Realistic thinking means looking at all aspects of a situation (the positive, the negative, and the neutral) before making conclusions. In other words, realistic thinking means looking at yourself, others, and the world in a balanced and fair way.
Step 1: Pay attention to your self-talk Thoughts are the things that we say to ourselves without speaking out loud (self-talk). We can have many thoughts every hour of the day. We all have our own way of thinking about things, and how we think has a big effect on how we feel.
Step 2: Identify thoughts that lead to feelings of anxiety It can take some time and practice to identify the specific thoughts that make you anxious, so here are some helpful tips: Pay attention to your shifts in anxiety, no matter how small.
When you notice yourself getting more anxious, that is the time to ask yourself:
- What am I thinking right now?
- What is making me feel anxious?
- What am I worried will happen?
- What bad thing do I expect to happen?
- What if I can’t do it?
- I’m going to die of a heart attack!
- People are going to laugh at me if I mess up during the presentation.
- I’m going to go crazy if I can’t stop feeling so anxious.
- Things are not going to work out.
- I’m an idiot.
- What if something bad happens to my child?”
For example, thinking that a dog will bite you does not mean that it will. Often, our thoughts are just guesses and not actual facts. Therefore, it is helpful to challenge your anxious thoughts, because they can make you feel like something bad will definitely happen, even when it is highly unlikely.
Sometimes, our anxiety is the result of falling into thinking traps. Thinking traps are unfair or overly negative ways of seeing things. Use the Thinking Traps Form provided by Anxiety BC to help you identify the traps into which you might have fallen.
Try coming up with statements that remind you how you can cope with a situation. For example, “If I get anxious, I will try some calm breathing”, “I just need to do my best”, “People cannot tell when I am feeling anxious”, “This has happened before and I know how to handle it”, or “My anxiety won’t last forever”.
Positive self-statements. Regularly practise being “kind” to yourself (say positive things about yourself), rather than being overly self-critical. For example, instead of saying, “I will fail”, say something like, “I can do it”. Or, “I am not weak for having anxiety. Everyone experiences anxiety”, “I’m not a loser if someone doesn’t like me. No one is liked by everyone!”, or “I’m strong for challenging myself to face the things that scare me”.
Alternative balanced statements based on challenging negative thoughts. Once you’ve looked at the evidence or recognized that you’ve fallen into a thinking trap, come up with a more balanced thought