The ANTs go marching one by one by two by ten by….it just doesn’t stop!

By ANTs I mean “automatic negative thoughts” of course.

When you’re suffering from social anxiety, or really anxiety of any kind the stream of negative thoughts can seem endless.

It used to seem to me like there was nothing I could do about it, nothing to stop the thoughts and the pain they generated.

But it can be done. I did it, and so can you.

One approach I used at first, that is one of the most important parts of traditional CBT is “thought challenging” which can be done while writing out beliefs, to identify the irrational negative thoughts, and write out more rational statements to counter them.

However, this is only part of the puzzle of un-wiring social anxiety.

Once we’ve begun doing our therapy for overcoming social anxiety disorder, I think where the real work gets done is in the moment we are experiencing the ANTs, whether it’s via anticipatory anxiety while at home, or out in the world being around people.

So how is this done? Well here’s the first technique I used, that I learned from Dr. Richards and it goes something like this:

1) Be on the look out for ANY negative thoughts (Awareness)

2) Stop whatever you are doing

3) Intervene with a thought challenging statement

So what is a thought challenging statement look like? Here’s an example:

“Stop! These negative thoughts are not good for me. They aren’t healthy or helpful, so I have decided to move in a better direction, and learn to think differently.” (From the Overcoming Social Anxiety Step-by-Step course, by Dr. Thomas Richards)

In order to burn the statement into your brain, you need to write it on a 3×5 index card, and say it out loud 3 times a day (minimum) until you learn it.

Then when those ANTs come marching, you do the steps I’ve outlined above.  It’s that simple.

This technique has its strengths, and I’m writing about it here, because it works some of the time. It’s definitely worth trying, if you want to try to stop your thoughts directly, and that will work for you.

It worked for me well at first. But sometimes it didn’t work so well, so I searched for another solution.

However, since then I’ve found an even better way, because I’ve found that thought-challenging is based on resistance, and when using a mindful approach, we remove that resistance.

I’m an advocate of having as many tools as you’d like to work with an issue, because what works in one instance, may not work in another, or may not work for the same person.

A good analogy is having a flat head screwdriver, that works for a phillips head screw you are trying to tighten, but not as well as a phillips head screwdriver would work on that screw.

Hope that makes sense! I just came up with that in the moment while writing here. :)

Doing a simple mindfulness meditation is a great place to start.

There are many different types of powerful mindfulness exercises – including the “having-noticing” exercise – which is great for learning how to defuse from thoughts in the moment, instead of fighting them.

Like in this video here:

In the Dissolve Social Anxiety home recovery course, I will train you how to overcome your social anxiety, what to do if and when it shows up.

Remember even “normal” people get SA sometimes, so it’s also important to redefine what “overcome” means!

One really killer thing about learning to overcome your social phobia is that not only does it help heal it, it helps you get control of your life in a way you never imagined, and things become possible that you didn’t imagine because SA was in the way, blinding you to all the possibilities of your happiness.

If you’d like to read about the “Dissolve Social Anxiety” 12-week home recovery program – click right here.

If you’d like to find out about one-on-one coaching with me for social anxiety – you can read about Skype video coaching.

    5 replies to "How To Stop Those ANTs Dead In Their Tracks – (Automatic Negative Thought Intervention)"

    • liz

      But what if its a feeling not a thought? An automatic feeling like your heart suddenly starts racing whenever you go out and start to feel anxious but you dont stop and think “What if’s” questions.

    • Joy

      I really like this article.

      • David Hamilton

        Thanks Joy, I’m glad you do and hope it helps.

    • Ken

      Very good article.

      • David H.

        Thanks Ken!

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