Hello. I struggle with anxiety on and off. It started as post natal anxiety, but now 2 years on so I figure it will be staying.
Most days are okay, but if I have a stressful day, I then really struggle with what I think are called intrusive thoughts. For example, I'm currently trying to sleep as we have a long awaited family day out tomorrow. However for the past 2 hours, all I can think of is what might go wrong, mainly centering around my toddler falling into the harbour we are going to tomorrow
Any coping strategies/advice to help stop these horrid thoughts? Thank you
First accept that everyone has intrusive thoughts. Whether that be harming a newborn baby, murdering a random stranger or jumping off a cliff - we all have them. The majority of people have these thoughts and in the same moment they disappear. Dwelling on these thoughts is when it becomes an issue.
Secondly, accepting that these thoughts are NOT your own. Hear them, see them, let them play in your head, and remember they are not your thoughts. Pushing them out only makes things worse in my opinion.
I've found mindfulness to be super helpful in managing them when my mind really gets away from me. You can pick up books on mindfulness or guides online. Bringing yourself back into the present moment and noticing how each body part feels and noticing how each breath feels is a good place to start.
I know it can be so horrific but there's nothing wrong with you.
To me it's the same as when you get an annoying song stuck in your head and you keep starting to sing it - eventually you get really good at noticing that you're starting to sing it and manage to stop yourself and maybe sing something else instead as a distraction. I do the same thing with intrusive thoughts now - 'what are you doing here thought, stop. Now think of something else nice'. Gradually you. An help your head reform its habit of thinking of bad things. Also, I will notice I get more intrusive thoughts when I'm very tired or my period is due, and I have to cut myself some slack and understand they're happening for a reason.
What helped me was to understand that lots of people got them and to think that 'this is an intrusive thought, it doesn't mean anything and I need to try and focus on something else'. I still get them but they don't worry me so much. I was so relieved when I read in here that it wasn't just me.
CBT helped me understand my intrusive thoughts and think of logical reasons for why would think that way. I was worried about other people's opinions of me. It helps you understand that maybe the person at the school gate wasn't ignoring you but maybe worried about something and that the anxiety you feel is part of your fight or flight response and that you have to realise it will pass and everything is ok. Deep breathing and relaxation helps. It gives you something to focus on and stops you obsessing. You have to work on it a bit. I try and remember to focus on my breathing when things get a bit crazy or I'm feeling scared or vulnerable. I think it's just adrenaline, it will go.
Ruby Wax said combat and challenge intrusive thoughts with a key word. She suggested 'bananas', but anything will do. I use 'bananas' because they are bright yellow and essentially quite hilarious. Every time you have a thought you don't want... 'Bananas!'
I would think that they are your thoughts but that your thoughts are not you. In that you are separate from your thoughts and emotions so you can observe them, acknowledge them even accept them but you are not defined by them and you can just gently tell them to jog on.
I get intrusive thoughts - ever since I was a teen. I've had 2 real bad spells of a few days since I've had the baby. Mainly centred around fear of losing my mind and doing something awful to him. Used to be about the puppy when we first got the puppy. I know I'd never harm a hair of either of them and it's just my mind playing tricks - but find that reading the ebook "managing intrusive thoughts" (you can find it on amazon) helps when I think they might be creeping back in.
for you - I know it's rotten but I promise you it's very very common. Esp after a baby.
I used to imagine dropping my baby down the stairwell (would be quite difficult to achieve, actually). Grounding exercises are great to bring you back to the present. You can isolate the soles of your feel and concentrate on how they feel, then any other body parts that are in contact with a chair (if you are sitting) scanning from bottom to top. or you can identify 5 things you can see, 4 things you hear, 3 things you can feel, 2 things you can smell, 1 thing you can taste. Concentrate on each sensation as you identify it.