How to Reframe When You Feel Anxious
Anxiety can be an overwhelming thief of joy and serenity. As you may have already experienced, anxiety can show up as ruminations (overthinking, constant comparisons, racing thoughts, etc.) or physiological symptoms (quickened breaths, rapid heartbeat, tunnel vision, etc.). How can we reframe the initial thoughts coming and soothe our physiological symptoms so we can proactively stop them from snowballing into a full-blown anxiety attack?
Ruminations & Racing Thoughts
How do we handle ruminations? The first step is to look at the thoughts you are having:
1. First, we need to find out what the thought is communicating. Ask some curious questions. What’s the danger here? What’s at stake? Interrogate or otherwise get to the bottom of the thought in order to test the likelihood of its occurrence. Yes, it is possible, but what are the chances of it happening?
2. Second, consider the alternatives. Ask yourself something like, “Are they really mad at me or just having an off day?” This may give you more clarity on the validity of the thought.
3. Third, learn how to talk back to the thought. Mantras and affirmations are helpful too. Saying “that’s not my responsibility” or “I’m enough” three times, in your head or out loud, can be calming and deactivating for your stress response.
How do we handle the physiological symptoms? There are many ways to ground yourself. You have to find what works for you! Here are some examples:
1. Progressive breathing is a great way to manage the somatic (body) symptoms. Progressive breathing sounds like 5-2-7 breathing or box response where your exhales are slightly longer than your inhales. This is helpful and especially calming when paired with a meditation activity.
2. A simple mindfulness activity can be very effective in grounding. Try picking five things you can see around you right now, four sounds you can hear, three you smell, two you taste, and one you feel. This exercise helps your mind send an automatic message to your nervous system and your body’s stress response to begin to slow the alarm and bring you back to homeostasis.
The key idea behind this type of mindfulness exercise is that your body and mind want to regulate you and return to their naturally occurring internal rhythm or homeostasis. However, external signals of the demanding outside world can get miscommunicated and lead to dysregulation. The goal here is to catch the first signs of an anxious thought so you can reframe it and ground yourself, so that no snowballing occurs.
About Nick Kondyles
As someone who is eager to co-write your story with you, Nick comes from a background in creative writing and counseling/psychology. He believes everyone has a story to tell, which can be rewritten. Nick’s specialty is in anxiety, depression, relational issues and identity exploration. He enjoys working with adolescents, adults, and the LGBTQIA+ community. He is also interested in the areas of grief and loss, substance use and career development.Meet Me