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It’s officially here, the proverbial “most wonderful time of the year.” But for some, especially those living with social anxiety, this time of year may be anything but wonderful. Work parties, family gatherings, holiday travel, it can all get stressful in a hurry for a social anxiety sufferer. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective approaches to dealing with stress in our lives. It provides several different techniques to help people, including those social anxiety, depression, or excessive stress, anxiety, or worry. One of the key components of CBT is identifying problems that may exist within our thoughts, those thoughts that are so ingrained in us that we don’t really notice them anymore. The idea is that if we are able to identify flaws in our thoughts, we can change them. We at Learn to Live have a name for those problems– ANTS, for Automatic Negative Thoughts. Below is a list of some of the ANTS a person may detect:

All or Nothing Thinking – “I tried avoid cookies and ended up eating one. See, I have no self-control. I’ll have to give up on my diet now.” These thoughts don’t allow room for mistakes or flexibility.

Should Statements – “I lost my patience with my kids at the Christmas program. I should always be able to control my emotions. What’s wrong with me?” These statements usually involve unrealistic expectations and don’t allow for flexibility.

Mind Reading – “My aunt didn’t smile much during our conversation at dinner. She probably thinks I’m boring and stupid.” Mind reading thoughts make assumptions about another’s feelings or thoughts without any real evidence to support it.

See also: Overcoming Social Anxiety was HARD, but it changed my life…

Disaster Making – “I’m probably going to fail the final test, and if I fail the test, I won’t have any chance of getting into college. I won’t be able to handle it.” These thoughts assume the worst-case scenario in all situations. The imagined outcome is out of proportion and I believe it will be beyond my ability to cope.

Personalizing – “If only I had been at the nursing home, mom never would have fallen. Now she has a broken hip and can’t join us for the holidays…and it’s all my fault.” These thoughts take the blame for all bad outcomes, denying responsibility to anyone else.

You’ve probably all heard the familiar clichés, “Knowledge is power,” and “Knowing is half the battle.” In this case, they are both true – being able to identify these thinking patterns as automatic and unhelpful is the first step in being able to change your thoughts and ultimately your life. After identifying these thinking problems, I’ll tell you about some more ANTS and then move on fear facing. Stop back soon to check out our upcoming posts on these topics.

“The world as we have created is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”  ~ Albert Einstein

Although Thanksgiving has passed, the tips in our recent post, Take Social Anxiety Off Your Thanksgiving Menu will still apply for your upcoming holiday gatherings.