Realistic Thinking Form

Use copies of this form to track the thoughts that make you anxious. Use the Challenging Negative Thinking form to help you replace anxious thoughts with more realistic ones.

Negative thoughts are normal and happen to all of us from time to time, but when we are anxious they are likely to happen more often and do more harm. It is important to pay attention to and learn to evaluate these negative thoughts. An effective strategy to manage your anxiety is to replace anxious, negative thinking with helpful or realistic thinking.

Helpful thinking means looking at all aspects of a situation (the positive, the negative, and the neutral) before drawing conclusions so we can see things realistically.

Thoughts are the things that we say to ourselves without speaking out loud (self-talk). We all have our own way of thinking about things, and how we think has a big effect on how we feel. When we think that something bad will happen, we feel anxious.

It can take some time and practice to identify the specific thoughts that make you anxious, so pay attention to your shifts in anxiety, no matter how small. When you notice yourself getting more anxious, that is the time to ask yourself:

– “What am I thinking right now?”
– “What is making me feel anxious?”
– “What am I worried will happen?”

Often, our thoughts are just guesses and not actual facts, so it is helpful to challenge your anxious thoughts that can make you feel like something bad will definitely happen, even when it is highly unlikely.

Sometimes, our anxiety is the result of falling into thinking traps. Thinking traps are unfair or overly negative ways of seeing things. Use the Thinking Traps Form to help you identify which traps you might have fallen into.

Questions to help you challenge your anxious thoughts:

– Am I falling into a thinking trap (e.g., catastrophizing or overestimating danger)?
– What is the evidence that this thought is true? What is the evidence that this thought is not true?
– What would I tell a friend if he/she had the same thought?
– Am I 100% sure that ___________will happen?
– If it did happen, what can I do to cope with or handle it?
– Is my judgment based on the way I feel instead of facts?

An example of challenging negative thinking: If you have an important interview tomorrow and have been feeling quite anxious about it, you may think: “I’m going to mess up on the interview tomorrow.” To challenge this thought, you can ask yourself, Am I falling into a thinking trap? Yes, I have fallen into the trap of fortune-telling, predicting that things will turn out badly before the event even takes place. But I still feel like I’ll definitely mess up. Am I basing my judgment on the way I “feel” instead of the “facts”? I feel like I’m going to mess up, but there is no evidence to support that. I’m qualified for the position. I have had interviews in the past and generally they have gone well.

Read our blog to learn more tips for Realistic Thinking.

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