If you struggle with anxiety, you know what it’s like to deal with ongoing worry, dread, and panic. Research shows that asking solution-based questions allows you replace that worry with positive answers, and that shift in focus can bring a new sense of peace into your life.
Here’s how it works.
Our brains can think only one thought at a time. Go ahead, try thinking about your credit card balance, or upcoming root canal surgery. At the same time, ask yourself to recall your proudest moment. Notice how interrupting your negative thoughts by asking an empowering question automatically shifts your focus from negative to positive.
Solution-based questions also stimulate your brain in a way that causes the release of serotonin (the calm hormone). This release of serotonin allows your brain to relax which, in turn, helps you find answers and solutions to your worries.
So when you’re worried, afraid or on the edge of panic, stop. Take a breath, and start asking yourself questions from the list below. In the beginning, I recommend asking one question at a time. Does that question works for you? If so, keep asking it. If not, try another. Over time, you’ll find the ones work best for you.
10 Positive, Solution-Based Questions to Help Ease Your Fears
1. Am I safe right now?
Look around. Are you safe in this moment? If so, acknowledge it. Savor the sense that all is well. Allow that sense of safety to fill your body and your mind. Welcome the thought that, in this moment, you are at peace. (Of course, if your fears are real and you’re watching the flood waters rise, or your fire alarm is going off, please take any required action to keep yourself from harm.)
2. How have I successfully dealt with fear-based situations like this in the past?
Instead of focusing on your fears, think of all the strengths and skills you’ve relied on over the years to successfully manage those fears. Remind yourself of all the ways you’ve faced your fears in the past: the time you went to dinner alone, rode in an elevator, or asked for a raise. Remember how great it felt to conquer that fear. Remind yourself that what you did once, you can do again. You have depended on yourself in the past, you can depend on yourself now.
3. Who might be able to help me handle my anxiety?
Fear grows in silence. It retreats in the face of love, support and community. So, instead of facing your fear alone, call a friend, a family member, or a professional. Consider joining a support group of like-minded people, either in person or online. Connecting with others can not only help you better deal with your fears, but sharing your fears may also offer hope and comfort to others.
4. What do I have in my life right now to be grateful for?
Whether you keep a gratitude journal, or just spend some time every day being grateful, research shows that expressing gratitude of any kind releases serotonin and dopamine (two feel good hormones) and reduces stress hormones, all of which significantly reduces anxiety.
As you go through your day, look for the small things that bring comfort and ease to your life: a kind gesture, a delicious dinner, the welcoming feel of your favorite chair.
Offering thanks for the good in your life brings you more of that good.
5. What new information could help me deal with my fearful thoughts?
Often fear is nothing but a lack of knowledge. If you’re worried about something, challenge that fear by going out and learning everything you can about that fear. As American physician and author Debasish Mrida says, “The best remedy for fear is to gain knowledge.” Hit the library, call an expert, go online. (If you go online, make sure the sites you use are reliable. Look for sites written by experts and with facts, figures and research to make their case. Research, read, and keep asking questions until you’re able to face your fears squarely with knowledge and truth.
6. What’s one small step I can take right now to feel better?
Action defeats worry. So, if you’re trapped in the cycle of worry, stop. Challenge yourself to come up with the smallest step you could take to help yourself feel better right away. Then take that step. You don’t have to walk a mile, plant a garden, or cook a three-course dinner to feel better. Just taking a deep breath, admiring a beautiful flower or enjoying a cup of tea can go a long way to freeing you from the cycle of worried thoughts.
7. What’s one phrase I can affirm to myself that will help me relax and feel more at ease?
Affirmative statements, or affirmations, are a great way to change your negative thinking long-term. Affirmations should be positive, stated in the present and repeated as often as possible. They don’t have to be complicated; something as simple as “I can do this,” can go a long way to helping you ease your fears. Best of all, current research proves that they work!
8. How can I tell the story about this fear differently?
If you’ve been telling yourself a story that makes you nervous or afraid, it’s time to change it. Change the language you use to describe yourself and what you’re feeling.
Notice what happens when you change:
“I’m nervous about…” to, “I’m excited to try….”
“I’m not good at…” to, “I enjoy trying new things…”
“I know I’m not going to be able to…” to, “All I have to do is my best….”
Stop calling yourself names, and start giving yourself the benefit of the doubt. Rewrite the script of what you tell yourself in a way that empowers you. Decide that you’re the star of your life, and step boldly into that role.
9. What’s the best possible outcome I can imagine?
If you’re used to imagining the worst case scenario, why not allow yourself to imagine the best that could happen? Instead of scaring yourself with thoughts of doom and gloom, spend time dreaming about some great things that could be in your future.
If you picture yourself getting lost, forgetting your speech or being fired, why not imagine yourself easily finding your destination, giving a great speech, or getting that promotion you’ve been waiting for.
Notice the difference in how you feel when you make the switch from negative to positive. You may not be able to change the future with what you think, but you can certainly change the present by imaging that only good lies ahead for you.
10. What would my life look like, if I could move past this fear and focus on positive possibilities?
If you were able to move past your fear, what would you be able to do? Where would you go? Who would you meet? How would it feel to be free of those fears? Go ahead, take some time and imagine your life without scary thoughts. Imagine a life without limits.
Asking yourself positive, solution-based questions can help you create a sense of calm and an anxiety life.
Ready to give it a try?
Join in the conversation on Facebook. Find me @wendyleedskeepingcalm along with a community of people just like you & me who understand the daily struggle of living with anxiety.
Anxiety is worse than it's ever been in today's world. That's why I've re-launched my book, Calm & Sense: A Woman's Guide to Living Anxiety-Free [June 2022].
Simply put, this book is an Anxiety Handbook – a set of techniques to help quell anxiety surges. It has a simple structure, with four major sections:
First, we Name Your Anxiety to set a baseline.
Then we Claim Your Anxiety to look at the specifics of your anxiety.
Then we Reframe Your Anxiety to help change your thought patterns.
And lastly, we Tame Your Anxiety using a set of tools and techniques – over 150 pages devoted to them in Calm & Sense. So it a specific technique doesn’t work for you, no worries – you just try another until you hit on one that works.
I know that this book can help. Not only have people told me directly – but also, I use it myself. It's available in paperback and an inexpensive eBook version too.
Wendy Leeds is a psychotherapist with both a professional and a personal interest in helping women deal with their anxiety. As a three-time cancer survivor, she is an expert on what it’s like to live with anxiety and how to ease it.