How Can I Stop My Intrusive Thoughts Of Worry?

intrusive thoughts

Feel like your COVID-19 life is one big “What if?” One big uncertainty, right? The uncertainty breeds worry. Which breeds intrusive thoughts about said worries. Perhaps you relate to some or all of the below:

  • What if I contract coronavirus on the subway…
  • Will our teens miss out on milestone school events – like football games and Homecoming? 
  • What if we’re left without an income?

All these worries are “intrusive” because we keep harping on these questions – even subconsciously – and therefore the thoughts keep intruding our lives. The what-ifs pierce our minds and souls, making us anxious. This intense worry can leave us hanging with no seeming solutions.

It will sometimes help to distract ourselves, to substitute the thoughts, but this won’t always work. Instead, in order to combat intrusive thoughts, it helps to cultivate solutions. We sit with the problematic scenario, write out our feelings, and come up with plans for how to deal. This is how we do something with intrusive thoughts so they can land, and settle.

Let’s take the scenario: What if my teens can’t go to high school football games and Homecoming? Steps to follow:

1. Write out your fear, and why you fear it. For example:

-I’m afraid they won’t have the joys of high school that Americans have experienced since time immemorial.  

-It won’t be fair.

-They’ll be bored at home. 

-They’ll be depressed. 

-They’ll lament not having photos to share at their 20th high school reunion.

  1. Acknowledge that the worry might come to fruition. In this case, your teens’ school won’t have football games and Homecoming. 
  1. Accept #2. OK, we won’t have football, we won’t have Homecoming. This step might take some time – that’s OK. 
  1. Ask “So what?” So you won’t have the usual fall events. Are there worse things in life? Is it even maybe an advantage? 
  1. Write down advantages of the worry occurring. You don’t have football games and Homecoming. OK. So…

-They’ll save a good few hundred dollars.

-They won’t have the pressure of a Homecoming date.

  1. Suggest alternatives.
    -Maybe they can organize something Homecoming-”ish”, without the risk of coronavirus.
    They’re creative. They’ll probably brainstorm ideas with their friends. Maybe that will be fun on its own.

Managing intrusive thoughts boils down to doing something with them, rather than letting them run away with you. When we let intrusive thoughts drive solutions we are on our way to reducing them for good.


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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Alicia H. Clark, PsyD