Grab a Pen and Try This Therapist's Simple Method For Breaking Down Anxious Thoughts

You know that sound your computer makes when it's overheated — that whirring, buzzing noise? That's how I picture my brain sounding whenever anxious thoughts start to take over. It's like my mind is in hyperdrive, bouncing between my fears, predicted outcomes, worst-case scenarios, and more, which can feel super overwhelming. But unlike an overworked computer, shutting down isn't a viable option. That's why I'm obsessed with psychologist Julie Smith's TikTok: @drjuliesmith. She offers easy-to-understand tips for people with mental health challenges, including this super-simple method for breaking down anxious thoughts.

Dr. Smith compares her tool to a hot cross bun, where any moment in your life can be broken down into four categories: thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, and behaviors. In the video, she demonstrates how to draw this out on a piece of paper in four separate boxes, jotting down your anxious thought, the emotions that come with it, the physical sensations you experience, and the behavior it leads to. She even goes so far as to give examples to help you understand how these things are connected.

I tried it when I was feeling anxious on a Monday morning. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to catch up on my assignments, which led to fear and sadness, which led to my heart racing and my stomach hurting, which led to the urge to quit, give up, and shut down. I wrote it all down, saw how they were all connected, then made a new list. I wrote down a couple positive thoughts: "I can do it," and "I'll do one thing at a time." This led to a feeling of relief and peace, deeper breaths, a calmer heart rate and stomach, and the urge to check things off one thing at a time and accomplish those tasks.

It's amazing to see a visual representation of how anxious thoughts spiral if you let them continue, but if you redirect them, it can be so healing. I highly recommend trying this tool for yourself the next time you are struggling with anxiety!