Because I’m a practicing therapist I often talk with people who are
struggling with anxiety. As we know anxiety can make us want to
overeat. When we’re feeling worried and stressed many of us reach for
food to help soothe and calm us. In this first article on dealing with
anxiety, I will be sharing a tool called a Thought Record that has
proven to lessen anxiety.
Basically, a Thought Record can help you identify ‘automatic or negative thoughts” and check to see if your automatic thinking falls into one of the many thought distortions that increase anxiety such as ‘catastrophizing or fortune-telling.’ The Thought Record then asks you to write down an alternative ‘balanced thought.’ I like to think of the new thought as one more closely resembling the truth.
For example, I may find myself thinking that if I try to connect to others it will be a disaster. This would be an example of ‘fortune-telling and over-generalization.’ It would be ‘fortune-telling’ because I’m determining ahead of time how something will turn out. It would be ‘over-generalization’ because I’m focusing on the times that I attempted to connect and it went poorly, and I’m forgetting the times I’ve tried to connect with others and it went well. A balanced thought would be: ‘When I’ve tried to connect with others sometimes it hasn’t gone so well and sometimes it has gone well. I’m going to try to connect with others and see how it goes.’
The value in making sure our thinking is balanced is immeasurable because our thinking patterns strongly affect our feelings and actions.
You can find official Thought Records in David Burns’ paperback, The Feel Good Handbook, in Christine Padesky’s workbook Mind over Mood or in the Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edward Bourne. You can also construct your own Thought Record by:
1. making a column for automatic thoughts,
2. a column for evidence that supports that thought,
3. a column for evidence that does not support the automatic thought and
4. a column for coming up with a balanced thought. The balanced thought should take into account all the evidence.
The goal is to learn to automatically adjust our thinking into a closer alignment with the truth. As it says in John 8:32, ‘You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.’
Writing out and examining our anxious thoughts can be very helpful even if we’re just listing them. Often, when I have anxious thoughts just whirling around in my head it helps tremendously just to get them down on paper.
Here’s to controlling our thoughts instead of letting our thoughts control us. May God richly bless your efforts toward ‘taking your thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ‘, (II Corinthians 10:5)
If you need help with fear or anxiety, we hope you’ll prayerfully consider joining us at our next New Life Weekend.