Six thoughts that increase anxiety: Changing your self-talk

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Question

What are some of the most common "thought patterns" that cause anxiety and nervousness?

Here are some of the most common "thought patterns" that cause anxiety, panic, phobia stress and nervousness. I've also included some possible counter-thoughts you can use:

  • Overestimating negative consequences (if I make a mistake, it will be horrible and awful). This is one of the hallmarks of all phobias.

    Actually, the consequences of making a mistake is not usually that bad.
  • Overestimating the likelihood that something horrible will happen. This is the other hallmark of all phobias.

    Try to think through where you're overestimating the level of potential disaster.
  • Fear is bad and fear symptoms are bad.

    Actually, fear is natural and I should expect it. When encountering a perceived threat, I will get some adrenaline in my body and I will experience some symptoms. If I don't add fearful thoughts on top of this first layer of fear, I can keep fear to a minimum.
  • Social standards are high and I have to be perfect.

    Actually, social standards are not as exacting as you think, and most people are friendly and supportive.
  • I can read minds. Do you jump to conclusions and assume people are thinking negative things about you?

    Studies show that people with public speaking fear/phobia tend to think of social situations as more competitive or hostile than they really are. In many cases, people are thinking neutral or positive things, and people are much more supportive than you might think.
  • Focusing on the negative.

    Research has found that those with social anxiety or public speaking fear tend to focus on the negative (like focusing on the one person in the audience who is not smiling) rather than focusing on the positive (like all of the others in the audience who are smiling).▪︎ Having unclear goals like “I want everyone to like me.” This is unachievable because you’ll never know if you achieved it or not. It’s more helpful to focus on goals such as “I want to get my message across clearly so I’m going to talk slowly and make sure that I’m communicating as clearly as I can.”
Dr. Cheryl Mathews Anxiety Coach

For more information, this video course explains anxiety thought patterns in more detail. Use the interactive exercises to apply the info to your own unique situation. See Section 2 "What We Tell Ourselves."