534: How to work with intrusive thoughts

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One of the questions we are asked the most, is how to work with unwanted thoughts. Especially thoughts about health anxiety. In this episode, we're sharing two key approaches to calming intrusive thoughts.





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Notes from this week’s episode:

Unwanted thoughts and worries that hook us are one of the biggest contributors to stress and anxiety.

The problem isn’t the thoughts

It’s that we believe the thoughts. Creating space to respond means we can redirect our attention and respond to fear thoughts rather than being swept away by the fear that they might be true.


An anxious mind is like a broken record

It keeps presenting us with things we dread, over and over again.

To handle intrusive thoughts see need to do two things: calm the pushing energy of the mind that keeps replaying the thoughts and train ourselves to respond to the thoughts without them escalating our anxiety.

There are a variety of ways to do this, and we’ll be sharing some techniques in this episode.


Create space between stimulus and response

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
— Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Australian physician Claire Weekes was a great teacher of how to do this with anxious thoughts. She recommended floating with anxious thoughts as a form of non-resistance.

She describes how we usually try to control our fear while also subjecting ourselves to constant self-analysis.

We desperately want intrusive thoughts to stop, especially ones that threaten our well-being, like health anxiety. So in an anxious effort to control and meet the fear we might start Googling, or body checking, or have these awful thoughts that there’s something terribly wrong. But these anxious reactions are treating the thought as if it’s true.

Claire Weekes recommends we practice floating with our thoughts and let them wash over us and fade away.

It’s in the resisting and fighting that anxiety wins. We become exhausted and increasingly worried and then when the thought breaks through again we feel fear in response and that fear feeds it, then the thought comes around again with increased energy, and we become more anxious.

Claire Weekes’ books are available on Amazon if you want to learn more about her teachings. One popular title is “Hope and Help for Your Nerves”. Several members of our Facebook group have found her book very helpful.


Supported Floating

When working with our clients, we recommend supported floating and adding a simple calming practice in response to unwanted anxious thoughts.

Listen to the full episode to learn a how to use a Tapping point to calm fear in response to intrusive thoughts.

That’s one way to respond to intrusive thoughts that, with practice, will help reduce their intensity and increase your capacity to handle them calmly.


Calming a restless mind

Unwanted thoughts arise when the mind is churned up and restless. The more we can do to help calm and ground the mind, the less it will churn up anxious thoughts.

Wisdom teachings behind Ayurveda explain that our mind can be our best friend or our worst enemy, and left unattended it tends to be our enemy.

That means it knows where we feel we are weak or lacking, and it will play on those areas. If we tend to be anxious about our health, the untamed mind will deliver our precise fears to us again and again.

But we’re not powerless. We can make changes and choices that help tame and balance the mind.

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Find Freedom from Unwanted Thoughts

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