Written by Allison Lefkowitz, LMFT
Like a juicy tabloid magazine, or cable news program, sometimes our minds can “report or “print” something that might not be necessarily true, especially when we are under stress or experiencing anxiety. When we find ourselves in an anxious state, our minds can read to us endless stories of impending doom and fear.
Though sometimes the mind can give us these high stake stories as tales of warning we should pay attention to, our brains can also hand us a list of who, whats, wheres and hows that are as false as any story printed by the National Enquirer, and are only in existence to make our anxiety more intense as we are experiencing it.
When we are unconscious to the intention of the running of negative thoughts in our minds during an anxious moment, it is likely that our anxiety will be increased, making it more difficult to find a place of calm. In other words, anxious thoughts usually lead to anxious feelings. If we have not practiced slowing down and examining our thoughts when we have become anxious our minds can produce slanderous, untrue material only suited to be sold next to the registers at Duane Reade.
Developing and practicing fact checking is a simple process. When you find yourself in an anxious state, pause as best you can (this can range from taking a few centering breaths, to taking a break from your current situation) , and look at your thoughts. To look at one’s thoughts means to examine them just as if they were printed words on a page of a book. Pause, breathe, and stay with your thoughts as best you can. Some find it helpful to write their thoughts down to get a closer look. As you “read,” ask yourself if all of your thoughts in this moment are truly real and yours? Or are they fiction and are only fibs being spouted by your anxiety? Its your choice whether you want to believe these stories or not, and decide whether these “facts” being produced are one’s that you want to believe or not.
Developing one’s inner fact checker can assist the mind in producing stories that are more New York Times, less Fox News. Even if our minds occasionally continue to spew such newsworthy stories of yet another Big Foot siting or Alien invasion, at the very least we give ourselves the space to put it back on a shelf for a reading for another time.