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My Favourite Exercise For Soothing Anxious Thoughts

With the craziness of the past week, I’ve definitely had many moments of feeling anxious, stressed, and overwhelmed. Throughout hard times like this, I think it’s more important than ever to sooth anxious thoughts and think rationally. Even though things may be hard and stressful in real life, it’s also important that we not get overly caught up in the emotion of a situation, which can make things feel a lot worse.
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My favourite exercise to help sooth anxious thoughts was taught to me by my therapist. It’s called creating a Thought Record, and it’s a great way to put your thoughts “on trial” and see whether you're actually overblowing a situation and causing unnecessary stress for yourself. I generally complete a Thought Record when stressing about something and feeling myself spiral into emotions that may not be rational or helpful in the situation. To complete a Thought Record, I just write down the answers to the following questions, thinking through my thoughts:
  A picture of notes for a class 1. Situation  First, I begin by identifying the situation that caused my anxious feelings or other emotional reactions. I describe exactly what happened in the situation, taking care to stick to the facts of the situation. So, who was involved? What happened? When and where did the situation occur?  2. Automatic thoughts  I then write down all the thoughts and images that pop up in my head in relation to the situation. So, for example: “I won’t be able to get through this,” or “things are’t going to get better.” Once I've listed all the thoughts and images that are popping up,  I then identify the thought that elicits the strongest reaction for me—this is the “hot thought” that is occupying my mind the most.  3. Evidence that supports the hot thought  It’s time to put the hot thought “on trial”! To do this, I list out all the “evidence” that supports the hot thought—so, if my hot thought was “things aren’t going to get better,” I would write down some facts of the scenario that support this claim.  4. Evidence that does not support the hot thought  Next, I switch sides and list evidence that does not support the hot thought—so, facts of the situation that show me things might actually get better, in this example.  5. Balanced thoughts  I'm almost done! Now, I play the role of the judge and look at the evidence I've written down, trying to determine a “verdict" which sees the evidence-based reality of the situation. So, in this example, my verdict may be “it feels like things aren’t going to get better right now, but the evidence shows that it likely will.”  A picture of a road with trees There we go! After doing this exercise, I feel like I have more of a handle on a stressful situation. I can also see the ways in which my mind was creating irrational thoughts and pictures that didn’t align with the evidence of a situation. I highly recommend you try this out if you’re feeling anxious or stressed! 

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