The Mind on Anxiety and Depression

“I can’t get good grades”, “I’ll never succeed”, “Nobody likes me”, “There’s no way I can ever get all of this work done”, “I’ll never find someone to love”, “What is wrong with me?”…..

At some time or another, most of us have probably had these or other similar types of thoughts play in our head. Usually, if these thoughts pass through our minds periodically, they are not especially distressing or unpleasant. However, for some people, there are times when we can get “hooked” on these thoughts, almost as if a tape recorder was playing on a constant loop or a CD is stuck on “repeat”. After paying attention to these kinds of thoughts for extended periods, it can cause some people to experience negative feelings, such as anxiety, depression or self-doubt. While sometimes it can be helpful to try to confront these thoughts and try to replace them with different, more positive thoughts, sometimes it may be more effective to find ways to simply “unhook” ourselves from those thoughts. Making our minds stop generating thoughts can be like trying to stop the wind. However, when we can become aware of the types of thoughts that keep playing in our head and begin to recognize that we do not need to choose to believe these thoughts or to act on them, we can make them feel less powerful in our lives.

There are strategies and tools that we can use to help us “unhook” from our negative thoughts. Many of these involve increasing our awareness to the types of similar themes of stories that our minds are generating. We can increase awareness by becoming more mindful and aware of what is actually occurring in the present moment rather than attending to the random thoughts created by our minds. In this way, we can begin to recognize that we are much more than what are thoughts try to tell us about ourselves. By breaking free of responding in an “automatic pilot” mode, we can free ourselves from getting stuck in our own heads and get back to living full and productive lives.