Anxiety & The Thinking Trap


Maybe you’re too young to have ever heard the old saying “Idle hands are the devil’s handiwork.” This basically means When someone is not busy, or being productive, trouble is bound to follow. I think this is especially true for anxious people and our thinking.

The trouble we get into when we don’t keep out minds and bodies occupied is that we fall prey into the bizarre thoughts and feelings that go hand and hand with being anxious.

An anxious mind coupled with too much free time can really be a recipe for disaster…

Sometimes I don’t know if I’m thinking too much or if I shouldn’t be thinking. One thing for sure, once the racing thoughts start, all bets are off when it comes to how anxious this can make me. Will I have a full blown panic attack? Multiple severe panic attacks, or just a low level feeling of anxiety simmering under the surface for hours and hours?  Any of the above is possible…

I had a really smart and compassionate psychiatrist years ago when I lived in NYC. He got to know stop thinking so muchme very well being his patient for almost 10 years, and he used to tell me to always have a job outside the house- that this was really good for me.

I know Dr.Claire Weeks says that occupation is really good for the anxious mind in one of her books too.

There is even a slogan in some 12 Step groups that says something like: When I get busy I get better.

In a recent post I discussed how little feelings of discomfort got me thinking about this and that, and before I knew it I was almost having a panic attack because a huge lump had formed in my throat  and I couldn’t swallow.

This goes back to another suggestion I have always believed in, that certain emotions can trigger that crazy anxious thinking- the biggies being when we are hungry, angry, lonely, tired, or sick.

I was talking to my friend via email the other day and she was saying how it was her day off and while this was a good thing, it was a bad thing as far as her anxiety goes. I understood exactly what she meant.

Anxiety is the enemy of the imagination as they say. So we in effect have to work to take our mind off our mind. Does that make sense?

I’m grateful that I have a job now and that really does help. I worked the last 3 days in a row and got home each night between 10:30 and 11:30pm. Then I get up each morning at 5:30am to get the kids off to school. This morning after the girls left, I went back to bed and just slept like a dead person. When I woke up at 10 am still exhausted, I noticed my mind was quiet….

So being completely spent and physically exhausted actually felt very peaceful – there were no racing or bizarre thoughts. I wasn’t tuned in to body symptoms or scared of the day ahead. Nice..quiet :)

Before this new job, I stayed at from home so I could be here for my girls. It was challenging. I learned that I could not just veg out in front of the tv or just wing it through the day. This made me too nervous. It always helped for me to have a schedule and to stick to it.

So now when I find myself with long stretches of free time, I automatically start making a mental note of things I have to do. There is always something to clean, laundry to tend to, a grocery list to make, errands that need to be done, a dog that would love a walk, leaves to rake, weeds that can be pulled, a gym class I can go to, etc.

I stop thinking and I start doing. Nice easy things…

Keeping busy is a great antidote to the thinking trap. It definitely takes the mind off racing thoughts. And it feels good not to think.

I wish you peace,
Jill G.

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This entry was posted in Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Attacks, Panic Disorder and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Anxiety & The Thinking Trap

  1. Anna J says:

    I could not agree more, to keep our minds busy is a very wise advice against anxious thoughts. Whenever I’ve been very idle for a certain amount of time, upsetting thoughts and self-pity appear. I find it harder to concentrate and I get lazy, and as they say laziness is the mother of all bad habits. It is also a web where you can get caught easily. What do I usually do? I do crochet and it has really helped me because it distracts my mind and at the end of the day I have a new piece of art and feel very satisfied.

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