What if you could change mood, as simply as changing clothes. Perhaps you could stop anxiety before it comes knocking at your door. Thought stopping is a way to stop distressing feelings from overwhelming you quickly and easily. If you can stop the thought, you can stop the bothersome emotions that go along with it. A simple example: you may catch yourself in the face of a potentially nerve racking situation saying to yourself “I am going to panic now, I am freaking out”, etc. Here are a few steps with which you can prevent these thoughts from coming to life and ruining your mood.
Here is an excerpt from WebMD article defining Thought Stopping:
List stressful thoughts you’re currently having. Take your most upsetting thoughts and list them in order of most stressful to least stressful.
Sit or lie down in a private place (so you can say “Stop!” out loud and not feel self-conscious). Close your eyes. Imagine a situation in which you might have this stressful thought. Then allow yourself to focus on the thought.
Stop the thought. Startling yourself is a good way to interrupt the thought. Try one of these two techniques:
Set a timer, watch, or other alarm for 3 minutes. Then focus on your unwanted thought. When the timer or alarm goes off, shout “Stop!” If you want, stand up when you say “Stop.” Some people snap their fingers or clap their hands. These actions and saying “Stop” are cues to stop thinking. Empty your mind, and try to keep it empty for about 30 seconds. If the upsetting thought comes back during that time, shout “Stop!” again.
Instead of using a timer, you can tape-record yourself shouting “Stop!” at intervals of 3 minutes, 2 minutes, and 1 minute. Do the thought-stopping exercise. Focus on the thought, and then stop thinking about the unwanted thought-or anything else-when you hear your recorded voice say “Stop.” Hearing your own voice telling you to stop helps strengthen your commitment to getting rid of the unwanted thought.
Practice steps 1 through 3 until the thought goes away on command. Then try the process again. This time, interrupt the thought by saying the word “Stop!” in a normal voice. After your normal voice is able to stop the thought, try whispering “Stop.” Over time, you can just imagine hearing “Stop” inside your mind. At this point, you can stop the thought whenever and wherever it occurs.
Live with Hope!
Marc Alter, LCSW, Licensed Psychotherapist
19 West 34th Street, Penthouse Suite