“The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”
These famous words from the children’s fable hero, Chicken Licken, have probably entered a lot of our minds, along some variant or other, over the last nine months. I’ve definitely had my moments. Sometimes, as in Chicken Licken’s case, the only thing that has actually fallen is an acorn.
The sky is not falling. It never was.
As someone who has suffered from anxiety for many years, I know what it feels like to have irrational thoughts. I am all too familiar with the panic-stricken conclusions that can be drawn up in the space of two seconds. I am aware of the feelings of shame and fear that so often come hand-in-hand with such thoughts and of the mental prison we often feel confined to.
Because of this, I recognize equally the power and importance in rational thinking and asking questions. When I’m in a frightened headspace, allowing rational thought to enter my mental framework gives me the power to see past the anxiety. It allows me to gain the upper-hand on something that is trying to sprout fear and to see it for what it is—a lie.
When I’m in a frightened headspace, allowing rational thought to enter my mental framework gives me the power to see past the anxiety.
This year has been a lot to handle. It has been overwhelming for a lot of people. For many, our paths have felt derailed and, in the confusion of trying to get back on track, we’ve cast immense doubt over ourselves. However, if we believe these doubts, then we will invite all sorts of anxieties into our consciousness. These thoughts will directly impact our behaviors, and our behaviors directly influence how we live our lives.
I’d rather not live a life where my fears get the better of me. It’s been important for me to recognize where change has been needed and to gently reframe aspects of my lifestyle.
Being measured and restrained is counter-cultural, but there is something to slowing down and being intentional with what you consume each day. Anxiety thrives on irrational fears. So it’s important to protect your mind when you’re feeling emotionally vulnerable. Changing the dial on what you listen to or watch can recalibrate your internal dialogue.
Being measured and restrained is counter-cultural.
When you feel triggered or when you feel as though you have the potential to spiral, slow down. Slow yourself down physically. Go for a walk. Take slow and deliberate steps and be conscious of how you’re breathing. Once you slow yourself down on a practical and physical level, you create a space that is safe and one that helps you to meet your fears with rationality.
Rational thinking doesn’t have to be academia. The simplest of questions can help force a rational reaction. Is this really happening to me or am I worried this might happen? Is this something I keep on worrying about even though I know the solution? Is this just a fear that I am projecting?
Determining whether or not a thought is fear-based will let you know if it is rational. If it is not rational thought, then it is a lie and not something to be entertained nor believed. Deciphering the truth can feel like an impossible task when you’re experiencing anxiety, but that’s why it’s important to practice habits that will train and prepare you for when you feel anxious. Knowing what is true will help you navigate irrational thoughts.
If it is not rational thought, then it is a lie and not something to be entertained nor believed.
Rational thinking is a gift. Truth is the superpower that destroys a lie. It’s important to know what the truth is so that when anxiety tries to get the better of you, you can meet it with measure and restraint, not with flapping wings and hysteria like our ill-fated Chicken Licken.
When anxiety tells you that nobody likes you, you can list off your three close friends and your cat. When anxiety tells you that you are worthless, then you can tell it you are here for a reason. When anxiety tries to steal your hope for the future, then you can point to what inspires you and how far you’ve already come.
What are you holding on to? If you take a moment to be still, give yourself time to figure out a few truths that exist in your life. There is truth in the love you have for others and that others have for you. There is truth in what you care about and in how you want to make a difference. There is truth in hope.
Truth is rational and is found through asking questions. Be curious. Don’t stop asking questions. Don’t stop seeking the truth, and don’t be afraid to challenge your fears along the way.
Have lies in your head ever led to irrational thinking? What truths can you remind yourself of when faced with irrational fears?
Image via Max Krutz, Darling Issue No. 22