It’s human nature to be negative occasionally. For instance, you might imagine you’re not good enough now and then. However, when you’re anxious, you exaggerate your fears. You think you are in danger when you’re not and have an unrealistic perspective. Realistic thinking challenges thoughts that create stress, helping you gain an accurate outlook.
Anxiety generates fear-based thoughts. You exaggerate potential disasters or see problems where there are none. An example of a thought stemming from fear might be, “I will fail my exams and never get a good job.”
You might also misinterpret situations, imagining the worst. If you see a wasp and are afraid of wasps, you might automatically think it will sting you. Someone who’s not afraid, though, may notice the wasp and be unconcerned.
People often generalize when anxious, too. Generalizations are sweeping statements rather than realistic interpretations of events.
An example may be, “No one ever listens to me” or, “Everyone takes me for granted.” Realistically, no one is always ignored or taken for granted by everyone.
Challenge stressful thoughts
When you’re stressed, the chances are you’re entertaining unrealistic thoughts. You can find out if your thinking is off-kilter by considering a few simple questions.
Are you exaggerating potential problems? For instance, if you think no one listens to you, has anyone listened to you before? Of course, they have. Otherwise, you would never have had a conversation in your life. Another question to think about might be whether you’re 100% certain what you fear will occur.
You may consider whether anything similar to what you fear has happened to you in the past. Also, is it likely to happen? Or might its occurrence be only a remote possibility? Have you felt the same way before and yet, nothing bad happened?
Approach fear-based thoughts by considering if they are factual or stem from assumptions. Ask yourself what you know for sure rather than rely on guesswork.
Are you fortune-telling or looking at specific data you know is true? You may base thoughts arising from anxiety on feelings rather than facts. When you realize they aren’t accurate, you can swap negativity for a balanced view.
For instance, you may challenge, “I will fail my exams and never get a good job,” with “I may or may not fail my exams. Even if I fail, I can take them again. Plus, plenty of people who fail exams have good jobs.”
When you’re anxious, realistic thinking can help you change your perspective. Instead of seeing negativity, you can reach for a more accurate, less stressful, point of view. Question fear-based thoughts and recognize generalizations. Observe facts and steer clear of making judgments clouded by anxiety and stress will lift.