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Coping With Intrusive Thoughts

Updated: Aug 30, 2023



Do you ever feel like your thoughts are just a negative loop that is on an endless repeat? Do you have trouble putting negative thoughts out of your mind? Do you sometimes feel like your own thoughts are your enemies?


If so, you may be having intrusive thoughts. These are common when you suffer from mental health conditions like Anxiety and Depression. Intrusive thoughts come unwanted into your mind, and make your thoughts feel like they are racing out of control with a mind of their own. It can be quite upsetting, and difficult to get out of your negative thinking spiral.


According to ieso Online Therapy,

Intrusive thoughts are unwanted thoughts that can pop into our heads without warning, at any time. They’re often repetitive – with the same kind of thought cropping up again and again – and they can be disturbing or even distressing.

It can be quite difficult to cope with intrusive thoughts, when they repeat over and over again throughout your day. When this happens to me, I feel like every time I sit still, the negative thoughts will come into my mind again. I feel like my mind is out of control, and my thoughts are going speeding away like a runaway train.


Learning to cope with your intrusive thoughts that come as a part of your Anxiety or Depression can go a long way towards helping you to have better mental health and a happier outlook on life.


When you try to calm your thoughts, you can use practices like:

  • Mindfulness

  • Meditation

  • Yoga

  • Journaling

  • Going for a walk

  • Distraction

  • Self-Care

Any of these will help you learn to quiet your mind, and stop your negative thinking spiral. When you practice mindfulness, meditation or yoga, it can help you connect your body and mind, and help you realize that you are separate from your thoughts. This can allow you to question whether or not the thoughts are true.


When you journal, you can get your negative thoughts out onto the page, so that they aren't floating around in your mind anymore. Writing things down can help you to process your thoughts, and to analyze your thinking more clearly. Keeping a journal can also give you something to look back at to see the progress that you have made.


Going for a walk outside can help you to be more present in your daily circumstances, and helps you to focus on the environment around you. This gets you out of your head too, and helps you focus on right now instead of regrets about the past or worries about the future.


If these other strategies aren't working, you can try to distract yourself from the negative thoughts. You can call a friend, watch something on TV, read a book or a magazine, or do something like a Sodoku or a crossword puzzle. These will all keep your mind busy so that you aren't focused on the negative thoughts.


Practicing self-care can also help you to get out of your intrusive thoughts, and to realize that you are worthy of being well cared for. Self-care can help to ground you in your body and feel good about yourself. It can also help with your mental health and overall wellbeing.


Trying any of these techniques can help you to be able to cope with your intrusive thoughts.


Here are steps for changing your attitude and overcoming Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts

  • Label these thoughts as "intrusive thoughts."

  • Remind yourself that these thoughts are automatic and not up to you.

  • Accept and allow the thoughts into your mind. Do not try to push them away.

  • Float, and practice allowing time to pass.

  • Remember that less is more. Pause. Give yourself time. There is no urgency.

  • Expect the thoughts to come back again

  • Continue whatever you were doing prior to the intrusive thought while allowing the anxiety to be present.

Try Not To:

  • Engage with the thoughts in any way.

  • Push the thoughts out of your mind.

  • Try to figure out what your thoughts "mean."

  • Check to see if this is “working” to get rid of the thoughts

Using this coping process can allow you to move past your intrusive thoughts and focus back on the present moment and what is going around you. It allows you to have more control over your life, as you realize that thoughts come and go, and you don't need to attach yourself to them. This is very similar to the mindfulness practice of realizing that you are not your thoughts.


If you try these strategies for several weeks and you are still not seeing progress on coping with your intrusive thoughts, it can be helpful to seek assistance from a mental health professional. A therapist, life coach or psychiatrist can help provide additional insights and coping skills that are unique to your situation.


It can also help to have a listening ear from someone who is on your side and shows you compassion. A professional can help you take a step back from your life and look at things from an outside perspective. This can be incredibly helpful when you are coping with intrusive thoughts caused by Anxiety and Depression.


Although intrusive thoughts can be incredibly disturbing at times, you don't have to let them control your life. Practicing coping skills and consulting with a professional can help you learn how to manage the intrusive thoughts more effectively. This can allow you to life a happier and more full life in spite of the intrusive thoughts that come along.




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