People beset by anxious thoughts, those nagging fears and that self-doubt that stick in their minds, think that they have no control over this thinking. Try as they might to resist, they just keep running in circles, dwelling on the same negative experiences and expectations until their ragged. What good does that do?
When I ask them what the result of this thinking is, most often people can recognize that no, it does no good, they only end up more stressed out without really having solved whatever problem they’re facing. They figure this out with little or no prompting from me, too, which is interesting. Makes me wonder how long they’ve known the truth on some level, continuing to do it even when they knew it was futile.
Challenging their belief that they can’t control their thinking usually means running up against a wall. They are certain that it can’t be done. People are most receptive when I explain that doing something physical most often can help. Exercise is great in this respect, but even something like yard work is beneficial.
Its benefits can be thought of in two ways. First, there are the things you gain. If you get active, get off the couch and turn off the TV set, and you aren’t idle, dwelling on your problems, you will be more relaxed. Chores will get done and/or your body will be exercised. You might have more outdoor time, or perhaps have time doing something with someone. If that room that needs painting gets painted, or the yard is mowed and flowers planted then you’ll see tangible evidence of what you have improved. You gain things that feel good.
Second, there are the things you avoided. You aren’t going to look up at some point and realize that five hours have passed during which you did nothing but ruminate. You won’t look at the to-do list that never gets shorter, and you won’t feel that pressure you have when you know that jobs are just piling up and not getting done. You won’t be embarrassed when your neighbors see your unkempt lawn, or you won’t have to make an excuse to your boss about the work that is going to be late.
That’s easier said than done, you say. Well, look back later this week for some ideas about how you can be more effective in challenging your futile thinking.