Help! I’ve Fallen Into A Thought Trap!

Last week, Penn casually spotted a mole on his scalp. Without much fuss, he asked, “Have you seen this before?” I hadn’t. It’s a new mole. Which, in my anxious brain means, SKIN CANCER obviously.  He continued to shave and get ready for the day humming along to the song on his “good vibes” playlist. Me? I had created an entire timeline in my head that I was convinced was a fact. In my head he has skin cancer, it’s obviously stage 4, I will have to figure out life as a single mom and who will take my son to all those basketball tournaments. I was already in mourning about a situation that isn’t real. 

I was in a thought trap. 

Thought traps are automatic negative (and untrue) thought patterns that prevent us from seeing clearly, communicating effectively, or making sound decisions. Thoughts traps happen to all of us, but anxious people the most. I knew immediately I needed to know more about what was happening to me, so we got in touch with author Morra Aarons-Mele. Morra recently wrote in the Harvard Business Review about thoughts traps…and how to make anxiety your superpower. 

(PS: I already have Penn scheduled at the dermatologist). 

What Are You Trying To Tell Me

Morra taught us a few steps we can take when the bad vibes take over. When you feel yourself falling into a thought trap, the first step is to notice that it’s happening. Take yourself out of the moment and ask yourself: is this thought based in reality? Offering your brain some neutral information can be the jumpstart you need to get out of the spiral.

Morra Aarons-Mele hosts the award-winning podcast The Anxious Achiever, and has written two books: Hiding in the Bathroom: How To Get Out There (When You’d Rather Stay Home) and The Anxious Achiever: Turn Your Biggest Fears into Your Leadership Superpower. Through her podcast and books, she praises the power of anxiety. Anxiety is what kept our earliest generations alive through the years because it’s a threat appraisal. Morra believes we should be harnessing our anxiety as a skill and asking ourselves: what are these anxious feelings trying to tell me? Anxiety can make you more self-aware and empathetic. And studies even show that anxious people are better are uncertain situations because they have thought through different scenarios. 

We talk a lot about ADHD being a superpower on our podcast, so it was so nice to put anxiety in the spotlight. Hear more about using your anxiety for good and setting a mental Life Alert for thought traps on this week’s episode below: