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7 Useful Thought-Stopping Techniques for Anxiety

Millions of Americans are dealing with anxiety at this very moment. Some individuals have found success in thought-stopping techniques for anxiety, and many mental health providers use these techniques to help their patients overcome anxiety. So what are thought-stopping techniques for anxiety and why are they so useful?

What is “Thought-Stopping?”

Thought-stopping techniques for anxiety tend to revolve around the battle an individual has with intrusive thoughts. Intrusive thoughts are ones that seem to become stuck in an individual’s mind. These thoughts are usually unwanted and can cause distress and increased anxiety.

“Thought-stopping” is a technique used to help a person escape intrusive thoughts. This technique usually involves replacing a negative thought with a positive and realistic one. The general principles behind thought-stopping techniques for anxiety include using positive thoughts to replace negative ones that act as a reminder or distraction. It aims to move one’s repetitive negative thoughts away from one’s mind so that they do not become automatic or like a habit in an individual’s mind.

It is also believed that thought-stopping techniques for anxiety could give an individual an increased sense of control over their mind where intrusive thoughts interrupted that control. The general impression is that if negative feelings make you feel worse, positive ones will make you feel better.

Will it Work for Your Client?

There is some debate in the mental health community as to whether or not thought-stopping techniques for anxiety actually work. While it seems to be an effective strategy for some, it happens to be ineffective for others. Some therapists still use it regularly when working with clients while others view it as an outdated exercise.

In 2021, thought-stopping techniques for anxiety are no longer recommended by the average professional. While thought-stopping techniques may seem helpful and useful on paper, some therapists believe they fail to address the root of a client’s intrusive/negative thoughts.

This being said, thought-stopping techniques for anxiety might not be a long-term solution for escaping negative thought patterns.

Another important thing to take under consideration is whether or not there are any other factors (biological, environmental, etc.) that could be influencing your emotions, anxiety, and behavior. Thought-stopping techniques for anxiety would not address these issues.

Examples of Thought-Stopping Techniques for Anxiety:

Auditory Distraction

Some individuals find that distraction is an effective way to escape a negative thought pattern. One of the most common distractions includes an auditory one. This might involve listening to music, watching TV, or talking to someone on the phone. Auditory distractions can move your brain away from intrusive thoughts and towards other things.


People all over the globe use meditation as a means to clear their minds and fill them with positive thoughts. There are different forms of meditation that exist around the world, but the goal is ultimately to help an individual find peace with their thoughts and emotions.


Journaling is one of the most used thought-stopping techniques for anxiety. It can be a great way to get your thoughts out of your brain, make them physical, and process them on paper.

Muscle Relaxation

Anxiety can often appear in our bodies alongside our minds. Anxiety can cause individuals to tense their muscles, making them tight and rigid. Muscle isolation and relaxation is a commonly used thought-stopping technique for anxiety that involves sitting down comfortably, closing one’s eyes, and focusing on different muscles in the body. Starting with one’s toes and working their way up to the top of their head, this helps to relieve body tension as well as release us from intrusive thoughts.

Cognitive Restructuring

Cognitive restructuring is a commonly used and accepted thought-stopping technique for anxiety. This exercise examines the root of why those thoughts are happening in the first place, identifying where in the thought there are distortions, and taking steps to eliminate them.

The ABC Model

Also called Antecedent Behavior Consequence Analysis, the ABC model focuses on specific thoughts and behaviors, triggers for those behaviors, and their impact on one’s life. An individual starts by identifying the negative thought or behavior, the situation and details surrounding it, and what to avoid in the future.

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