As someone living with anxiety I've been told many times "stop being so paranoid." I know that the majority of the people telling me this mean well. But, it's not so easy to quit being paranoid. First let's talk about what it means to feel paranoid. Here’s an example: I am at the bus stop waiting for the bus and I hear a woman laughing. I turn around to see her and I am convinced that she is laughing at me. I have no evidence to prove this woman is mocking me but it's probably in my "head,” even though it feels so real.
I recently reached out to my friend Allie and told her I have been struggling with paranoia. She understands this, because she lives with paranoid schizophrenia and knows paranoia intimately. She gave me some great advice to stop paranoia in its tracks. She said that I should compare my paranoid thoughts to reality. So I held up my paranoid thought at the time to a reality like two shirts on a clothesline. I could see one the shirts was peacefully drying in the wind (reality) and the other was full of holes (paranoid thought).
That's the thing about paranoia; is a tricky animal. It convinces you that your fears are reality. I am learning to reality-test my thoughts. Just because I have a paranoid thought doesn't mean it's true or "real."
We have all kinds of thoughts throughout the days and some of them are not productive or useful. But the only way to determine the validity of these thoughts is to hold them up to reality and seen what rings true. Paranoia can be difficult to pin down. It can run rampant in your mind fooling you into believing that it knows something you don’t. That’s why it is so successful and manipulating us to believe it. I know how it is to feel like your thoughts have control over you instead of you having control over them. It’s a bad feeling, but you can take control of them. You won’t be able to stop your paranoid thoughts from entering your mind, however that doesn’t mean you have to let them have the lead role in your mind’s show.
I told myself I wouldn’t go there, but the current state of politics has a lot of people feeling paranoid. It’s difficult to overcome these thoughts because there is a legitimacy to some of them. A good way to cope with excessive paranoia when it comes to political issues is to limit how much time you spend reading or watching the news. Maybe its 30 minutes a day that you keep yourself informed, but after that take a break and go do something else. If you spend time obsessing over what could happen to you, you’re going to miss out on living your life. Time is passing in front of our eyes and it’s important to not let paranoia control you.
How about you? What do you do when you find yourself feeling paranoid? What helps you when you have those thoughts?