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  • Carol J Sherman

I'm sharing good advice from the Amen Brain Institute on fighting negative thoughts:


10 Pandemic ANTs that are Making You Anxious and Depressed


April 9, 2020

During a pandemic, mental hygiene is just as important as washing your hands. In these unprecedented times, the spread of the coronavirus has also led to the spread of unhealthy thinking patterns and an assault on brain function and physiological health. Disinfecting your thoughts—killing the ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) that steal your happiness—is so important for your overall well-being at this time. Whenever you find yourself feeling mad, sad, nervous, or out-of-control, write down what you are thinking. Challenging negative thoughts (killing the ANTs) takes away their power and gives YOU control over your thoughts, moods, and behaviors. Learning how to kill the ANTs and developing an internal ANTeater has been shown in scientific studies to be as effective as antidepressant medications to treat anxiety and depression! Whenever a negative thought pops into your head, use this wonderful strategy created by my friend Byron Katie and challenge the thought with these 4 questions: Is it true? Can I absolutely know it’s true? How do I react when I think that thought? Who would I be without that thought? How would I feel? To help you learn how to talk back to your ANTs, let’s work through 10 of the most common anxious thoughts people are having due to the coronavirus pandemic. ANT #1: I’m going to die. Is it true? Very unlikely. Can I absolutely know it’s true? No, the vast majority of people recover from the coronavirus. According to the CDC, the fatality rate by age group is as following: 85 and older (10%-27%) 65-84 years (3%-11%) 55-64 years (1%-3%) 20-54 years (<1%) 19 or younger (no fatalities) How do I react when I think that thought? My heart races, my breathing gets shallow, and I feel scared. It makes me think there’s no point in taking care of myself if I’m going to die anyway. How would I feel without that thought? Calmer and more empowered to make staying healthy a priority. ANT #2: My loved ones are going to die. Is it true? You can’t know that. Can I absolutely know it’s true? Again, the statistics from the CDC show that most people who become infected with the coronavirus recover from the illness. And if you practice social isolation, you reduce the risk of exposing yourself and your family to the virus. How do I react when I think that thought? Terrified. I let my children see that I’m panicked and that makes them feel panicky too. How would I feel without that thought? I would be a better role model for my children and would be able to focus on what we can do to help them stay healthy. ANT #3: We’re going to be financially ruined and we’ll lose our house. Is it true? Maybe. Can I absolutely know it’s true? Although the stock market is taking a hit, historically it has always rebounded. Even though I’ve been furloughed from work, there are some programs being put in place to prevent evictions and foreclosures at this time. How do I react when I think that thought? Useless, helpless, and like a failure. I’m too paralyzed to do anything to improve my situation. How would I feel without that thought? I would be able to focus on re-evaluating my financial situation and goals. I would also be better able to concentrate on updating my resume and taking advantage of job programs and financial assistance opportunities that are available. ANT #4: I’m stuck at home, and I don’t like my family. Is it true? Yes. Can I absolutely know it’s true? I have had problems with family members in the past, but that doesn’t mean we are destined to always have problems. How do I react when I think that thought? Trapped, victimized, like I’m in the zombie apocalypse and my family are all zombies trying to eat my brain. It makes me want to hide in my room, which makes me feel even more isolated. How would I feel without that thought? Massively relieved and freer. I would be more open to trying to find some common ground with my family so we can all help each other get through this trying time. ANT #5: My kids are driving me crazy. Is it true? Yes. Can I absolutely know it’s true? Well, they aren’t doing their homeschooling, and they are getting on my nerves, but I’m not really going crazy or having a mental breakdown. How do I react when I think that thought? I’m worried I might lash out at them, and I feel like I’m the worst parent and worst homeschool teacher ever. How would I feel without that thought? I wouldn’t hold myself or my kids to such lofty expectations, and I would forgive them and myself as we try to cope with an unprecedented situation. ANT #6: We’re going to run out of food, so I need to hoard whatever I can find. Is it true? No. Can I absolutely know it’s true? According to the FDA, there are no food shortages. Hoarding just deprives others of getting the food and supplies they need. How do I react when I think that thought? Stressed, “us vs. them” mentality, guilty for taking from others. How would I feel without that thought? I would feel better about myself, more giving, and more like we’re all in this together. ANT #7: I can’t get any healthy food. Is it true? No. Can I absolutely know it’s true? Grocery stores are continually restocking fresh produce and other good-for-you foods. How do I react when I think that thought? I start craving cookies, cereal, pasta, and all the simple carbohydrates that increase anxiety and depression. It gives me an excuse to load up on ice cream, frozen pizza, and other bad foods. How would I feel without that thought? Motivated to seek out foods that fuel my body and brain, that boost immunity, and that enhance moods. ANT #8: I can’t work out because the gym is closed. Is it true? No. Can I absolutely know it’s true? No. There are so many ways to stay active that don’t require a gym—fast walking in the neighborhood, downloading an exercise app, or watching fitness videos online (like these from nurse and bestselling co-author of The Brain Warrior’s Way, Tana Amen). How do I react when I think that thought? I feel like a weak couch potato with zero energy. How would I feel without that thought? Stronger and more powerful. I would find creative ways to get active that would help blood flow to my body and brain to boost my moods, increase attention, and help me make better decisions. ANT #9: I need to drink alcohol—and a lot of it—to feel better. Is it true? Yes. Can I absolutely know it’s true? No, drinking alcohol might make me feel better in the short-term, but it will make me more anxious in the long-term. There are many other brain healthy ways to calm my anxiety and depression. How do I react when I think that thought? Powerless, like a loser, like I can’t cope with my issues without a crutch. How would I feel without that thought? I would feel empowered and in control. I would be motivated to seek out more healthy ways to feel better. ANT #10: I’m all alone and no one needs me. Is it true? Yes. Can I absolutely know it’s true? No. I may be in social isolation, but I am still needed by my extended family, circle of friends, and colleagues. How do I react when I think that thought? I feel depressed and don’t reach out to anyone, which makes me even more lonely. How would I feel without that thought?




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