As I got ready for that first flight as an adult, my first solo flight ever and the first flight I’d been on in ten years, I was an anxious ball of worst-case-scenario thoughts.
What if I got lost in the airport? What if I didn’t make my connection? What if I missed my flight altogether?
Now, I’m no stranger to anxiety.
I have these same types of anxious thoughts about day-to-day activities, not only cross-country trips.
Thankfully, I have found a system that helps me to manage my anxious thoughts.
Now, this doesn’t mean those thoughts go away… But they help to get me out of fight, flight, or freeze and start helping me get back into my logic-brain.
So today I’m sharing 3 simple steps to manage anxious thoughts, plus a journaling page printable where you can work through these steps whenever you’re struggling with your own anxious thoughts.
3 Simple Steps to Manage Anxious Thoughts
(Pssst… Scroll to the bottom of the post for a free printable journaling page that uses these 3 steps!)
I use these three steps to manage anxious thoughts as a journaling activity, but you can use them however you process information best.
Some people do this in a conversation with their spouse or best friend.
Others like to think through it and not write it down.
Whatever floats your boat, but I really prefer to write it down because journaling helps me to see my thoughts on paper and feel more control over my thoughts.
Now before I jump into the three steps, let’s be wicked clear: I am not a doctor, therapist, mental health professional, or anything of the sort. I’m an autistic mom who struggles with anxiety, and I found a simple way to help manage anxious thoughts. This in no way replaces mental health care or medications.
#1 What Am I Worried Will Happen?
The very first step to manage your anxious thoughts is to start bringing yourself back into logic-brain.
And I do that by asking myself, what am I worried will happen?
And here’s the key: I write down anything I’m worried will happen with zero judgment.
“I’m worried that she actually hates me and that’s why she hasn’t responded to the message.”
“I’m worried that I’m completely failing as a parent.”
“I’m worried that I will get into a car accident and be seriously injured or killed.”
All of these are true anxious thoughts that I’ve used this process to manage before.
Let your thoughts run free from judgment so that you can get to the bottom of what you’re actually worried about.
So often when we have anxious thoughts it feels like we’re worried about SO MUCH, but we can’t even name what it is… This step solves that problem.
#2 What is the Likelihood This Will Happen?
The next step to manage anxiety is to ask myself, what is the likelihood this will happen?
This question takes things a step further than the first because it brings me back to thinking about reality.
I might be worried that a serial killer is going to somehow attack me Criminal Minds style, but the likelihood of that happening is quite low.
From my airport example, it was very likely that I would get lost in the airport because I really struggle with direction and overwhelm in those situations.
Now if I was having anxiety about both the serial killer scenario and getting lost in the airport, my logic brain would see this question and realize I needed to focus more on the airport scenario.
Thinking about the likelihood of something happening can help ease anxiety in the moment.
I don’t know about you, but when my logic brain knows that I’m anxious over something that isn’t logical, I can find comfort in a script like “I don’t need to worry about _____ because it is nearly impossible for it to happen”.
So after you’ve brainstormed what you’re worrying about in step one, step two is to ask yourself what the likelihood is that what you’re worrying about will actually happen.
If it isn’t likely at all, you might find comfort in a script.
If it is likely (or if your script doesn’t help with a non-likely scenario) you’re ready for step three to managing anxious thoughts!
#3 What Will I Do If This Happens?
The final step in managing your anxious thoughts is asking yourself what you will do if the thing you’re worried about actually happens.
This is where you make a plan.
Don’t you always feel a little bit better when you have a plan?
For my airport example, I made a plan for exactly what I would do if I got lost at the airport.
- I’d call Chris.
- I’d look at the digital airport map.
- I’d ask someone in a uniform.
Having that plan that I could remind myself of whenever I need it helps me to feel prepared and ready to tackle whatever it is I’m worried about, no matter how likely.
So whatever it is that’s causing you to worry, make a plan for what you’ll do if it happens.
This simple three steps to manage anxious thoughts help you to get back to your logic brain when overwhelming thoughts start to take over your brain.
And I’ve put together this free printable journal page for you to use to manage your anxious thoughts whenever they start to come up.
Enter your information below to download your free printable journal page!
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