Chicken or the egg? Negative thoughts... negative feelings... Which come first?

Experiencing stress and anxiety can lead to the distressing physical feelings .... That makes coping hard enough but there are also the frightening negative thoughts to contend with too. 

We can misinterpret the physical side effects of anxiety and find ourselves adopting unhelpful thinking patterns.  These negative thoughts then fuel the negative feelings... and on the cycle can go until you can completely loose sight of how this all started...

The trigger is biology!

A biological reaction to real or perceived danger, the fight or flight response. This stress and anxiety cycle is not a reflection on the individual, on their lives or their abilities, it is biology!!!

To break the cycle first identify the worrying thought patterns. Here are some examples:

All or nothing thinking : " I made a mistake.. I'm useless and never do anything right"

Personalisation : " Its all my fault "

Subjectification : believing bad situations reflect on you  rather than being just a bad/ difficult  event.

Catastrophising : believing one small problem will inevitably ruin everything else.

But of course everyone is individual and you may find some that relate to you and some that don't.  Changing these distressing unhelpful thought patterns is not always easy but it is absolutely possible. try to question those automatic negative thoughts...ask yourself..." Is that true"... " what would I say to my friend if they said this?"... " what are the alternatives?" continue to question the damaging thoughts.

Sometimes just distracting yourself with something mundane can help interrupt the cycle enough for you to see clearly again. Maybe count backwards in 3s or repeat a calming word silently to yourself over and over.  If you struggle with stress and anxiety trying to tackle it can seem like a mountain to climb, but take small steps and you can begin to develop stress management skills and overcome your anxiety.


Trying to address stress and anxiety yourself is a positive move, but if you feel your stress and anxiety is intense, long lasting and causing problems do speak to your health care provider for help and advise.

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Posted on July 13, 2010 and filed under stress management.