Anxiety and Negative Self-Talk
Miriam K’s Art is happy to talk a bit about negative self-talk and how it affects anxiety. It tends to make it worse but with practice we can counteract it with positive learned thoughts. The positive learned thoughts are the key to resisting negative self-talk.
Negative self-talk is often involved with anxiety. It is our automatic response we think to a situation or happening. But it is our mind doing it. For example, there are two different ways to see a situation where you are in a traffic jam. One is to get upset and say “I can’t take this…” or “I have to get out of here…” or “This is too much…”. This is a person who feels closed in and out of control in a traffic jam. Another way is to listen to good music and say “great, I can listen to music…” or “I’ll just relax until it’s over…” or “I’ll meditate now…”. This is a person who takes control of the situation and uses it to his or her advantage. Often it is our reaction to a situation that makes us angry or upset but we blame the situation. So it’s our feelings inside that determine how we react to a situation.
Self-talk often is abbreviated…in short form. Along with a simple “Oh no” comes all the memories of a previous panic attack and fears about panic. But all you hear is the “Oh no”. For example I fear the expressway. When I drive onto an on ramp I immediately think “Oh no” and freeze up. I tense up and slow down. It is very tiring and very nerve racking. If I could only learn to relax it would be better. So all the fear of an accident and impending doom fall onto me when I think “Oh no”.
This negative self-talk leads to avoidance. I think of the expressway, think “Oh no” and avoid it. But by continuing to avoid it I reinforce the thought that it’s dangerous. And I even project thoughts of an accident to make it worse. So negative self-talk leads to avoidance that leads to enforcement of the negative thought and the cycle repeats itself!
Self-talk can start or worsen a panic attack. A panic attack starts with shortness of breath, a tightening of the chest or sweaty palms. This is the body’s natural response to something dangerous. However, when you get these symptoms you also have negative self-talk like “Oh it’s happening again…” or “A panic attack…” or “What if I lose control”or “I have to get out of here…”. This scare talk makes the physical symptoms worse and encourages even more scare talk. A full panic attack could have been avoided if you had stopped the scare talk and replaced it with “Calm down…” or “I can do this…” or “This will pass…” or “I’ve done this before…” or “This is just an adrenaline rush and will pass…”.
Negative self talk is a group of bad habits that can be changed with practice and meditation. Just like the bad habit of smoking can be changed, bad mental habits can be changed.
There are four types of negative self-talk: the worrier, the critic, the victim and the perfectionist. The worrier encourages anxiety. This is the worst type of negative self-talk and the most common for anxiety. It makes one think that the worst will happen, a catastrophe, overestimating the odds of some bad or embarrassing situation happening. It also creates a large picture in your mind of that failure or catastrophe. The favorite negative self-talk is “What if…?”. For example: “My hearts starting to beat faster…what if I panic” or “What if they see me shaking…” or “What if I stutter?”.
The critic is the part of you that is constantly judging or evaluating your actions and promotes low self-esteem. You tend to think that you are not worthy and your actions are never good enough. You also compare yourself to others thinking that you are never as good as them. It’s favorite expression is “What a disappointment you are” or “that was stupid”. Common thoughts are: “I’m not good enough…” or “________ is better” or “You’ll never get better”.
The victim promotes depression. It is the part of you that feels helpless or hopeless. You tend to believe that you are not making progress, that the road is too long and hard for you to succeed and that your condition is not curable. It plays a major role in creating a depression. It believes that there is something wrong with you or that you were in some way deprived or are defective. It always puts huge obstacles in your path to success and believes that nothing will ever change. It’s favorite expression is “I can’t” or “I’ll never be able to”. Common thoughts are: “I’ve had this problem so long…” or “There’s no hope” or “I’ve tried everything and nothings going to work”.
The perfectionist fuels chronic stress and burnout. It is close to the critic but doesn’t put you down. It goads you to do better. It causes stress by saying that you aren’t good enough and should be working harder and should be doing better. That you should always be competent and should always be pleasing and should always be something. The perfectionist wants you to be the best and doesn’t tolerate mistakes or setbacks. It tends to say that your self-worth is dependent on external things like money or peoples love for you. It stresses you, makes you exhausted to the point of burnout trying to achieve goals. The favorite expressions are: “I should” or “I must” or “I have to”. Common thoughts are: “I should always be on top of things” or “I should always be pleasant or nice” or “I have to do something or I’m not worth anything” or “I should always be considerate…” or “I’m not worth anything”.
Here’s an exercise. Think of each of the four subpersonalities and how it affects you. Rate it on a scale from one to five with one being not at all. Then think of the following and how each subpersonality affects it: work, personal relationships, anxiety symptoms and phobic situations. Think of what the subpersonality says to you…the favorite expressions and common thoughts. Then think of an opposite positive thought to counteract it. Write all of this down. Next time you have negative self-talk, use the positive thoughts to counteract it! Wow if it only were that easy!
Miriam has been reading a book recommended to her by her anxiety counselor. It is The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook (Sixth Edition) by Edmund J. Bourne, PhD published by New Harbinger Publications, Inc. in California in 2015. Again she has paraphrased what she has read. Hopefully it has been interesting to you.
Please read my previous post about Worry and a Physical/Mental Condition found below. I posted it about a week ago at lunch hour and not many read it.
Writing this blog has helped me a lot. It helps me to remember what I have read. I am also writing a story. It is my first story. In it the main character has anxiety and a lot of my fears. Writing down the fears has helped me a lot. I may publish it one day! I will keep you posted.
Please like or comment below, on facebook or retweet on twitter. I would love to hear from you. Any comments would be fantastic and could guide me to write even better blogs. Can’t wait to hear from you. Take care.