Excessive worrying feels very debilitating since it gets you stuck in rumination mode. Going over the same thought without dealing with it productively can be a mood killer. The best way forward for those who often find themselves struggling to let go of negative thoughts is through self-awareness. Start actively monitoring your thoughts. More importantly, begin to challenge them whenever they fail to lead you to any useful or creative solutions. Then, if you are new to CBT, use the questions below to help you problem-solve.
Here is a list of questions to ask yourself when worrying excessively:
Does my thought make sense from a realistic perspective?
Would this thought be considered logical?
What is the evidence for my thought/belief/evaluation?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of believing in this thought?
Would the intelligent and mature people I know agree with my thought? Why?
Am I am being too hard on myself?
Would I think/say the same about/to my best friend?
Am I being reasonable?
Is this situation as bad as I am portraying?
Are people as judgemental as I am imagining them to be?
Am I equating my thought with a fact?
How would I evaluate this situation 2 months from now?
Is this going to matter to me tomorrow?
Is this worry productive?
Is this criticism constructive? What – if anything – have I learned from it?
Am I only focusing on the negative?
Am I basing my thoughts on mind reading?
Am I exaggerating the relevance of this thought?
What is the worst-case scenario? What is the best-case scenario? What is the most likely outcome?
How is this thought affecting my mood?
Is it guiding me towards my goals or is it distracting me from them?
Am I using labels to define the situation in a way that does not do it justice?
Am I being overcritical?
Am I being fair?
Am I problem solving in an objective way?
How could I consider this problem more objectively?
Am I blaming others or myself for things that are – realistically – out of our control?
Have I considered all the facts before jumping to conclusions?
Am I taking things too personally?
How am I assessing my/others’ ability to handle this particular problem? Am I overreacting or being too negative?
It is worth reminding yourself that thoughts are just thoughts, not facts. As we tend to negotiate meaning via our internal dialogue, make it work for and not against you. If you display a biased inclination towards perfectionism and self-criticism, for instance, expand your perception investing in a more flexible attitude. Restructure your rigid beliefs so that they reflect a more compassionate and forgiving outlook. Use metacognition as a tool against automatic thinking and learn how to gain more control over negative emotions.