How You Think About Your Anxiety Matters
How to Improve Your Anxiety by Changing How You Think About It
My anxiety controls me.
My anxiety is terrible and out of control.
My anxiety is worse than everyone else’s.
My anxiety is unpredictable.
Have you ever thought any of these things?
If you have, you’re not alone. Trust me, I work with a LOT of women who struggle with anxiety and mental health symptoms.
I know for a fact that thoughts like those are some of the most common ones women have when it comes to really managing and improving their symptoms.
In this post (and podcast episode), I’ll share some of the most common thoughts and beliefs that I see in my clients who are struggling to manage their anxiety.
Then I’ll share how to shift these thoughts to more empowering ones, so you can really get your anxiety under control like you want to.
How you think about your anxiety matters! Read on to learn more!
How You Think About Your Anxiety Matters
Change How You Feel by Changing How You Think
Anxiety is one of the most common concerns women come to me for help with.
In fact, I see so many women with anxiety that I wrote a book on how to manage it. It’s called You Are Not Your Anxiety and is my honest, no-bullshit approach to getting your anxiety under control (once and for all.) You can buy your copy here!
In this post, I’m going to break down a few of the most common disempowering mindsets that many of my clients have when it comes to their anxiety.
Shifting Your Mindset to Empowering Thoughts About Anxiety
What I am going to review below are some of the most critical mindset shifts you need to make in order to manage your anxiety.
Many women make these on their own, and some need some help letting go of old, disempowering beliefs about anxiety to create new ones.
If you have these negative beliefs about your anxiety, you’re not alone.
Awareness of our thinking patterns is one of the first (and most critical steps) you can take to really getting your anxiety under control.
“My Anxiety is Worse Than Everyone Else’s”
We only live in our own mind, and because anxiety is so terrible to feel, it can be esay to assume that our anxiety is consideably worse than everyone else’s.
You may know friends or family members who have anxiety, but you cannot experience what their anxiety feels like. You can only experience your own, and it feels AWFUL.
I get it. I have anxiety too, so I know what it’s like. I understand that your anxiety feels terrible.
But thinking your anxiety is worse than anyone else’s is not helpful.
In fact, thinking this way, or having this disempowering mindset sets us up to believe that what “normally helps other people” won’t help us.
Further to this, it is going to make you feel like you just cannot be understood and cannot be fixed. This ends up putting you in a victim mindset regarding your anxiety, and doesn’t make you feel very empowered to take action to manage it.
“My Anxiety is Uncontrollable”
If you spend time thinking your anxiety is uncontrollable, unpredictable, terrifying and absolutely terrible…getting it under control is going to be very challenging for you.
All of this dramatic emoting about anxiety is very disempowering.
I say this with love and compassion because I know your anxiety often feels terrible and awful. Without checking ourselves and being mindful, it’s very easy to fall into a dramatic, victim-mindset.
However this only serves to elevate our cortisol levels further and causes us to feel anxiety about anxiety. Not helpful.
If you’re thinking this way, it can be helpful to shift your mindset to something more grounding.
Try to think more about your anxiety as controllable:
This is just anxiety.
I can learn to control my anxiety.
My anxiety does not control me.
My anxiety does not define me.
“My Anxious Thoughts Are Facts.”
When you have had anxiety for a long time, you basically are in a long-term relationship with it.
If that relationship has been a bit one-sided (ie. your anxiety is calling all of the shots), you may believe that your anxious thoughts are true and whatever you’re anxious about is an actual threat.
For example, you may feel that if you’re anxious about something, that thing is actually a threat and you avoid doing it at all.
This is referred to as cognitive fusion: thinking that thoughts are facts.
How many times have you thought to yourself, “I could never do XYZ because I have so much anxiety about it?”
When we think these thoughts over and over again, we begin to believe that our anxiety actually prevents us from taking action. We believe that anxiety is a stead-fast, literal barrier that defines what actions we can take or what we can do.
We begin to believe that because we’re afraid of something, that thing is actually terrible or we can’t do that thing we’re afraid of.
If you struggle with anxiety, it is possible that you carry the belief that your anxiety is in control of you, rather than the other way around.
How You Think About Your Anxiety Matters: Mindset Shifts
“Having Anxiety Means I’m Broken.”
Many women carry a belief that they have anxiety because their brain is broken or not functioning properly.
They forget that anxiety is a part of our human brain and our species has literally evolved to keep it around.
In fact, Catherine Pittman of “Rewire Your Anxious Brain” states, “we are the descendants of the scared people.” I love this quote because it reminds us that we have anxiety because our ancestors had anxiety, and that anxiety literally KEPT THEM ALIVE.
So this is obviously counter to the idea that your brain is broken if it’s anxious. I would even go so far to say that your brain is working perfectly if you have anxiety (I would be more worried if you didn’t!)
It is not the fact that you have anxiety that is the problem, it’s the degree to which it impacts your life and controls you that is the issue.
Having anxiety doesn’t mean your brain doesn’t work right and doesn’t mean you’re broken.
As you can see, this is a very disempowering mindset and is not very motivating to shift the anxiety you have.
Simply having anxiety doesn’t make you broken, doesn’t mean you’re a mess or unfixable. It simply means you’re a human.
“I Need My Anxiety To Go AWAY.”
This is absolutely a flawed expectation and mindset.
Recall, anxiety lives deep in our brain in the amygdala and it has remained there for hundreds of thousands of years. In fact, it has been our anxiety that has kept our species alive so far.
As it is completely embedded in our brains and our neural wiring, no matter what we do in our lives, we cannot live 100% free of our anxiety.
However it’s this expectation many women have when they want to manage their anxiety. They want it to go completely away and never come back.
“I need to figure out how to make it go away,” they’ll tell me.
There are a few problems with this mindset however.
First of all, expecting your anxiety to completely go away will set you up for failure 100% of the time because it is never going to happen. Sorry, not sorry.
In fact, this is a very perfectionistic expectation (anxiety + perfectionism almost always go hand-in-hand!) When we have a perfectionistic expectation about managing our anxiety, we only cause worsening anxiety when our anxiety inevitably comes back. (It gets messy!)
“Thinking About My Anxiety Will Make It Worse.”
Many women think that if they pay attention to their anxiety, the anxiety will get worse.
This is actually false.
Evidence and research has shown that whatever we try to avoid or force away actually rebounds. Carl Jung said, “what we resist, persists” and this applies to MANY areas in our lives (from emotions to intrusive thoughts.)
Carrying this disempowering mindset limits women from actually paying attention to or learning about their anxiety (which are some fundamental skills in order to manage it better!)
Many of my clients are resisting their anxiety all the time. Instead, I try to help them see that if they can welcome and approach their anxiety, they can learn more about it and thereby learn to manage it.
Avoiding anxiety (or avoiding what we’re anxious about) only serves to reinforce anxiety! Start paying attention to it and learn, so you can be more prepared to handle it next time.
“My Anxiety Controls Me.”
Your anxiety does NOT control you.
Many of us live in fear that our anxiety will come back and make us “lose control.”
Thinking that your anxiety has control over you will cause you to live in fear of your anxiety coming back.
When we live in fear of our anxiety coming back, we create more anxiety and more fear.
All of this anxiety about anxiety about anxiety is incredibly activating for the amygdala (and very uncomfortable for us.)
This cycle of avoiding, ignoring and suppressing anxiety will only make your anxiety worse. It’s a vicious cycle. This is why it’s so important to get your mindset about anxiety in check.
Instead, we need to try to shift this thinking to something more empowering.
I can learn to manage my anxiety if I slow down and pay attention.
My anxiety is something that happens to me, but it does not control me.
I can learn to control my anxiety if I stop avoiding and resisting it.
How You Think About Your Anxiety Matters
We have reviewed some of the most common disempowering mindsets I find my clients have when it comes to learning about and reducing their anxiety.
You can learn more about these and more by listening to the podcast associated with this blog!
In the episode, I break down how to make the mindset shifts AND share some more empowering mindsets to have instead.
THIS EPISODE DIGS INTO:
- Some of the most common mindsets I see in patients who are struggling with anxiety
- Why your mindset impacts your ability to control your anxiety
- More empowering mindsets to adopt to help improve your ability to manage your anxiety more effectively
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AUTHOR: DR. CARLY CREWE, MD
Dr. Carly Crewe is a mom to twin toddlers, a modern day nomad and MD Psychotherapist specializing in women's mental health.
Carly believes that when women are well, they have the power to heal and change the world.
Her mission is to revolutionize the women’s mental health care, from fragmented and haphazard to a holistic, comprehensive and integrated approach that meets every woman where she is and addresses the multidimensional reality of mental health.
Dr. Crewe is the founder of Eunoia Medical, a speciality mental health clinic for women in pursuit of a well mind. Carly runs a revolutionary mental health membership for women, The Eunoia Collective.
Carly is the host of the Mind Over Motherhood Podcast and is an Amazon best-selling author. Her newest book You Are Not Your Anxiety: How to Stop Being An Anxious, People-Pleasing Mess will be launching for presale on International Women’s Day March 8th, 2021.