Having intrusive thoughts is one of the worst experiences you can have. It’s the same as overthinking, where you can’t stop or control your thoughts, even if you wanted to. It’s not the act of having intrusive thoughts that make it deadly, but it’s dwelling on them and believing in them. So when you believe even the unwanted thoughts in your head, whether they’re valid or invalid, that’s when your life takes a turn for the worst. Your thoughts shape your life, after all. In this article, we’ll be discussing everything you need to know about how to stop intrusive thoughts.
What are intrusive thoughts?
Like our emotions, our thoughts are just as challenging to control. Some may even find it an impossible task to control their thoughts because of how hard it is. Intrusive thoughts are the ideas that pop into your head without warning. They’re repetitive, and no matter how many assurances you get from someone else or even if you’ve dealt with it already, they still come back. This is what makes intrusive thoughts so toxic and draining. It’s a cycle of never-ending thoughts filled with fear, insecurity, and other negative emotions you may be harboring. Intrusive thoughts may be in the form of a past event that keeps repeating itself, thoughts filled with doubt and fear, insecurities, or self-destructive thoughts. If you’re prone to believing in these thoughts, your thoughts will negatively impact your life.
What makes intrusive thoughts harmful?
Your thoughts will always run your life as your mind is the most powerful part of you. Every behavior, action, and decision is based on your thoughts and ideas. So if you tend to believe your intrusive thoughts, everything about your life will be affected. The thing is, everyone has intrusive thoughts. Our thoughts are particularly challenging to control or change. However, the best way to deal with your unwanted thoughts is to respond accordingly. You don’t have to believe in every thought you have, but you can filter which of your thoughts are rational and irrational.
How do you know if your thoughts are intrusive?
If you have repetitive thoughts that are disturbing and something you want to push out of your mind, they’re intrusive thoughts. Remember that intrusive thoughts are often negative, so it’s easy to tell when you have the wrong ones. Especially if these are the thoughts you’re constantly overthinking or come from your insecurities and fears, these are the thoughts you need to overcome. Intrusive thoughts will hinder you from living your best life, whether you realize this or not.
How to stop intrusive thoughts
It’s essential to know how to manage or stop your intrusive thoughts altogether if you want to control the cycle of having the same thoughts over and over in your head. Here are some of the ways you can counter this harmful habit.
1. Face your problems
Your intrusive thoughts keep coming back because you refuse to deal with the problem at hand. Maybe it’s a trauma you experienced in the past or bad childhood. Both these examples are difficult situations to be stuck in, and even if they’re in the past, it’s easy to feel still traumatized by those events. If you want to get rid of your overthinking thoughts that keep repeating themselves, you must face the root of your problems. Granted that this is easier said than done, but you need to face your problems. Tackle your trauma or whatever problem you haven’t faced yet, and even if it feels uncomfortable and scary, it’s necessary. Otherwise, you’ll keep repressing your thoughts, leading to intrusive thoughts you have difficulty controlling.
2. Separate rational from irrational thoughts
Your ability to separate your rational from irrational thoughts is everything when stopping intrusive thoughts. Your rational thoughts refer to your thoughts that are factual and valid. These are thoughts based on actual evidence and facts, whereas irrational thoughts come from fear, insecurity, and doubt. It would be best if you learned to separate both of these to better manage your intrusive thoughts. When you know that a particular thought is irrational, it’s much easier to know how to react. For instance, if your thought keeps reminding you that you’re worthless and know this is an irrational thought, you can learn not to believe in it and just let it pass.
3. Incorporate more gratitude into your life
Gratitude is the one aspect that people lack when they dwell on their intrusive thoughts. It’s easy to focus on everything you lack without appreciating what you have. This then will lead to complaining about what you don’t have, instead of being joyful that you have everything you need. Sometimes, changing your thoughts requires more gratitude, When it comes to countering all negative emotions, whether anger, grief, resentment, insecurity, or fear, gratitude is a far stronger emotion than all of these combined. When you live a optimistic life with a positive mental attitude, this also changes how you think about certain things and situations.
4. Change your mindset
Your mindset is highly connected to your ability to manage or control your thoughts. Without the proper mindset, you will lead a negative life. If you think that your negative traits will only define you or that you’ll never amount to anything, that’s exactly what will happen. You have to change your mindset about everything if you really want to stop having intrusive thoughts. This goes for all your life experiences, trauma, problems, and every situation you face. Your ability to handle your negative thoughts all comes down to your mindset so having a negative mindset will result in a negative life.
5. Incorporate healthy habits
If your intrusive thoughts are your ability to manage stress, it’s vital that you choose healthy habits. Whether that’s exercise or diet, your habits can help you cope with your difficult emotions better. In fact, some people exercise not for the physical benefits but because it helps them get out of their intrusive thoughts and think more rationally. This goes for any habit you can think of incorporating into your life that may help with your thoughts. You may also choose to include meditation, as it’s one of the recommended breathing techniques that will help you be aware and control your thoughts better. Especially when you find controlling your thoughts impossible, this is where healthy habits can be proven useful.
6. Create an anxiety journal
Creating an anxiety journal can be helpful in the sense that you have an outlet for all your thoughts while helping stop intrusive thoughts. You can write all your irrational and rational thoughts down without filtering which ones are valid. This is honestly the best way to let go of your thoughts, especially those that keep repeating. The minute you write them down, if that thought recurs again, you’ll remember having this thought already. This is also a great chance to reflect on the pattern behind your irrational thoughts. If you notice that they come from your trauma, for instance, then you know what to expect with each thought you have.
7. Let your thoughts pass
In the same way that emotions are temporary, the same also goes for your thoughts. So even if it seems never-ending and unbearable, you need to realize that it will eventually pass. If you don’t dwell on your thoughts, it ultimately shouldn’t matter. It’s much harder than it sounds, but don’t give power to your intrusive thoughts, Realize that most of these thoughts aren’t valid and are coming from a place of fear and anxiety. You need to just let them pass and eventually, they’ll go away. However, obsessing and dwelling on those will encourage those thoughts to come again and again. The more you let yourself be unbothered with the thoughts, the better.
8. Talk to a counselor
If all the above doesn’t work, you can always talk to a counselor. There’s nothing wrong with seeking the help of a professional, especially when it comes to managing your thoughts. Knowing how to stop intrusive thoughts can be the most challenging thing you ever have to do, so getting the help you need could eliminate these thoughts once and for all. Most importantly, a counselor will give you advisable coping mechanisms in dealing with your difficult thoughts.
In conclusion, this is everything you need to know about how to stop intrusive thoughts. While intrusive thoughts are normal, this doesn’t make them easy to deal with. Your thoughts affect your emotions and, eventually, your entire life, So if you’re the individual who dwells on their intrusive thoughts, this can hinder you from living your life. This may result in the wrong set of choices and actions on your behalf, all because of the wrong thoughts and ideas. So the tips mentioned above can help you turn around your life for the better and incorporate more gratitude instead.