The words, “I want to kill myself,” run through my head in the middle of a work day.
The thought, “I suck, I suck, I suck” plays on repeat whenever I make a mistake.
Now I’m in the middle of a concert in tears because I’m imagining what it would be like if my boyfriend died in a car accident.
I’m terrified to see a friend because I’m sure they hate me over something I accidentally said.
I ponder about how awful I am for seemingly no reason at all, interrupting a perfectly good night out with friends.
Sometimes, an anxious and depressed brain is a hard place to be. And as someone who’s dealt with repetitive, negative thoughts, I always wanted to know: How do I get these bad thoughts to go away?
But I’ve come to realize when it comes to dealing with anxious thoughts, that’s not always the best question to ask. Sometimes, it’s actually more helpful to ask things like: How do I choose to react to these thoughts? How much control do I let them have over me?
Of course, it’s not as simple as “choosing” to embrace your thoughts instead of letting them bring you down. I also started taking medication, which helped me. But changing my relationship with these bad, anxious thoughts has been a pretty huge step for me. Instead of viewing them with shame, I try to view them with curiosity. Instead of wanting them to go away, I remind myself my thoughts and worries do not define me.
To see how other people deal with some common anxiety thoughts, we turned to our community. If you recognize any of these thoughts, I hope you benefit from their wisdom.
Here are some common “anxiety thoughts” — and how people have learned to live with them:
1. “I’m never good enough.”
“Feeling ‘not good enough’ is fairly constant in my life, but is particularly huge right now. So I’m coping by reaching out to friends who can list my accomplishments, who can sing my song back to me… I used to think asking for that was ‘wrong’ and on par with fishing for compliments, but now I finally realize it’s what friends do for one another. ‘Tell me I’m pretty and feed me chocolate cake’ is an acceptable (sometimes necessary) ask.” — Gloria M.
“When I feel as if I’m not good enough, I look back on things people say about me at work. Things I do for people. Accomplishments I’ve had. It makes me feel productive, positive and motivated. I think back on all of the times my friends have been there for me and have done such nice things to make me feel better. They make me feel as if the pieces of the puzzle are coming together once more.” — Rita L.
2. “Nobody likes me.”
“For occasions like this, I had my hubs write down five reasons he loves me. I carry them with me and anytime I feel like the world is against me, I take them out and know that at least one person in this universe cares for me. If I didn’t have that, I would be lost I think.” — Meredith S.
“My dog. He doesn’t judge me or tell me to get over it. He lets me hug him and gives me kisses whenever I ask. He stays with me when I need him the most. He depends on me to live. His love is unconditional which is exactly what I need during bad times.” — Kelley S.
3. “The worst-case scenario will definitely happen.”
“I make a list of reasons why my thought is true, and reasons why my thought is false. In the false column, I always put ‘my thoughts are not fact.’ This is something I learned from my therapist in grad school. And when I actually take the time to write it out, it helps out a ton.” — Joanna R.
“I write it out. My worst case for the situation… OK, so what would happen then, what would I do and what would it mean? (Ex: I get fired… means I’m without a job, I would need to find a new one.) Simplifying things like that makes it seem manageable most of the time.” — Maggie M.
4. “If I’m not perfect I’m awful.”
“I talk and remind to myself that I don’t have to be perfect and just do the best I can. I’m constantly telling myself that I’ll be OK and there is no need to be anxious for not doing things perfect. To me it is like a war in my head. A war between negative thoughts that cause me anxiety and good thoughts trying to calm myself down.” — Fanyy F.
“I remind myself, you can be a piece of art and a work in progress at the same time.” — Rachel A.
5. “Something awful is going to happen to someone I love.”
“I take out my journal and to battle my thoughts, I write down every single possible imaginable positive best case scenario.” — Brittney L.
“I try to stop and think back to all the other times I ‘knew’ what definitely would happen and remember I’m usually wrong, if I’m just sitting there overthinking and panicking about something I made up in my own mind.” — Allisun W.
6. “I can’t do anything right.”
“Running trails. It’s like I can run away from that feeling of being so lifeless and not good enough and all the mountains and hills make me suffer but I come out stronger and (quite literally) on top. That’s the best feeling in the world.” — Melissa T.
“I find something that I am good at, even the small things and go for it. Whether it’s writing, crocheting, drawing or something else, I can accomplish something small that I can admire once I’m done.” — Tatauq H.
7. “If I make a mistake, I’m a failure.”
“I write a list of facts that I know to be true about myself. These can be things I have achieved this year, times that I dealt with a difficult situation well — literally anything that confirms to me that I am enough. Normally I will begin writing this list then I read it back and I feel so silly for giving myself a hard time. It can really help.” — Becky W.
8. “If I have a bad thought, I’m a bad person.”
“Spending time with my pets helps. Because even when my brain tells me I’m not good enough, need to be better, etc., I can look in their eyes and see how damn much they love me just as I am (even if it’s only because I feed them… It can be enough to just pull me away from sinking into that spiral).” — Aylah H.
“I tell myself because it’s a thought, it’s not real. Then I think of a really weird thought like, my hair is blue, and then say to myself, ‘See? Your hair is not blue even though you thought it.’ This kinda hacks my brain into thinking this is funny rather than focusing on worrying.” — Jables B.
9. *Feeling anxious about the possibility of feeling anxious.*
“One thing my therapist taught me was these things will happen. But they are not happening right at this moment. When they happen, you can worry and be anxious — but until then, you have to reassure yourself that things are OK. A lot of my therapy happens in my own mind. I am very self-aware. So most times I just have to tell myself over and over everything is OK until my brain calms down a bit. The other parts of my anxiety have no reason to them. And it’s even harder to control.” — Brianna M.
“I remind myself to take it one step at a time and that whatever happens, happens.” — Cynthia T.
For more ways people cope with anxiety, check out the pieces below:
- The Worst Parts of Living With Anxiety – and What to Do About It
- 17 ‘Small,’ but Significant, Lifestyle Changes That Help People With Anxiety