When You Can't Control Your Anxious Thoughts

September 28, 2021 Rizza Bermio-Gonzalez

Racing, overwhelming thoughts are a common symptom of anxiety, and it can be difficult to deal with them when it feels like they’re spiraling out of control. I know that when I am anxious, I am overcome with anxious thoughts that I try to control but can’t. We often hear about or talk about strategies to control anxiety, including stopping negative thoughts or changing negative thoughts into positive ones. But what happens when you can't control your thoughts?

I know that something that I have struggled with when it comes to anxiety is negative and unwanted thoughts that enter into my mind that I can't seem to shake. When this happens, I also often find that the more I try to keep from thinking those thoughts, the more I end up focusing on them, and the harder it is to get them out of my head. Then, the physical symptoms that I experience with anxiety -- the racing heart rate, the upset stomach, the trembling, and the restlessness, to name a few -- seem to intensify. So what started as me trying to calm my anxiety actually seems to make it worse.

How to Stop Your Anxious Thoughts from Taking Control

So what are some of the ways you can deal with this? How can you stop anxious, unwanted, intrusive thoughts from affecting you and increasing your anxiety?

First of all, I think it is important to be aware and mindful of being unable to control your thoughts. Rather, this can be counterproductive, and there are other things that you can control. Coming to terms with what happens when you try to control your anxious thoughts is the first step to helping manage your anxiety.

It is then helpful to identify what you are thinking about that is related to how you are feeling. When you identify those thoughts, instead of trying to push them away, allow yourself to experience them. You may even find that writing them down in a journal is a helpful way to do this. Identifying them can help you to address them instead of avoiding them and counterintuitively experiencing increased anxiety as a result. I have found that identifying my anxious thoughts helps me to deal with things one step at a time. It sometimes helps me to problem-solve and work on my positive thinking so that I feel less overwhelmed.

Meditation can also be helpful for dealing with unwanted, intrusive thoughts. When you meditate, you relax your mind and body, you focus on your breathing, and you may find that, instead of fighting your own mind and trying to take control of your thoughts, you are able to calm your anxious nervous system and let things go. I have found that this is key for me to prevent my anxiety from worsening.

Lastly, focus on the positive. Take a walk where you can enjoy nature, take the time to laugh, listen to music, or talk to a loved one. Focus on those things that make you feel good rather than trying to control the negative in your mind.

If there are steps you take to help calm yourself when you are feeling anxious, instead of trying to control your thoughts, share them in the comments below.

APA Reference
Bermio-Gonzalez, R. (2021, September 28). When You Can't Control Your Anxious Thoughts, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 18 from

Author: Rizza Bermio-Gonzalez

February, 11 2022 at 10:22 am

What if you genuinely can not control your anxiety ?
You have 4 or 5 mental health problems on top ?
An eating disorder and NO support ?
No body hears you ?
And to close your eyes and never open them again is your only positive thought . WHAT THEN ?

Lizanne Corbit
September, 28 2021 at 5:37 pm

Sometimes, pressing pause on anxious thoughts can seem like one of the most difficult things to do, but it can be done. The key is to break it down, as you so beautifully wrote about. The more we can separate ourselves from the thoughts and realize that they do not hold such power over us the more we can begin to calm the behavior and reaction as well.

October, 1 2021 at 9:28 am

Hi Lizanne,
This is such a great way of breaking it down! Sometimes it can be difficult to separate our thoughts, feelings, and behavior. But sometimes doing so is helpful so that we can cope. The more we can practice this, the more we can become accustomed to using strategies that are helpful.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

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