A major emotional symptom of anxiety is a “persistent or severe fear or worry in situations where most people wouldn’t feel threatened.” People with anxiety also suffer from physical symptoms of which include, difficulty sleeping. Anxiety can keep us awake as we struggle with unhealthy thoughts in our head.

How do we stop obsessing over these thoughts? The following is an effective cognitive technique created by Allen Elkin to help manage stress-producing worries and weaken your thoughts to help you sleep.

Stop Your Thoughts

  1. Notice your thoughts.
    When a worrisome thought runs through your mind, mentally step back and recognize it is an unwanted thought. It may be a worry, a nagging concern or regret—anything you feel is not worth your stress.
  2. Obey the stop sign.
    In your mind, picture a red and white hexagonal stop sign just like the signals on the street corner. Make your sign large and vivid.
  3. Yell, “Stop!”
    In your head, silently shout the word “Stop” to yourself. Follow your orders.
  4. Do it again.
    Every time the worrisome or unwanted thought reappears, notice that thought, imagine your stop sign, and then order yourself to stop!
  5. Find a replacement thought.
    Find a thought or image to substitute for the distressing thought or image. It can be an image extracted from the “Using Imagery to Relax” exercise or another soothing thought.
Imagining the sign and mentally verbalizing “stop” will disrupt your thought sequence and temporarily put the unwanted, worrisome thought out of your mind. Be warned. The worry will probably return, and you may have to repeat this sequence again. If your stress-producing thought or image is very strong, it may take many repetitions of this technique to weaken or eliminate it. Stick with it.

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