We as humans are not strictly rational about everything that we do.
If we were then we wouldn’t have trouble going on a diet or managing our money better.
But we do.
These things might not have much to do with logic, but they are still reasonable.
In fact, being rational all the time is not something that we are capable of doing, we all have our biases and limitations.
That’s what makes us human
Still, as irrational as we may be at times, some of us experience such thoughts to the point where they become a problem.
There can be a variety of reasons for this loss of reason but few stand out as much as anxiety.
Anxiety has a lot to do with severe, irrational thoughts.
In fact, obsessive, negative and unreasonable behavior is a cornerstone of anxiety.
Luckily for us, it is entirely possible to overcome this problem.
After all, anxiety disorders are highly treatable and so are these irrational thoughts.
Anxiety makes you act irrationally
A couple of years ago I used to work at a bank, providing different services to customers.
In my particular department, we worked with people who were relatively well off, and as such were considered important customers.
We were all expected to go above and beyond for their sake, and our department certainly provided better service than average.
My manager, in particular, suffered from the burden of these expectations.
He was the one who shouldered all of the responsibility and he took any complaint from the costumers personally.
During one particularly stressful day, our computer network crashed, preventing us from working.
After calling the technician and apologizing to each and every customer individually, my manager started randomly pacing from side to side and making many different phone calls.
He even told a few customers who asked what he was doing that he was “on it”.
The technician came not twenty minutes later, and as it turns out my manager was just trying to appear busy in order to appease the customers.
Trying to act as though he was dealing with this problem didn’t actually benefit anyone and he was just blowing hot air.
More so since none of the customers complained at all.
He just as easily could have waited in his office for the technician to arrive.
Clearly, there was no reason for him to behave this way.
So why did he?
Anxiety and irrational thoughts: What is the connection?
Sure, you could say that he was simply worried and acting emotionally because of that, and you would be right.
And that’s precisely what anxiety causes.
The amygdala is our brain’s emotional center and it is responsible for a variety of emotional responses.
Be they fear or pleasure, they all begin with the amygdala.
When we are feeling stressed our body produces stress hormones. These, in turn, can stimulate the amygdala.
In other words, stress makes us more prone to relying on our emotions.
On the other hand, the prefrontal cortex is our brain’s cognitive center and it is responsible for all logical processing and thinking.
In other words, it is our center of reason.
Stress hormones also affect the prefrontal cortex, decreasing the brain activity around that part of the brain.
As a result of that, we are far less reasonable when we are stressed.
The problem is that anxiety is obsessive stress and worry, and is the cause of an increased production of stress hormones.
In other words, anxiety makes us less likely to think and more likely to act irrationally.
We react unreasonably to things that, by all accounts, we shouldn’t be worried about.
Yet we are.
Stress is our body’s way of responding to danger, and as such it makes us blow things out of proportions at times.
After all, when we are in danger we don’t think rationally, making everything seem much more than it actually is.
So what can you do?
How to overcome irrational thinking
Believe it or not but there are many ways to overcome irrational thinking.
The best method, of course, would be to overcome your anxiety as a whole.
After all, if you don’t experience anxiety then it is unlikely that you will have obsessive and irrational thoughts.
This is an approach meant to prevent this problem from ever surfacing altogether.
The other methods are more about coping with these thoughts whenever they come about.
This can be accomplished through either physical techniques or mental exercises, preferably both.
Here are some great coping methods for irrational thoughts and anxiety.
Challenge your thoughts directly
When most people try to be positive they usually give positive affirmations a try.
Positive affirmations are things that you say to yourself that you want to be.
The idea here is that, after repeating these affirmations to yourself enough times, you will eventually start believing them.
In essence, your belief in them is meant to shape your reality.
The problem is that positive affirmations usually don’t work.
Let’s review this particular case as an example.
When you are struggling with anxiety your negative emotional response is heightened.
Trying to outmatch your negative bias directly through meaningless empty words isn’t going to help you.
Not when your brain is attuned to fight these affirmations.
The best way to go about it would be to challenge your thoughts directly, not through emotion but through reason.
By regaining your ability to think rationally you will be able to stop these irrational, negative thoughts.
The best way to go about it would be to ask yourself questions like “so what?”, “Is there an alternative?”, “what can be done about it?” etc.
This approach helps you organize your thoughts.
Are you afraid that people talk about you behind your back? So what? How does this affect you?
Think you lost your credit card? Just call your provider, cancel it and order a new one.
Do you believe that something bad is going to happen to you? Can you do something about it? If the answer is yes then go ahead and do it, if the answer is no then there is no reason for you to worry seeing as there is nothing you can do about it.
By challenging your thoughts directly you force them to their logical conclusion, making them rational by default.
Rational thoughts are not always free of worry of course, but at least you can deal with them rationally.
Worry is a perfectly normal response to certain situations, after all.
Be mindful of your condition
Aside from bringing your thoughts to their logical conclusion you can also use mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the idea of recognizing your thoughts for what they are.
Rather than reacting to your negative thoughts, try writing them down and considering them.
How likely are they, is your worst case scenario really that bad and so on.
Normally we only realize how irrational our thoughts are through hindsight, which is a problem.
By acknowledging that your thoughts are irrational and excessive you can regain at least some measure of control over them.
Sometimes these thoughts won’t go away simply because you know what they are, and that’s fineLine you suffer from anxiety, after all.
Still, slowing down will help you come to your senses and will hold you back from taking impulsive actions.
Listen to what others have to say
Whenever we experience irrational thinking we tend to let them affect our behavior as well, making us biased.
The problem here is that we only have our perspective on the matter to consider.
What if it wasn’t the case? What if we had someone else that would call us out on our conclusions?
For better or worse, most people are likely to be more rational than an anxiety sufferer.
This means that you can freely share your thoughts with them and expect a contradicting opinion.
Maybe even a well-reasoned one at that.
Sometimes it is very difficult to try and regain our reason by ourselves, which is why having others help us out is so important.
If you have someone nearby who you consider to be a levelheaded person then simply tell them what you think.
It is likely that they will disagree with you and put you at ease while doing so.
You need help with your anxiety
These coping methods are great, and they are bound to help you, but they aren’t a solution by themselves.
To truly overcome your negative thinking you will need to treat your anxiety as a whole, to the point where it doesn’t dominate your life.
One of the best ways to go about it would be to try and help yourself first.
I would recommend checking out The Panic Away Program, it has plenty of actionable advice that you can certainly benefit from so be sure to check it out.
If you got any questions you would like to ask me then be sure to send me an email.
I read all of my emails, so feel free to get in touch!