The ABC Technique For Breaking the Anxiety Habit

My grandmother used to say: You can’t stop a bird from flying into your hair, but you don’t have to help it build a nest.  If you’re prone to anxious, worrisome thinking, you may not be able to stop that first worry-thought from popping into your head, but you sure can stop the second thought, the third, fourth and so on.  Anxiety begins with a worrisome, stimulus thought, “What if I fail?” which may then be followed by, “If I fail, I’ll never be able to look her in the eye again…” etc., etc.  Think of the stimulus thought as thought ‘A.’ If you want to break the habit of anxiety (yes, from a Self-Coaching perspective, anxiety is a habit driven by insecurity), you must stop the insecure worrisome progression of A to B, to C, etc.

In order to be effective with ruminative, anxious thinking it’s imperative to recognize that within you, there’s a “habit voice” (which, in this case, is the voice of insecurity) that exists alongside your “healthy voice.”  When a stimulus thought pops into your mind (thought A) your habit voice will begin to run through a progression of what-ifs (A to B to C, etc.). And as with any habit, this progression will often occur reflexively, typically below the threshold of consciousness.  By becoming aware of your ruminative, habit tendency, you can begin to assert your healthy voice and insist on stopping the progression before you’re half way through the alphabet. How do you stop the progression? Anyway you can! Distraction, telling your habit voice, ‘STOP!’ or simply realizing that your habit voice needs you, your healthy voice’s capitulation in order to leap from worry-thought A to B, etc.

In order for anxiety thinking to run amuck, you must understand that it’s your healthy voice that must step aside and allow this to happen. Your healthy voice, either because of ignorance, lethargy or passivity, stands back and permits you to fall–once again–into the quagmire we call anxiety. Starting today, with determined awareness, resurrect your healthy voice, be observant of your habit of progressive, insecurity thinking, and realize that you have a choice–a choice NOT to run the alphabet!

Stay in the know with Dr. Joe
subscribe to our newsletter:

The Self-Coaching newsletter is filled with tips and advice for dealing with all of life's challenges: emotional struggle, anxiety, depression, relationship issues, as well as the psychology of weight loss and lifelong weight mastery

The diagnosis of clinical anxiety or depressive disorders requires a physician or other qualified mental health professional. The information provided is intended for informational purposes only. Please understand that the opinions shared with you are meant to be general reference information, and are not intended as a diagnosis or substitute for counseling with your physician or other qualified mental health professional. provides access to resources and other information as a public service. Although reasonable efforts have been made to ensure that all electronic information made available is current, complete and accurate, Joseph J. Luciani, Ph.D. (Dr. Joe) does not warrant or represent that this information is current, complete and accurate. All information is subject to change on a regular basis, without notice.Joseph J. Luciani, Ph.D., assumes no responsibility for any errors in the information provided, nor assumes any liability for any damages incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, of the use and application of any of the contents of the Website.Any electronic information or inquiries that receives from visitors shall not be considered as or treated as, confidential. The inclusion of, or linking to, other Website URLs does not imply my endorsement of, nor responsibility for, those Websites, but has been done as a convenience to my website visitors.