Living (Well) With Anxiety – Do Not Feed the Fears

I saw this sign once, and it sums up my whole point here today, talking about the best thing I ever did for my anxiety.

I love it so much. DO NOT FEED THE FEARS.

That’s basically the jist, but I’ll go ahead and give you more details so you don’t feel like you wasted your time clicking here 😉

Plus it’s actually more complicated than that.

living with anxiety

I’ve mentioned before that I have found therapy endlessly helpful in dealing with my anxiety.

My therapist has given me SO many of the tools that I use on a daily basis to confront my demons head on. It is a totally natural anxiety relief option!

But if you can’t afford therapy or don’t have the time or are just to scared to go, then know that there are still things you can do on your own to recover from anxiety.

One of the reasons that therapy is so beneficial is that it takes the generic out of YOUR anxiety and helps you to deal with your personal issues. I can talk for hours about MY stuff, the ways that MY anxiety whirls around in MY mind… but I don’t know anything specific about YOUR stuff.

The good news here is that we’re all human and our stuff is often similar even if it’s not the same. So I don’t feel like I’m wasting my breath telling you about my experience. I could write for days on my experiences with CBT (cognitive behavior therapy), but today I’m going to just focus on the ONE aspect that has been the MOST helpful for me.

The single thing that has made the MOST difference in my ability to control my anxiety.

In CBT, you identify and challenge your negative (or anxious) thoughts.

It works. BUT, I find that it’s easier to challenge the negative thoughts when there are less of them, so it’s very important to know how to cut down on the number of negative thoughts you might have, before you even start to challenge them.

Starve the fears. If the fears are starved, they’re weaker.

There are two main ways that my fears are fed. Thoughts that are planted in my head and thoughts that I allow to run around in my head. (Sort of the same, but very different in that there are different courses of action I need to take against these things.)

THIS POST PROBABLY CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS. OUR FULL DISCLOSURE POLICY IS REALLY BORING, BUT YOU CAN FIND IT HERE.)

As usual:  I am NOT a doctor, and I am not formally educated on mental illness. You should see a doctor to learn about your options.

Start right now by setting up boundaries about what comes into your head

Boundaries for what’s coming into your head are different than boundaries for what you’re going to allow yourself to experience, just FYI. (Understand that as you read this. Living well with anxiety means finding ways to deal with the anxiety, not hide from every anxiety-inducing experience.)

It’s ok for you to (politely) tell a friend, “I just can’t hear this dentist horror story (you’re telling) right now because I have a dentist appointment coming up and I’m so nervous about it”.

You NEED to go to the dentist, you don’t NEED to fill your head with scary dentist stories first.

See the difference? That’s what I’m talking about here. I’m not suggesting you give up the dentist / riding in elevators / getting on airplanes. Just the things that create excessive unnecessary negative or anxious thoughts about those things.

(In fact, actually going to the dentist can be very beneficial if you’re afraid of the dentist. That sounds backwards, but it’s called exposure therapy and it absolutely works for some people. Filling yourself in on (likely uncommon) stories of unfortunate things that have happened to people who had a root canal will not help you.)

You’ll notice while I write about my experiences that I’m not going to describe in any detail the sorts of things that bother me. That’s important. Hold that thought and I’ll come back to that.

I have found that setting strict boundaries for what I allow my mind to be exposed to has helped SO much.

I know, from repeated experience, that feeding the anxious thoughts in my head (through TV, the radio, books, social media, passing conversation ect) can be extremely detrimental to me. Sure, there are people who don’t understand my position on totally avoiding horror movies, crime shows, shows with violence, THE NEWS, ect but it doesn’t matter if they understand. I understand (& my husband / family / friends) and that’s what’s important.

It’s not always easy and it takes practice. It takes resolve. When I first started telling people that I wasn’t going to watch the news anymore or started asking my family to stop talking about certain subjects while I was with them, some of them even told me that sticking my head in the sand wasn’t the best way to deal with my problems. (That stung a little bit.)

But my resolve to live a life not controlled by anxiety was pretty solid and I held my ground.

At the beginning that even meant leaving the room when the conversation was unnecessary for me, leaving the theater when the movie was more violent than we expected. Finding something else to do (in another room) when the TV show we were watching turned out to be a little spooky but the other person wasn’t willing to turn it off. It’s also meant unfriending (or unfollowing) people on Facebook that post things that bother my brain.

Keeping the anxiety-inducing influences out of my head is a BIG help towards getting started on the next step – which is the most important thing I have ever done for my anxiety.

Taking control of the things you think about

Sometimes, though, the anxious thoughts get in. For every thought, (not just anxiety-inducing thoughts) once it’s in your head you have a choice to make:

Do I follow this thought or not?

Imagine that you’re driving your car down a straight road. The road is so straight the car is practically on autopilot; you’re really not having to put any effort in to drive. You know the road ahead is dangerous + scary – you’ve gone down it before. There’s a turn just up ahead. That’s a safe road, but you’ll need to take control of the car and make it turn. You’ll have to do the driving. What do you do?

Learning to recognize and get off the road at those first anxiety causing thoughts is so important.

Sometimes that’s easier said than done.

At first, it might even take physical action to disrupt your “car” of thought. When you see that dangerous road ahead, you have to make the turn.

Most of my anxiety inducing thoughts come at night, right after I turn off the lights to go to bed. This means sometimes I need to get back out of bed, turn all the lights on, and watch TV or read something that will distract me. Just laying there in the dark and trying to force myself to think of something else is NOT going to work.

Going for a run is fantastic way to turn off my thoughts. Having a conversation with someone about a completely unrelated topic is awesome. Praying about something not related to what’s causing you anxiety is awesome. (Go ahead and pray briefly about your anxiety, but praying long prayers about what you’re thinking about is still counted as thinking about it, and it’s shooting yourself in the foot. Your prayers don’t need to be wordy to be answered. God gets that thinking about this stuff is making it worse for you.)

Remember – I won’t describe the things that make me anxious? ‘Cus that would be thinking about them. Eventually you will learn to STOP those thoughts in their tracks, and NEVER get on the road.

When I first started seeing my therapist for anxiety we worked through this Anxiety & Phobia workbook, which was absolutely awesome. It has a whole section on “over coming negative self-talk” (which is totally about controlling your thoughts). I recommend it to everyone who struggles with anxiety and would like some more guidance on this subject.

Take control of your thoughts, do not feed the fears. Do not google your symptoms if your anxiety is health related. Do not read about medical mistakes if you’re afraid of the doctor. Do not watch Jaws if you’re afraid of the water. Don’t join in conversations about the upcoming election if the future of the world makes you nervous. Why make your anxiety worse than it is?

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: 11 Things to do right now if your anxiety about the pandemic is overwhelming

P.S. Recently I read one of the best posts I have ever come across in all the internet world – and I’ve been meaning to share it here, because I think it’s SO relevant to this exact subject. Go read What to do when the scary world gets to you from Morgan @ Morgan Manages Mommyhood, and be totally inspired!

♥ Read Part 1 of The Ultimate Guide to Living (Well) With Anxiety
♥ Read Part 2 – Understanding Anxiety Disorders
♥ Read Part 3 – Understanding Panic Attacks
♥ Read Part 4 – Anxiety and Diet
♥ Read Part 5 – Natural Supplements for Anxiety
♥ Read Part 6 – What can Exercise do for Anxiety
♥ Read Part 8 – Talking About Anxiety
♥ Read Part 9 – For the Christian With Anxiety
♥ Read Part 10 – 3 Things to Remember When You Are Anxious

anxiety relief - do not feed the fears

37 thoughts on “Living (Well) With Anxiety – Do Not Feed the Fears”

  1. Hi Carly…. How do I not feed the Bears/ anxiety when my greatest anxiety is work. I have been able to control my panic attacks at home but recently I had one at work. UGH!!!! I have told no one about my anxiety. I never sleep through the night as I begin to dream about work. How do I beat/control this???

    Reply
    • HI Missy! I’m so sorry to hear you’re struggling with anxiety. If you think your anxiety is actually brought on by your work, you need to address that. You need to figure out what about your work gives you anxiety, and assess if you can stay in the situation / improve the situation or not. It won’t help to try to control your thoughts if there is something about your situation that is giving you anxiety. I would probably look for another job!

      Reply
    • This post really resonated with me. I wasn’t expecting it to at all because my anxiety is so bad and often health-related, and other people’s anxiety seems to be minor compared to mine. But I’ve seen that “so not feed the fears” quote before and you are so right about all of it. I think I need to stand up for myself more and be ok with letting someone down by not being able to watch certain tv shows or movies or avoiding certain conversations. Thank you for writing this. It’s just what I needed tonight. Also, I totally have to get up and turn on the lights and tv sometimes too—thought I was the only one.

      Reply
  2. I wanted to say ” Bravo!!!!”
    You are so right about not feeding fears.
    I have stopped watching the news and anything else that caused my anxiety to go thru the roof.
    Nobody needs to hear about the latest killings from around the world.
    If it doesn’t directly affect me, I don’t listen to it.
    If it’s not anything I can do something about, I don’t listen to.
    If it’s not my responsibility, I don’t listen to it.
    This has taken 99.99% of my anxiety and frustration away.
    It has freed me to be able to be close to others but not have them affect me.
    I keep strict boundaries, so that other people don’t push it back on to me.
    Yes, I have lost friends because of this,- but I am much more healthy and happy.
    Jodi Whitaker

    Reply
    • HI Jodi!! YES YES YES! I am so on board with everything you said here!

      Reply
  3. Its a nice and helpful article and after going through it I realised there are others having same issues like me that nobody else really understands. Good work Carly !!

    Reply
    • There are SO many people going through anxiety! You are not alone! <3

      Reply
  4. Hi Mrs Carly.. I’m so happy to meet your articles. I’ve been struggling anxiety about 4 months. I went to different therapysts 4 times but I think that they just gave me advices like ‘okay, I know that’s a good thing, that’s a good quote you got there miss therapyst’ but it just can’t good enough to take it as my anxiety killer. They didn’t even give me CBT or hypnotherapy or something like that of therapy. When I can control the feeling, I feel blessed and relieved. But when my mind is 100% being consumed by anxiety I feel hopelesss and it feels like the right choice if I do something about my body, hit, punched etc to distract my mind about this feeling so I can just focus to the pain I made. The worst thought is I want to stab my chest, but I know I don’t wanna do that. That breathing technique and trying to think a lot of positive thinking are useless for me. I need the instant ways to press my anxiety so much when it comes up. I want to recover as soon as I can. I want a normal life I want to get married I want to be a good wife I want to have kids I want to teach my kids with positive minds, not with this mind.. I want to be my old and normal mind like I used to be before I met this feeling. How much long do you think that I have to face this? I want to be happy Mrs. Carly (T.T)

    Reply
    • I’m SO sorry you’re going through that! The truth is I don’t know how long you will have to face this… the best thing I can suggest, again, is that you see another therapist. I would also STRONGLY suggest that you read through the rest of the articles in this series and consider trying some of the other things I’ve talked about, liking cutting sugar and processed foods from your diet, abstaining from alcohol and caffiene, take up running or yoga, consider some natural supplements etc. Anxiety is so consuming and so difficult, we must do everything in our power to over come it!

      Reply
  5. I am so glad I found your page!! I’ve been living with sever anxiety for almost 2 years and frequently go to the ER because the sickness is so bad. I’ve seen 3 drs, I have a therapist and psychiatrist and have tried many meds. Now when I go to the ER they treat me so bad and don’t help me anymore.
    While reading this I found myself nodding and saying out loud “yes!! Exactly!!”, SO MANY TIMES!! I feel so crazy and like no one else feels like I do.
    Thank you for posting. It all made so much sense and I’m going to start doing these things. Even talking about my anxiety will make an attack happen.. so I need to stop talking about it!

    Ashley

    Reply
    • Hey Ashley – I GET IT! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post, and I wish you recovery from anxiety!! Definitely taking your mind OFF your anxiety is a step in the right direction.

      Reply
    • Hi Ashley-
      I just found these articles also. I have been dealing with bad anxiety. Mainly health anxiety. At times i can control but sometimes my thoughts become out of control. I cant agree with you more on that when i found these articles i was like YES. i am not really sick this is it this is whats wrong. and talking constantly about it makes it worse! i am so happy i found these articles and reading posts from people like yourself make me feel like i am not alone.

      Reply
    • I have found ways that I can Control my brain. It started when I found the clock in my room was a problem to the point I got up and pulled the cord out by the roots, threw it out and said NO MORE. I realized I was lying awake tracking the time, I had left before I had to get up. Then I learned I could stop my thought patterns, talking to my brain. I got so flustered one night, I said SHUT UP AND GO BACK TO SLEEP. It worked. Now I use stop that….don’t go there…or I just say brain it’s time to shut down. I see it now as kinda funny NOW. ..Oh I still have anixety but this is one thing that has helped the most. You can use it on alot of things. Train your Brain.. yea talk to it! I need to go for a walk. I need to call friend. Would you just lesson to me. We’re gonna kick this thing STAY POSITIVE.

      Reply
  6. I have used the slogan “do not feed the fears” for a long time with much
    success. However, I learned of a disorder called “anxiety based avoidance disorder” which in essence contradicts your (logical) advice. So I tried doing the opposite of not feeding the fears in order to rid myself of the avoidance disorder, and found myself in extreme anxiety mode with some severe panic attacks. Now I’m confused: which path to take? Not feeding the fears or facing my fears head on, with the hope of eventually becoming resistant to the devastating results. My gut feeling is adopt your advice, but am I just hurting myself in the long run by not jumping in the cold, scary waters. Thanks

    Reply
    • Often with severe anxiety resistance will exacerbate the issue even more! Chronic stress and anxiety attacks used to play a huge role in my daily life. However, after trying many different healing strategies I was able to find a life changing and long term solution. I was able to build new neurological pathways in the higher brain. These pathways were conditioned to sustain a mindset of calm and resilience thereby displacing earlier habits of chronic stress.

      Reply
  7. Hi Carly!!

    Thanks for this! 🙂 I also struggle with anxiety 🙁
    Journalling really helps for me.

    Reply
  8. Really great post! I found this one first and will go back through. Thank you for your honesty.

    Reply
  9. I am so happy i found these articles. I have been reading non stop. I suffer from anxiety since i can remember mainly health anxiety and i feel it has gotten worse with age. I live in constant fear especially at heightened times. Dr. appts. conversations about diseases commercials you name it. i am honestly just scared to go to therapy. I am thinking more and more of going these days, I dont want to live in constant fear of being sick. But just reading these articles have made me feel so much better, Like you said take the generic out of anxiety and pinpoint the issue. It makes me at ease knowing that this is common and other people feel the same as i do. I cannot thank you enough for writing these. The way you said your writing these because so many times you have searched for stories that have mirrored your pain. This is it for me. Thank you.

    Reply
    • I’m so sorry you’re struggling with anxiety Renee! It’s awful – but I KNOW there are healthy ways to manage it – and therapy is absolutely one of them – it’s ok to be scared, but try to do it anyway! TELL them you’re scared when you get there, so they can work with you where you are. xo

      Reply
    • Hi Renee, thank you so much for sharing a bit about your story! Chronic stress and anxiety attacks used to play a huge role in my daily life. However, after trying many different healing strategies I was able to find a life changing and long term solution. I was able to build new neurological pathways in the higher brain. These pathways were conditioned to sustain a mindset of calm and resilience thereby displacing earlier habits of chronic stress.

      Reply
  10. My anxiety is brought on by myself, like can I do all these things by myself ( my husband travels for work) or when is it going to hit again? It’s kinda like I’m looking for the next one. I’m not brought on by tv or media but myself, kinda confusing.. could you help??

    Reply
  11. A Brilliant, yet simple explanation. I’m a therapist working with people who have anxiety and I think your writing sums up ways of managing anxiety perfectly. You’ll have helped a lot of people with this. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Thank you for the kind words (and letting me know I am on the right track!) – I am glad you enjoyed the article.

      Reply
  12. I see nothing wrong with avoiding the news, movies that are traumatizing, people snd conversations that make you feel icky inside. For a while I really wanted to be a person who could ‘handle’ Game of Thrones and stories about abused children, etc. But a therapist told me that ‘practicing’ letting these things into my life is Actually retraumatizing me. And I don’t NEED to become unaffected by trauma. I don’t. I think it’s a very healthy choice to know which things bring a dark cloud over your life, and by all means keep them away!!

    Thanks for the post!

    Reply
    • Jen,
      I agree with you! Different people need different things – and that’s okay. Good luck!!

      Reply
      • Hi there, thanks for the post, I am sure it will be very helpful.

        I struggle with anxiety regarding my husband, I get constant intrusive thoughts about whether or not he will remain faithful to me? does he know looking upon a women in a lustful way is sin? Is he looking at a women in a lustful way? And the list can go on and on and on

        When I watch a movie or read an article it’s always adultery and flirting or inappropriate behavior towards the opposite sex… It keeps my mind occupied constantly. It scares me to death…. And I’m struggling to apply the necessary tools to my life that will make it go away.

        It’s taken a massive strain on my marriage and it’s stolen my joy, if I see or read something a thought regarding that will pop into my head and then I’ll start wondering about my own husband even some ridiculous far fetched situation will seem believable to me, I question every single thing in my mind, I’m intimidated by all females. My anxiety towards this fest is ruining my life.

        Therapy is way too expensive for me, I’m lost.

      • Bianca – I’m so sorry you guys are struggling! Honestly – I KNOW it’s expensive, but seeing someone can be a big help. It sounds like you guys have been having a rough go for a while, and sometimes these things are very difficult to solve on our own. Perhaps better communication with your spouse, and talking about these feelings with him when they come up could help. It may be a little tiring at first, but good communication is a building block of trust so that’s probably where I’d start. Best of luck <3

  13. Thank you for taking time to write this article! No!!!! Seriously Thank You! I couldn’t have read it at a better time. I’ll probably read it several more times today and share it with friends!

    Reply
    • I’m glad you found it useful! Thank you for the kind words. <3

      Reply
    • Hi there. Thank you for writing this. I found it helpful.

      I started experiencing anxiety about 2 years ago, and it was a bit shocking because I was in my mid-30s. I’ve just recently started to understand my triggers, which has been useful. I had to get off Facebook because there is to much going on in the world at this time. Fortunately, all my other social media is filled with positivity!

      Your post has given me some hope for the future. Thanks again.

      Reply
  14. I’m so glad I found your article.I’ve had panic & anxiety attacks for the past 3 years not to mention paranoia after reading and listening to people telling stories of how someone died after going to the dentist etc.Seems like everything they say are doomsday related.Have gone to therapists and Lord knows how many doctors.
    When I get these attacks I go into I can’t breath mode,hyperventilating.
    It just comes on suddenly without warning sometimes.Was prescribed with Xanax and some other meds bt I’m afraid to take them cos of othr symptoms that might come on later on.I have hypertension and it makes it evn worse when my anxiety comes on.
    My mum would tell me to pray and leave the rest to Jesus.I do that but Jesus told us to seek help from others too.So here I am,just found yr article

    Reply
  15. My anxiety isn’t as bad as some of these comments but still stopped me several times a day.
    I had to cover my eyes to block out the world.
    I started maybe a week ago ignoring it. Almost immediately I didn’t have hide my eyes. I have to dig deep sometimes but I’m winning.
    Slight problem…my attention span is shot. It’s always been short to begin with.
    I’m thinking with all this thinking space opening up in my head, it’s like a child in an open space not sure where to run first.
    The other day I swear I had a calm attack. A random feeling of calm came from nowhere. It’s was wonderful.

    Reply

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