5 Strategies for Getting Unstuck
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Try to notice when you get caught in should/shouldn't thinking traps in which you criticize yourself just for feeling anxious. For example, "I should be able to handle life much better" or "I shouldn't get anxious about such little issues." If this happens, give yourself compassion for the fact that you feel anxious, regardless of whether the anxiety is logical or not. Think of it this way: If a kid was scared of monsters, you wouldn't withhold compassion and empathy just because the monsters aren't real. Treat yourself with the same caring. A common mistake people make is to think they need to give themselves excessive encouragement, praise or pep talks while they're feeling anxious—you don't. Taking a patient and compassionate attitude about the fact you're experiencing anxiety is an overlooked strategy that helps anxious feelings pass quickly.
Experiment: Try this: Switch out any shoulds hidden in your self-talk and replace them with prefer. For example, instead of saying "I should have achieved more by now" try "I would prefer to have achieved more by now."
This is a simple, specific, repeatable example of how you can talk to yourself in a kinder, more patient way. These tiny self-interventions may seem ridiculously simple, but they work. They may not seem like they shift your anxiety to a huge degree; however, they can help you disrupt your rumination just enough to give you a small window of clear mental space. This allows you to start doing something useful rather than keep ruminating.
This adapted excerpt was taken from The Anxiety Toolkit: Strategies for Fine-Tuning Your Mind and Moving Past Your Stuck Points by Dr. Alice Boyes. Dr. Boyes is an emotions expert for Women's Health magazine (AU), and a popular blogger for PsychologyToday.com. You can get the first chapter of her book for free by subscribing to her blog updates here. She's on Twitter @DrAliceBoyes.