Parents and educators: our popular anxiety-relief game, frequently used at Beyond the Blues events, is now available for personal use in your classroom or home. Balance your Thoughts can help players escape thinking traps and transform worries into balanced thoughts in a fun and engaging way.

Players will learn:

  • Definitions and examples of the different thinking traps.
  • How to challenge their worries using prompting questions.
  • How to transform worries into balanced thoughts.

To get started with Balance Your Thoughts, watch the instructional videos, download the zip file below and print the digital files!

Balance Your Thoughts: How to Play

Transform worries into balanced thoughts! Pick up a Worry Card, learn about the corresponding thinking trap, and write a more balanced version of that worry. By the end of the activity, you’ll have a list of transformed worries.

Please note, Balance Your Thoughts is available for non-commercial use only.

Set Up

  1. Place the Thinking Traps poster in a visible location for players’ quick reference (ie. laid out on table). 
  2. Lay out the “Worries” Title Card and the “Balanced Thoughts” Title Card side by side, and ensure that there is enough space below them for at least 5 rows of Worry Cards to be added. 
  3. Place an example Worry Card and Balanced Thought below each corresponding title card.
    Example: I shouldn’t feel anxious. / Everyone feels anxious sometimes. 
  4. Shuffle the deck of Worry Cards and ensure that the marker and empty Balanced Thought Cards are easily accessible. 


  1. Distribute a Worry Card and a Balanced Thought Card to each player. 
  2. Each player looks at their Worry Card and takes a few seconds to read the worry. Below each worry is the associated Thinking Trap icon. 
  3. The player finds the Thinking Trap icon on the Thinking Trap Info Poster and uses the corresponding questions to write down a balanced version of the worry on their Balanced Thought card. 
  4. Each player places their Worry Card and their Balanced Thought Card in the corresponding column. 
  5. The host checks each player’s answer, gives them feedback, and starts a conversation with the group about each card pairing. 

What Are Thinking Traps?

Certain types or patterns of thoughts tend to trap us in anxiety. These are called ‘thinking traps‘. Some individuals have lots of anxious thoughts about the future; others focus more on what others are thinking. Some think about wanting to stay safe and see danger lurking around every corner; others seem to always imagine the worst possible scenario. Whatever thinking traps you tend to fall into, the first important step is to recognize your personal traps. Then, you can start to focus on helpful thinking and challenge negative thoughts.

Common thinking traps include:

Thinking Trap What’s Going On


Believing you can predict the future and assuming it’s going to be negative

Over-Estimating Danger

Believing that something is about to occur that is actually very unlikely.


Imagining the worst possible thing is going to happen and that we will be unable to cope.


Believing you know exactly what others are thinking and assuming it’s negative.

Black and White Thinking

Thinking of situations in extremes (either really good or really bad).


Making sweeping judgments about things based on one or two experiences, and using words like “always” or “never”.

Negative Brain Filter

Only paying attention to the bad things that happen and ignoring all the good things.

Should Statements

Telling yourself how you “should” feel or behave.

Emotional Reasoning

Believing something is true based on feelings rather than facts.

Overcoming thinking traps involves asking yourself the right questions, like:

  • What is the evidence that this thought is true? What is the evidence that this it is not true?
  • Have I confused a thought with a fact?
  • What would I tell a friend if he/she had the same thought?
  • What would a friend say about my thought?

Here are a few specific examples to help you balance your thoughts:

Thinking Trap Ask Yourself Unbalanced Thought Balanced Thought


Are you 100% sure what the future holds? What else could happen? What’s most likely to happen?

I’m going to make a mistake.

I can’t know the future and it’s not guaranteed I’ll make a mistake.

Over-Estimating Danger

Am I confusing a possibility with a certainty? Although it might be possible, how likely is it to actually occur?

The plane is going The plane could crash, but to crash.

The plane could crash, but it is much more likely that it won’t


What’s the worst that could happen and how would I cope? Is this a hassle or a horror? Will this still matter in a year?

If I mess up, I’ll be fired from my job.

I may get in trouble if I mess up, but I’ll work through it and I may learn something from it.


Do you actually know what others are thinking or are you guessing? What else could others be thinking?

She doesn’t like me.

I can’t know for sure what she thinks of me and assuming she doesn’t like me won’t make anything better.

Black and White Thinking

What’s a less extreme way of thinking about this? Does it really have to be one thing or another?

I’m either going to nail the presentation or bomb it completely.

I’ll probably do better on some parts than on others, and even if I bomb it, I’ll be able to manage.


Is there any evidence or examples that show that this isn’t completely true all of the time?

I always mess things up.

There are lots of things I do right and everybody makes mistakes sometimes.

Negative Brain Filter

Am I ignoring some information and emphasizing others? Are there some positive or neutral things that happened?

I’m so awkward… I can’t talk to anyone.

I had one awkward conversation, but I had some good conversations today too.

Should Statements

Am I holding myself to unrealistic expectations or being too hard on myself? Do I often use the word “should” or “must”?

I shouldn’t feel anxious.

Everyone feels anxious sometimes and wishing anxiety away won’t help.

Emotional Reasoning

Is my thought based on the way I feel instead of facts? What is the evidence that this thought is or is not true?

I feel like I made a fool of myself.

Just because I feel that way doesn’t mean it happened and focusing on it won’t change anything.

Learn more about thinking traps on our blog and in the MindShift CBT app.


Anxiety Canada is proud to be affiliated with HeretoHelp, a project of the BC Partners for Mental Health and Substance Use Information. The BC Partners are funded by the Provincial Health Services Authority.


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