been having negative thoughts for so long.
The forms can be found in the CBT section on my website. It may be an idea to print them off and fill them in each time you are feeling anxious about something. Really dig deep and work through it as we have done here and you will see that it will become easier the more you work at it.