How to Challenge the Panic and Worry of Stress

worried womanOften people worry about their worry.  It’s not uncommon to be stressed about your stress-response.  In the absence of accurate information about the symptoms of your stress-response, you may develop faulty thoughts that cause fear and anxiety and additional stress.

If you have serious concerns about your health and question whether your symptoms are stress-related or a sign of some other health problem, you should seek medical help.  The following are challenges to distorted or faulty thoughts about stress and anxiety adapted from Anxiety Disorders and Phobias:  A Cognitive Perspective by Aaron Beck, M.D. and Gary Emery Ph.D. (2005).

  1. Distorted Thought:  My stress will never end.
  2. Challenge:  Change is the nature of life.  Both those events that create strain and those that have positive effects will come and go, like waves in the ocean.
  3. Distorted Thought:  I’m going crazy
  4. Challenge:  There is no evidence that high anxiety or stress causes psychosis
  5. Distorted Thought:  I’m losing control
  6. Challenge:  You might experience intense emotions or be rigid or tense, but it’s unlikely that you will become out of control.
  7. Distorted Thought:  I can’t function
  8. Challenge:  It may be uncomfortable, but it is possible to perform tasks (even public speaking) when you’re very stressed and anxious.
  9. Distorted Thought:  My stress-level is intolerable
  10. Challenge:  Stress can be very painful, but is rarely intolerable.  It’s likely that you’ve tolerated high degrees of stress in the past.
  11. Distorted Thought:  I’m dying or having a heart attack
  12. Challenge:  The physiological response to stress might make you feel weak, but it’s unlikely that you’re dying.  If you can move around actively you are probably not having a heart attack.

You can use this list of thoughts to help you recognize and challenge any distorted thoughts you may have about your stress-related symptoms.  If any of the distorted thoughts are familiar or automatic thoughts for you, practice saying the challenge to yourself, so that when the thought occurs, you’re prepared to change it.

Photo by San Drino, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.

One Reply to “How to Challenge the Panic and Worry of Stress”

  1. It’s so easy to become so wrapped up in the negative emotions and forget to take a step back and think more rationally. This is an excellent article – helps to remind those of us who are worriers, feel intense stress and suffer from anxiety disorders to take a step back, relax and realize it’s not the end of the world.

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