The 21 Day Mental Health Challenge, Day 7: How to kill an ANT


People with basal ganglia problems tend to be pessimistic and are driven by fear. They often prone to experiencing anxiety and panic attacks  (hello!**points at self**). They may experience muscle tension and soreness, and they have a hard time relaxing. They also have chronic irritability and have OCD tendencies.

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In his book “Change your Brain, Change your Life”, author Dr. Daniel Amen provides steps on how to heal the basal ganglia by providing behavioral prescriptions that focus on mastering emotions and taking control of negative thoughts, or what he calls ANTs (automatic negative thoughts).   Whenever you are feeling anxious or tense, try the following steps described in the book. I’ll also practice them for future flying trips (I get really anxious in planes).

  1. Write down the event that is causing the anxiety, for example, having to get up in front of people to give a speech.
  2. Notice and write down the automatic thoughts that some into your mind. Odds are, when you are anxious, your thoughts are predicting a negative outcome to the situation. Common anxiety provoking thoughts include “They will think I am stupid. Others will laugh at me. I will stumble on my words. I will shake and look nervous.”
  3. Label or identify the thought as a fortune telling ANT. Often just naming the thought can help take away its power.
  4. Talk back to the automatic negative thought and ‘kill the ANT”. Write down a response to defuse the negative thought. In this example, write something like “Odds are they won’t laugh and I’ll do a good job. If they laugh, I’ll laugh with them. I know that speaking in public is nerve-racking for many people, and probably come people will feel empathy for me if I’m nervous.”

Do not accept every thought that comes to your mind. Thoughts are just thoughts, not facts. As such, when they are based on basal ganglia anxiety, they are often inaccurate. You do not have to believe every thought that comes into your mind. You can learn to change this pattern and help your basal ganglia cool down by predicting the best things.

What kind of ANT will you practice ‘killing’? I would love to hear about your experiences. 

 

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