How to Catch, Check, and Change Your Anxious Thoughts


One of the key aspects I plan to write about on this blog is anxiety. It’s something I have done a lot of work with and have gained some considerable knowledge about.

Everyone deals with anxiety. Some deal with it less frequently and some more, but throughout life, everyone experiences some degree of anxious moments. It appears to me that it has become increasingly common to feel the feelings of anxiety, stress, and worry throughout a person’s typical day.

As a mother particularly, children know just what to do to push on your nerves. All sorts of situations, from running late while trying to get them dressed to a screaming child in the backseat of the car, can make someone wild with anxious thoughts.

I personally have dealt with my own anxiety over the years and through those experiences along counseling school, have been privy to some key ways of dealing with anxiety. These methods would be helpful to anyone, but especially mothers, who under even the most difficult of circumstances want to project a positive and calm energy to their learning children.

Here is a small introduction to CBT, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a psychological theory that focuses a great deal on anxiety. CBT believes all feelings stem from a thought. Anxiety is not in isolation a feeling, but really a series of thoughts causing one to experience the feelings of anxiety. The idea is that if one can redirect or more accurately determine their thoughts, the anxious feelings would lessen.

This method is called the Catch, Check, and Change and you can do it when you start to feel anxious. Below is a brief description of how to do it:

Catch: Catch the anxious thought. Example: If I let my baby cry for too long, because we are in the car and I can’t stop now, I’m a bad mother. I may emotionally scar them for life.

Check: Check the thought to make sure it is accurate or rational.  Types of checks are: Foreshadowing, Black and White Thinking, Catastrophizing, Mindreading, or Unfair Comparisons. These are just a few typical cognitive distortions we do with our minds. Other ways to check your thought are through Best, Worst, and Most Likely charts, Problem Solving or Socratic questioning. Example: I am doing Black and White thinking- viewing mothering in simplistic terms as Good mother vs. Bad mother, with no room for greys. I am also doing Catrastrophizing – assuming the worst will happen to my child.

Change:  Once you’ve checked your thought, you can work on changing it to a more rational thought. Example: I am not a bad mother, I’m doing the best I can. She won’t be scarred from one car ride, or even 5!

There are sometimes several different ways to check one thought. In this situation, the mother could also do Problem Solving in addition to rationalizing her thoughts. By doing so, she can find a way to stop the car and soothe her crying baby. (But she should still make sure her thoughts are rational, in order to soothe herself!)

So that’s a beginners level introduction to CBT and the Catch, Check and Change method. Try it out next time you feel anxious. It only takes few minutes!

Disclaimer: This is an extremely simplistic and brief introduction to CBT work. If you would like to work on some of these skills or find someone who is a professional in the field, contact me and I can help you or direct you!