Handle Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts: Do’s And Don’ts

  1. Practice mindfulness meditation, focusing your attention to your breath or a mantra.
  2. Note the thought and ‘park’ it, reminding yourself to tackle it later.
  3. Do not distract yourself in a way that makes your mind rebound towards the unwanted thought you are trying to avoid.
  4. Do not take comfort or reassurance in others, as it can be a cause of false beliefs and incorrect notions.
  5. Do not worry, ruminate or delve into negative self-talk.
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Disturbing Thoughts

We all have thoughts going on in our heads all the time, stories, reimagining of the past, beliefs and ideas. Many of these thoughts are not in our direct control and can show up in our consciousness in an intrusive manner, without any effort or intention from our side.

These unwanted intrusive thoughts, which are without our consent, can be beneficial, mundane, disposable, or even disturbing and scary.

Many studies show that thought suppression leads to the mind paying extra and frequent attention to the particular thought that is being suppressed, causing it to ‘rebound’ and become the dominant thought.

Example: Telling the brain to not think of a pink elephant conjures up the image of a pink elephant automatically for most people.

Many psychotherapeutic approaches like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) only touch the surface of the problem, not the origin of the disturbing thought.

Though simply having those unwanted intrusive thoughts does not automatically mean that those will be acted upon, as most people are simply terrified of having such thoughts.

  1. Acknowledge and label these thoughts as bad or negative, creating a distance between you and the thoughts.
  2. Write them down, to have it in front of you on a piece of paper, as you reflect on it and stop the worrying in the process.
  3. Recognize that the thoughts are real and are an unpleasant problem.
  4. Recognize and validate your own emotional response to the thoughts.
  5. Do not brood over them, and try to redirect your attention to something else, which is pleasant.

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The downward spiral of overthinking

When we spend too much of our time analysing problems, we often end up with more questions than answers. Consistently overthinking can cause a range of symptoms such as insomnia, trouble concentrating and a lack of energy. In turn, it leads to further worries and finally becomes so unbearable that we look for ways to calm down.

Metacognitive strategies can help you reduce overthinking and help you realise that overthinking is within your control.

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IDEAS

Stop And Breathe

Anxiety is typically experienced as worrying about a future or past event. But anxiety loses its grip when you clear your mind of worry and bring your awareness back to the present.

When anxiety takes you out of the present, regain control by sitting down and taking a few deep breaths. You can also try using a breathing exercise and mantra. 

Why we are not decisive

The main cause of our trouble with being decisive comes down to this process: cultural conditioning +negative habits.

There are persons that start life from a disadvantaged position in terms of confident decision-making. But we should know that this is still largely constructed not inborn.

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