Do you struggle with anxiety? Whether it’s background worry, looming fear, or creeping doubt, anxiety can be intense. And overwhelming.
Anxiety is one of the number one reasons clients come to see me, and it’s one of the most popular topics on my site. So many people struggle with anxiety, and if we’re not intentional about dealing with it, it can take over. Thankfully though, there’s another way! Today I’m sharing how to approach your anxiety like a scientist and why this is ridiculously helpful.
To get started, imagine a scientist, running an important experiment. This person is methodical, thorough, and detail oriented. They don’t base results of their experiments on how they feel or what they think happened. They base their results on the data. On what actually happened.
And while our lives as humans aren’t always as cut and dry as science, we have more data than we think.
Let’s look at an example.
Imagine things have been a little off with you and a friend. And you’re convinced they’re mad at you. Your anxiety is feeding you all sorts of goodness about the weird look they gave you or how they took too long to respond to your text.
So let’s approach this like a scientist.
First, identify the anxious thought. “My friend hates me.”
Now let’s look at the data. What information do you have about things between you and this friend? Sure, they gave you a weird look the other day, and they took longer than normal to respond to your text. True, those are actual data points. If it’s up to your anxiety, those are the only two data points you’ll pay attention to.
But like a good scientist, you’re going to look at all the data points before drawing your conclusion. Your friend invited you for coffee. They sent you a funny message earlier in the week. You know they’ve been stressed with work lately, you two have had a solid friendship for years, and they texted you back quickly on three other occasions.
Ok, so now, when you zoom out and look at ALL the data, suddenly the conclusion looks a little different.
A good scientist doesn’t just look at SOME of the data, they look at ALL of the data before making their conclusion. So if you want to reduce your anxiety, you’ve got do the same thing.
When you approach your anxiety like a scientist, you aren’t focused on creating positive thoughts, but accurate ones. In the video, I lay out three simple steps to do just that.
1. Identify your anxious thought. “If I pitch this idea in a meeting, I’ll sound stupid.” “This symptom is probably a sign of a really serious health concern.” “They haven’t answered their phone today, something bad probably happened.” Your anxious thoughts might sound jumbled or so true that you don’t even notice them. But work hard to quiet down long enough to pinpoint to anxious thought. It will make the next two steps much easier.
2. Using the data you have, ask yourself, “How accurate is this thought?” The key word here is accurate. Yes, that bump you noticed could be a sign of a serious health concern. That’s absolutely a possibility. It could also be an allergic reaction, a normal sign of aging, a benign lump, a consequence from running into the countertop the other morning, or one of a million more possibilities. So that initial anxious thought? It’s not nearly as accurate as your anxiety wants you to believe.
It’s important to note that sometimes you might not have a ton of data, so you might have you use data from similar situations. For instance, if you’ve never pitched an idea in a big meeting, think about how things have gone when you pitched the idea in a smaller meeting or to your office mate. What kind of feedback has your boss given you about your ideas in the past? How open has your team been to other pitches? Using related data is sometimes the closest we can get.
3. Create a new, balanced and accurate statement. After you’ve challenged the accuracy of your initial anxious thought, realizing it’s not as accurate as it originally seemed, work to create a new, more accurate thought. “This bump could be something serious, but it could also be due to twenty other things, so I’ll wait to see what the doctor says.” “There’s a chance this pitch might not go well, but the idea went over well when I mentioned it to a few colleagues, and our office is usually open to new ideas, so it will probably be ok.”
Creating this new, more accurate thought is key. This replaces your initial thought, nicely kicking your anxiety out of the way.
It’s not always fun to think like a scientist, and it’s certainly not easy. And your anxiety sure as heck doesn’t want you to use logic and think like a scientist. Your anxiety wants to run the show. But if you take a breath, step back, and examine ALL of the data points, I think you’ll realize your anxious thoughts aren’t quite as accurate as they seem.
Remember, as a human, you have a lot more control over your thoughts than you might think. It might take little work to approach your anxiety like a scientist, but oh is it worth it!