A large part of my anxiety, and anxiety in general, is irrational thoughts. Your mind starts working on overdrive and automatically assuming the worst. It starts questioning everything going on in your life and before you know it your brain feels simultaneously like a pile of puke and like it’s about to explode.
When I started CBT for this, I began an exercise that at first I was sceptical about but I can honestly say it’s worked wonders for me. I keep a notebook and as soon as I find myself overwhelmed with irrational or anxious thoughts – I write it down. Exactly as it sounds in my head, in the first person. For example: I’m worried I’ll always be like this. I write down all the thoughts I have that are circling around and bouncing off of each other, and funnily enough the first thing I notice is that there really aren’t as many as it feels like in my head. Seeing them written down on paper already starts the process of rationalising them and making you realise that there isn’t as much to panic about as you first thought.
Once I’ve written down the thoughts, I then write rational counter thoughts back to myself. I write this like how I would say to someone who had just told me their worry. It sounds silly, but it works.
That is a picture of my actual notebook. Much to most people’s surprise, despite speaking English for the majority of the time, I do think in Swedish – hence Swedish irrational/rational thoughts! So, what generally feels like ten thousand thoughts all racing around at 100mph, it’s actually only five and they can very rationally be broken down.
I’ve used this method nearly every day since I started CBT, and I carry that notebook around with me wherever I go for anytime I start to feel an anxious thought clouding over me. Sometimes, it doesn’t help and that is generally for something that is going to cause a panic attack and in those cases I generally need to speak to someone instead of trying to keep myself grounded. It’s actually quite interesting, too, to look back and see how my thoughts and thought patterns have changed over the past few months. I like to think of it as a little “brain dump” for where I want to put all the horrible thoughts that take up top much energy, and there is a definite feeling of my head being cleared as soon as I start writing.