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Why trying to stop anxious thoughts doesn't work. Saturday May 11, 2013

We all know that telling yourself to stop worrying doesn't work, at least in the long term. In fact, the opposite often happens. Trying to banish worrying thoughts often makes them stronger and more persistent. You may be able to distract yourself or suppress anxious thoughts momentarily. But thought-stopping doesn't work because it forces you to pay extra attention to the very thought you want to avoid. Because you are always looking out for it, this very emphasis makes it seem even more important.

But there is something you can do. You can try the strategy of postponing. Rather than trying to stop or reject an anxious thought, allow yourself to have it, but put off further thinking until later. Here's some practical advice on how to go about it.

Create a worry period. Allocate a set time and place for worrying. Say 30 minutes at the end of the afternoon. During your worry period, allow yourself to worry about whatever's on your mind.

Make the rest of the day a worry-free zone. If an anxious thought or worry comes into your head during the day, write it down and postpone it to your worry period. Making a record of the thought is important because it means you don't have to try and remember it, which would only bring it back to your conscious attention. Remember, you are not abandoning the worry, simply saving it for later consideration.

Reflect on your anxiety list during the worry period. When you read through your list, if a particular thought is still bothering you, allow yourself to worry about it, but only during the time you've allocated. If certain worries don't seem important any more, drop them from your list and enjoy anxiety-free living for the remainder of your day.

Because postponing breaks the habit of dwelling on worries, it's an effective form of anxiety relief. And because there's no struggle to suppress thoughts (only save them for later), you'll start to realise that you have more control over your anxiety than you thought.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our Blogspot:

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Eileen Sat, May 11th 2013 @ 7:50am

Great advice. I can see we're in good hands still, thank you!

June Jones Sat, May 11th 2013 @ 8:10am

Sorry but this reminder has given a negative tone to the start of my day. Think I'll search YouTube for a very old song "Pack up Your Troubles". Similar message but with a cheerier tone.

Julia Sat, May 11th 2013 @ 9:07am

I think this is a novel way of dealing with anxious thoughts; I am going to try it today. This method is one I have never read about before so thank you moodscope team. Yes Eileen, I agree we are still in good hands!

Anonymous Sat, May 11th 2013 @ 10:16am

Sorry. Doesn't engage me this a.m.

Anonymous Sat, May 11th 2013 @ 10:21am

Or "Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative..." But good advice I think. V bad to suppress uncomfortable thoughts - they will only keep coming back any way, and we all know how rumination is easy to get stuck in. So maybe this technique is a good alternative. Worth a try.
Good first post. Keep em coming.

Anonymous Sat, May 11th 2013 @ 11:17am

I think that this is great advice. By setting aside a special time to deal with things is neither living in denial nor being allowing oneself to be flooded with overwhelming feelings that stay with us all day. I cope with life by journaling and writing poetry, I often write brief notes to come back to later so alloting special time to the 'difficult' stuff sounds good to me. I found that setting a time limit when there was a lot going on stopped me getting too low.
On the other hand, I also write happy poems and tiny poems e.g. haiku about 'special moments' in nature as I observe them which I find very uplifting and it balances the other kind of writing.
A helpful organisation to learn more about writing for wellbeing is Lapidus see and their Lapidus Facebook page to find out more/communicate with like minded individuals.
Thank you Moodscope for the reminders and suggestions, many of which I find helpful. I will post today's suggestion on the Lapidus F/b page because I think many people would find it helpful.

Anonymous Sat, May 11th 2013 @ 11:45am

The best piece of practical advice I've read since becoming a Moodscope member.

Caroline Ashcroft Sat, May 11th 2013 @ 11:58am

Hi June, I am sorry you see today's post as negative. Some Moodscopers will agree with you I am sure but an equal number will find it helpful and try it out. Thank you though for reminding us (those of us old enough to know this song) of Pack up your Troubles. Those too young can cheer themselves up by looking on YouTube as you suggest! Thanks June.

Caroline Ashcroft Sat, May 11th 2013 @ 12:00pm

So pleased you found it helpful.

Anonymous Sat, May 11th 2013 @ 1:31pm

going to try it. worrying is such a terrible habit and waste of time. this seems well worth trying. thanks.

Julia Sat, May 11th 2013 @ 2:24pm

Hello dennisthemenace. Hope you are well. It's good to hear from you again. Am feeling average today, not up nor down. Maybe you are back at work now but no need to tell me. Just hoping you are getting there. If not, you will in your own good time. Lots of good wishes

Anonymous Sat, May 11th 2013 @ 4:42pm

worrying is not with me all the time, so having worry times set aside sounds a depressing idea and would possibly bring me down when Im oK. Perhaps it is something |I could try when I feel overwhelmed only Also, perhaps I'm tempted to be negative because I am worried about losing Jon and the effect that may have on me.

Julia Sat, May 11th 2013 @ 6:54pm

I have just flipped the cards and found the new descriptions so helpful. I wasn't sure if I would actually even though I praised their introduction yesterday. My scores these past two days have been slightly higher but I feel I have taken into careful consideration the interpretation on the cards. It took me longer to take the test; I thought more before I answered. I found that the definitions are not so different from my own personal interpretation which was in my head. I am quite a lazy person and like swift conclusions to things. For me the definitions are a very quick way to get my brain cells working without too much effort and which produces a result which is meaningful. I really like this change. I was getting to the stage where I preferred to look at the daily blog and posts than to do the cards but now my interest in the cards has been revitalised by the definitions. I don't think it matters if you read the definitions or not or if you change to reacting to the definitions. I used to think one could measure one's mood in relation to the previous day or a period in the past but I now think my mood is reflected daily by either choosing to use the definitions or not. There is honestly not much difference for me only that I think more carefully before choosing the answer.

Caroline Ashcroft Sat, May 11th 2013 @ 7:55pm

Hi Julia, I'm so pleased that they are helpful to you.

Caroline Ashcroft Sat, May 11th 2013 @ 8:00pm

Hi there, I absolutely agree, if you're fine most of the time then you probably don't have any worries, so you've no need to set aside time, only do it when you need to. I do hope you've signed up to Jon's new venture. Jon will be blogging again soon I'm sure so don't worry about losing him.

Sarah Layton Sat, May 11th 2013 @ 10:05pm

I love this approach to worrying and would like to add something. How about using your worry period to reach out to a friend who is a good listener? Hearing ourselves speaking our worries out loud can really help to assuage them and, if we are open to our listener offering some ideas, we can often hear new perspective on the situation. We don't have to be open to advice of course - its fine to tell someone we just want to be listened to and acknowledged.

I often find that when I am worrying about something it is because I have some information missing and am trying to decide how to move forward prematurely. I find that identifying the smallest and easiest forward step I can take and then doing it is really helpful as motivation follows action.

A simple example - if I'm catering for a large number of people I can start to worry some time ahead about having enough time and what I will make etc. Taking the step of looking in my diary and marking in a slot in which to think about the menu and draw up a shopping list really helps. It's a very small step and it makes a big difference - now I know when I can do the planning that will make the event possible.

Welcome to you new team and thank you Jon - good luck going forward.

Mtwdrw Sat, May 11th 2013 @ 10:28pm

Too verbose. Re read Jon try again

Elizabeth Sun, May 12th 2013 @ 9:49am

I disagree. Anybody else writing deffinitelly don't need to be like Jon and trying to immitate him can't do any good. Anyway, I'll wait for some more posts before judging the new style.

PurpleSuzi Sun, May 12th 2013 @ 10:38am

Well written advice Caroline.
I found it helpful as I am a Worrier!
Best wishes to the new team,
With love, Sue xx

PurpleSuzi Sun, May 12th 2013 @ 10:41am

Thank you Caroline!

Welcome advice to a Worrier!
I will try this out.

Also, Welcome to the new team!
Hugs, Sue xx xx

Julia Sun, May 12th 2013 @ 11:35am

What do you mean Mtwdrw? The few words you use are meaningless or do you mean Jon has to read read something (what?) and has to try again? Poor Jon what has he done wrong?
Sarah's post on the other hand has a lot of meaning which we can all understand and it is helpful unlike yours. Elizabeth's is also helpful. She makes a good point saying that once someone has left an organisation, it does not make sense to try to imitate that person.
Of course if only we could understand what point you are trying to make, we might value what you say. And by the way Moodscope has no rules on how many words to use in a post. It's not Twitter. But posts, long or short should be easily understood by everyone don't you agree Mtwdrw?

Anonymous Sun, May 12th 2013 @ 1:32pm

I agree with Elizabeth. John had a particular style that will be very hard to emulate. We all clearly loved that style, but the new team cannot and should not try to copy it. The new posts will be different, i think people need to give them a chance and try not to be so quick to judge. BP.

Anonymous Sun, May 12th 2013 @ 7:53pm

Thought for today: Participate in activities with people who share your interests.

Comment: I do this all of the time. Go down to my favourite coffee bar and drink coffee in the company of like minded people, i.e. people who enjoy drinking coffee in coffee bars. What's wrong with that?

Julia Mon, May 13th 2013 @ 9:52am

Eh? You've lost me here Anonymous. Should I drink more coffee ??? Is this what you are telling me? Which brand do you prefer and I will try it.

Soraya Tate Wed, May 15th 2013 @ 11:19am

I think re: styles that a) you should not try to emulate Jon as we all need to accept that life and Moodscope moves on :) and b) having said htat, the one thing about Jon's posts was the inclusion of the word 'I' a lot.

His writing gave a sense that "we are all in the same boat, and I know what it's like. Here's something that worked for me personally". The new writing has a feel of saying: " *you* lot are all in the same boat, which is not our boat. Have you tried not eating sugar?"

Believe it or not I support the new way forward but I really miss that personal experience coming through. That was what I had found so helpful. There are reams of advice out there from non-attached experts about what to give up, what not to think etc but there is less written so insightfully. If the new owners share insight and experience of low mood, perhaps they could consider personal engagement with the daily emails?

Caroline Ashcroft Wed, May 15th 2013 @ 3:49pm

Hi Soraya, I totally understand your point and agree with you. It's something we're working on. Hopefully you will see a change for the better very soon. In the meantime, please bear with us.

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