sticky thoughts

If you have anxiety sensitivity, here are 10 factors that contribute to “Sticky Thoughts.” Sticky thoughts are the ones you just can’t shake loose. Sticky thoughts predispose your mind to anxiety and hyper-vigilance. They tend to keep you stuck in your own personal anxiety loop that is both unproductive and self-shaming. That is why learning to identify and talk back to them is critical to your good mental well being.

sticky thoughts

Feeling stuck?

The 10 Sticky Thoughts Factors

  1. Sleep deprivation/insomnia
  2. Drinking alcohol
  3. [Some] OTC medications
  4. Steroids of any type, asthma meds
  5. Your genetic inheritance is a factor
  6. Any illness, a cold, for example
  7. Caffeine or sugar intake—notice what affects your body
  8. A natural cycle upon wakening that many feel as a sort of dread of the day, which lessens over the course of the day
  9. Hormone fluctuations
  10. Hyper-vigilance, or monitoring of the content of the mind is the most prevalent factor of all.

BONUS ROUND!!! Social Media! Devices! They are the trigger for so many of our sticky thoughts.

The Stickiest Of Them All

This constant checking, item 10, (*hyper-vigilance) and judging of the acceptability of your thoughts gets the prize for the “stickiest” thought of all! This occurs so automatically, most of the time you don’t even register it. You can address the physical factors by monitoring the intake of substances listed above or by getting better sleep (regulating your sleep cycle and practicing good sleep hygiene). The thought content that always precedes the physical symptoms of anxiety can be altered by first recognizing the thoughts, labeling them and then questioning the evidence for those thoughts. This is something I teach clients who struggle with this.

The constant checking, or hyper-vigilance, as well as judging of the acceptability of your thoughts and/or your physical sensations is so automatic, most of the time you don’t even register it. 

Here’s The Trick To Use Instead

Instead, focus on expecting the thoughts to occur, allowing them, but not engaging in them. In other words, you need to let the thoughts come, but do not obey the message which is often counter productive to your real goals. These “sticky thoughts” tend to keep you from doing what is best for you, and even lead you to avoid doing what would be most helpful. These are the thoughts that keep you focused inwardly, and keep you placing your attention on negative ideas and predicting outcomes that likely will never even happen, or if they do, are not nearly as bad as you predicted. Try the SNAPP* technique below for the next 2 weeks and record the results each time to develop your own bank of evidence.

*SNAPP—A handy acronym

S . . . top what you’re doing for just a moment when you can tell you’re getting triggered.
N . . . otice with curiosity what is happening in your physical body and in your thoughts.
A . . . llow these experiences to be just as they are, without judgment or attempts to control them.
P . . . enetrate these sensations in the body with full, deep belly breaths and continue to breath in this way until you notice your experience shifting.
P . . . rompt yourself to move/act in the direction that feels most important and in line with what takes everyone’s perspective compassionately into account, not just yours.

If you struggle with sticky thoughts, contact me here. It takes practice, and I promise if you do the work, you will feel your self respect rise, your self esteem will increase, and you will be more of who you truly are. And that, my friends, brings a great deal of peace. The new year is coming. Is it your year to move ahead and master the old thought patterns that keep you stuck?


*SNAPP is from the expert anxiety consultant Reid Wilson, Ph.D. His book Stopping The Noise In Your Head (2016) is a terrific resource for those with OCD thought compulsions.

Another great resource on this topic is the Overcoming Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts by Sally Winston and Martin Seif, 2017, outlining the sticky-thoughts factors listed above.