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Do you struggle with anxious thoughts? Let me ask it another way.. thought do you overthink conversations and events? Ever find yourself needing reassurance? Does your mind seemed to be preoccupied with constant worry? How about avoiding or procrastinating to decrease stress?
If you answered yes to any of these – you might be dealing with anxious thoughts. I’m going to level the playing field… we all deal with anxious thoughts!
So what’s a girl to do? Just push through? No way… We take those thoughts captive!
I want to outline how to prevent anxious thoughts before they begin.
Have you gotten good at thinking anxious thoughts?
Whatever you put your mind on, will grow. Meaning, if you continue to practice thinking anxious thoughts, you will get really good at it. Those anxious thoughts will grow like weeds until they rob you of the peace and joy God purposes for you.
This is how anxious thought patterns work…
We start with a thought. It can sound like a “what if”. That “what if” thought leads to an emotion. Emotions are feelings. Maybe the thought evokes fear, distress or anger. Then, we act on the fear. You might try to control a situation in order to bring the fear/distress level down.
Can you see the pattern of anxious thoughts?
You try it… think of the last time you had an anxious thought. What were you thinking? Now, how did you feel? And, finally, what did you do to manage the emotion?
Fear will drive us to do things out of character. We might become impatient, irritable or controlling (fill in the blank).
When I counsel others I aim to change the anxious thought rather than manage the emotion. It has longer term gains. Now that you have an idea of how these thought patterns work, let’s talk about how to prevent them from even starting!
Preventing anxious thoughts
Prevention means to keep something from happening or arising. We can actually retrain our brain away from anxious thoughts, literally improving our thought life.
Could your thought life use some improvement? (check out the complete course here)
I want to talk about prevention in another context. What do you do to prevent weight gain? You probably stay active, eat healthy and drink lots of water, right? It’s typically easier to prevent weight gain, then work on weight loss.
Preventing anxious thoughts works the same way. It’s so much easier to prevent distressing thoughts than deal with them once they arise. We can actually create a healthy thought life by practicing new patterns of thinking.
Often people wait until they have anxious thoughts to begin practicing new thought patterns. I’m recommending we proactively work on achieving a healthy thought life. A thought life that reaps the blessing of more peace and joy.
Preventing anxious thoughts with meditating
The meditation I’m suggesting is not magical thinking or even the power of positive thinking. God’s Word calls us to meditate on things that are true, pure and excellent (Philippians 4:8). What is more true than the Word of God? When we renew our mind, we become more aware of who God is in our life. Knowing and believing the power of God in our life has a way of shrinking fear… little-by-little, day-by-day. Get your free bible study on “Taking Thoughts Captive” here.
Prevent anxious thoughts with journaling
Research consistently shows that putting our thoughts to words has a big impact on mental, emotional and even physical health. There are so many options for journaling – gratitude, prayer and processing anxious thoughts.
If you’re wondering how you’re going to fit journaling into your already busy schedule, I have good news. All the wonderful research is based on carving out 15 minutes a day. You can even start with 5 minutes and see a change in your thinking!
Gratitude journaling helps us to remember God’s goodness to us (Psalm 77:11). This type of journaling also trains your brain to see the good in every event. Our hearts have a propensity toward the negative. Anxious thoughts are negative in nature. When is the last time you worried about something positive happening?
Prayer journaling is a wonderful way of shifting our focus upward. It firmly fixes our eyes on Christ as we cast our cares upon Him and steady our gaze while we wait in faith to see how He will answer.
Process journaling is a way of sorting through those events in our life that we can’t “shake off”. You might find yourself dwelling on the past (thought), which can create fear (emotion) and you will begin to manage the fear (action). Process journaling turns the event inward and sorts through the self reflection. It helps us to identify the thought that is driving the fear (the complete outline here).
Preventing anxious thoughts with gratitude
God desires an attitude of gratitude (1 Thessalonians 5:18) not only because it gives Him glory, but because it blesses us with joy. Research on gratitude is showing what the Bible has been saying all along. Practicing daily gratitude will give you a 25% boost in happiness. That’s huge!
And it’s doable no matter what your circumstances. Think about it like this… what’s the last movie you watched? Did they shoot the same scene from many different angles? Of course. We can look at the same scene and choose to find the blessings by looking at the situation from another angle. God promises that He will use everything for our good (Romans 8:28). We must make the choice to find the good in every situation.
How are you going to prevent anxious thoughts?
Are you ready to be proactive in retraining your brain? There are several options offered here. A healthy thought life begins with intention. Whether you choose journaling, meditating on truth or cultivating an attitude of gratitude – you will reap an improvement in the level of joy and peace in your life.
Share how you prevent a just thoughts in the comments!
Sunshyne is an online Christian Counselor teaching women new patterns of thinking, living and relating that line up with God’s Word and His purpose for their life.
For helping children with anxiety, see this post.