How to Stop Dwelling: A Simple Practice to Let Go of Anxious Thoughts

By Kimberley Diaz-Rosso on Wednesday July 26th, 2017

Free Yourself from Useless Suffering

Change your thoughts and you change the world. ~ Norman Vincent Peale

We all encounter times in life when someone says or does something that offends us. After the fact, no matter how hard we try to let go of feelings of hurt or resentment, we might find it hard to move on. I know, I’ve been there before myself, mostly when I wished I’d told people how I really felt in certain encounters, or when I doubted what I said or did and then replayed past events over again in my mind. I am a reformed people–pleaser, and as a result, I haven’t always expressed my honest feelings to others.

More times than I can count, I felt self-conscious and anxious while approaching certain people and situations in life. Was I funny enough? Did I seem unintelligent? Did I unknowingly offend someone? These kinds of questions would creep into my mind and take over my mood on a daily basis. My self-doubt and fear of confrontation not only affected how I represented myself in social settings, it also caused a lot of unnecessary worry and tension in my relationships.

People-pleasing gives everyone else your powerPeople-pleasing gives everyone else your power. Take back your power.

There was a turning point when I was fed up with avoiding conflict and tired of feeling hurt. I realized that in order to change how I felt, I needed to perceive the world through a different lens.

You will be free the moment you stop worrying about what other people think of you. ~ Unknown

The Day I Chose to Free Myself

In college, I remember one of my professors asking each person in the classroom what they wanted to accomplish at the end of their academic career. The first thing that came to mind was “I don’t want to take things personally any longer.”

I did not realize it at the time, but at that very moment, my journey had begun.

While completing my degree, I worked closely with people who had been abused and neglected. They had been completely and utterly unseen by the people they trusted most. Not only did my heart ache for what they had lived through, my eyes slowly started to open. These amazing individuals were enough, even if no one ever led them to believe that they were. And I was enough. I didn’t have to second-guess the things that I did or allow self-doubt to get in the way of my happiness. I could simply exist in the world without my anxiety defining me.

Shortly after this discovery, I met a kind Buddhist mentor, and through deep daily mindfulness practices, I learned how to tame the anxious, unproductive thoughts that came into my mind and not get swept away by them.

You are enoughDon’t let self-doubt get in the way of accepting yourself, imperfections and all.

As I continued my inner work, I was kinder and more patient with others and myself. In time, I realized that struggle is universal and that we all share these encounters in some form, at some point in our lives. How we relate to our pain is what shapes the outcome. We can either crumble under life’s pressures or embrace them and become more evolved versions of ourselves. Our true nature is who we are underneath our struggles and stories, and accessing that nature is the key to feeling at peace.

We Choose How Things Affect Us

Our disposition and family of origin greatly affect how we observe and react to the world around us. But we are not powerless; we can change how we respond to life’s difficulties. Have you ever admired someone who came out of the other end of adversity stronger, wiser, and better equipped for the road ahead? You do not have to admire that person; you can be them.

Take a brief moment and think back to a time when someone said or did something that troubled you. Did negative thoughts take over your mind? Was your heart pounding? Did you find it hard to concentrate? Did this moment feel like it would never end?

Only you can chooseHow will you choose to let things affect you?

I know from personal experience that stress can sometimes feel like an out-of-body experience. Our thoughts can quickly take over and we can get caught up in our heads. Over time we can start relying on that comfortable place of simply reacting without thinking, or we can push our feelings away and disconnect from situations completely, like I did.

For this reason, I have adapted my own go-to mindfulness exercise that I have used time and time again, as well as referred to others. This method can help you to develop a deep awareness of your thoughts, as you’re facing difficult moments, or shortly after, while offering yourself words of compassion and kindness. One of the first times I put this technique into practice, it helped me move into a more accepting, healing place.

The Art of Not Taking Offence

A few years back I was at a meet for new mothers. It was my first time there, and all the conversations made it difficult to hear. I had asked someone in the crowd to repeat their child’s name, which was, ‘Wren,’ a pretty name, like the bird. Another mother overheard me and loudly mentioned to another person that people from the city weren’t worldly and had little knowledge of nature. I wondered what I possibly could have done to offend this woman. My thoughts spread like a wildfire.

I felt deeply angered by her comment. I proceeded to doubt myself, questioning if there was something I had said to the group that day which seemed silly or unintelligent. My next course of action was to start thinking of things to say to counteract her verbal attack; a way of proving my knowledge. While all of these ideas bubbled up in my mind, I was completely silent. I felt a burning sensation brewing in my stomach and chest.

Worry and regrets cause unnecessary sufferingGetting lost in our worries and regrets only causes unnecessary suffering.

I tried to make the best of the meet after that, but couldn’t help but feel irritated. I gave this person the cold shoulder the rest of the day and was upset with her. I was also angry with myself for not rising above the pettiness by choosing to snub her.

Later that evening, I kept thinking about what she had said and why she chose me as her target. Once again, I had fallen into the trap of avoiding conflict at the expense of my well-being. I proceeded to break down what I was feeling and what needed my attention most, and this brought me much needed internal comfort.

O.P.E.N. to Your True Nature

The next time you find yourself over-thinking past situations or feeling overwhelmed by life’s stresses, try this exercise to offer yourself some compassion and bring yourself back into the present moment.


Close your eyes and take a breath. Notice how your body feels—tension in the stomach or heaviness in the shoulders, for example. Then notice the thoughts you’re thinking in the moment or are dwelling on from the past, and name them, such as, worrying, fearing, replaying, or planning.

When you observe your thoughts, you’re able to choose which to believe and which to let pass. You can choose not to believe that someone else meant to hurt you, that you did something wrong, or you deserve to be judged. You can see these thoughts as nothing more than knee-jerk reactions to a perceived offense, and not reflections of reality or ideas that you need to let influence your state of mind.

Free your emotionsObserving your thoughts and identifying your feelings helps to free them.


When you are ready, bring peace to your mind and body by saying, “I am deeply hurt and it is okay to feel the way that I do.” (Use comforting words to ease your distress about a specific situation).

Some other thoughts that may bring you peace: “Even if other people judge me, I don’t have to judge myself.” “What other people say and do is about them, not me.”


Take a deep breath and take a moment to sit in the calmness of mind and body.


Say to yourself: “The moment has passed and now I am at peace. This is my true nature.”

More times than not, the present moment is an anchor, solace in the midst of chaos. You can always come back to the present moment.

Put it to Practise

Observing my thoughts and accepting the situation for what it was not only enabled me to make peace with what happened, but also helped me foster compassion for the woman who offended me. I realized that her bias might have come from a vulnerable and wounded place. Being a new mom isn’t easy and I can identify with that; perhaps she was feeling insecure that day and displaced the judgment she had of herself onto me. Had I not have taken a step back to assess my own thoughts I may not have been able to feel compassion for her.

It's often about them, not youRemember–people’s words and actions are often a relection of their own pain.

As I continue to practice OPEN, it allows me to feel and examine the full gamut of my emotions, and in turn, this allows me to feel deeper connection and concern for others. I am no longer as self-conscious and I don’t take things personally as often. The lesson I learned in all of this was that worrying about what others think of me does not change anything, and life is unpredictable and out of my control. This discovery was actually pretty liberating for me.

I think we could all benefit from learning to tap into awareness and calm our mind. We can learn to forgive and be kind to ourselves, and to the people around us. And we can create space between ourselves and our anxious thoughts so that they don’t define us or throw us off our center.

The next time you feel anxiety rising, remember that our thoughts can hold us back or they can deeply restore us. However, we do have a choice to listen to the thoughts that encourage us so we can open to our true peaceful (or balanced or noble) nature.



eckhart tolle on how to rise above thoughts feature

Eckhart Tolle on How to Rise Above Thoughts


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How to Release Anger through Mindfulness

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11 Responses to How to Stop Dwelling: A Simple Practice to Let Go of Anxious Thoughts

  1. Thanks for this 🙂

    I recently have been getting closer with a female friend, and she spent a long time hyping up a ‘special’ hangout session.

    The night of, she didn’t even bother to text me back, nor the next few nights.

    I lashed out at her pretty hardcore, and it wasn’t until I read this that I was feeling the wrong emotions. Just because I SAW the friendship this way, doesn’t mean she did, despite what she SAID.

    I identified the emotions responsible and freed myself from that moment.

    I took the next moment to tell her those same emotions, and why they aren’t valid. I proceeded to tell her I don’t want to get close to her any time soon either.

    Now i’m not trapped on that same rotating thought. Thank you 🙂

  2. This article is so helpful. I have had really bad anxiety in the past and I need to try to let go of being a people pleaser and perfectionist. I think being a teacher made this tendency worse in me. At a school, there are too many people to please and no matter what you do or how hard you work you are always judged by someone and never enough. I love the simple steps of OPEN and I’m going to really try to apply it to my life. Thank you.

  3. Hi I am Krystina and I just want to say thank you for writing this story and that I am going through the exact same thing and when I go to school I get really scared because memories keep coming back to me in the past because last year I went through anxiety because I missed my mom and family and whenever I think about that this year I get a lot of anxiety please text me back for solutions to help me.

  4. Thank you so much. When I was about 5 or 4 1/2 my mother explained to me how dumb and ugly I was and how much she really wished that she had given birth to my cousin not me. From that point on both my mother and father kept explaining how dumb and ugly I was.
    Letting go of that is not easy. But this helped.

    • I cannot imagine what you have been through. I never post on such sites, but your story compelled me to tell you that whatever was said to you cannot be the truth. That you are looking in to such info sources sounds like you already have way more wisdom and emotional awareness than your parents. Bravo to you

    • How sad that you had to go through that! Please do not believe it… You are beautiful and intelligent.
      You are enough…you are special, unique, and here for a purpose. What your parents have said and done say more about them than about you. Shame on them for being so cruel and projecting their negativity onto a child. You can rise above it! You have more beauty and potential than you will ever know. Seek it and you will find it. Best wishes to you.

    • Oh my gosh, no child should EVER be told that. I am glad that you are looking to overcome the negativity in this world and re-center your life. You are perfect the way you are!? never forget it, even when it is hard. Good luck my friend, I believe in you!!!?

    • I’ll go around the long bend to explain my point. Bare with me…………

      The first thing you need to remember is, Yes, the memory of these spoken words was unfortunate. The statements they made to you, stem from their own internal weaknesses and lost mental states at those points in time. Look at it from this angle, human beings are known to lash out on everything around them because of the complexities of their own insecure and insufficiencies of their ongoing lives. They weren’t hating you, they were hating their lives and used you as an excuse to vent their hate for themselves. Humans, may it be parents, friends or strangers.. all humans are full of mental problems and reckless lash-outs i.e: look what we do to helpless creatures on this earth. Animals and Humans alike. The pain out there in this world is staggering and complex. It can be harsh and searingly painful and that chakra is endless. We all step on each other to learn lessons, and that time around they stepped on you and their lesson most definitely awaits them. It’s the circle of karma. Nobody escapes it.

      But, your escape from that harsh memory is to forgive them. Forgive them completely and wholly and except them, as we all are.. flawed creatures of this earth trying to make sense of this existence. Your hatred for them at that time is real but you are the only one drinking the poison every day or every time you think of it. Understanding the energy that keeps your flame of pain alive is the source of your pain, not the flame itself. Extinguish the energy of the flame and that is by forgiving and release yourself from the chakra and attain your unity with who you are. Remember, no matter what anybody calls you, it’s who you respond to that matters. Let them and many more will call you many more things in this life, but respond to only that you think you really are and the rest will play out in the wash of life.

      Also, think of this …how can a cloud be ugly? How can a cloud be wrong in shape or size? We are born not into this world but from this world, you are part of creation just like the clouds or like leaves from trees all have their purpose that makes the tree and your existence makes the universe like every ant and grain of sand across the span of creation. So, do not judge yourself or your existence in any particular way.

      Another thought is to get the best of fruits from a tree, you nourish and water the roots of the tree and not the fruits. Likewise, you should nourish your connection to the creation and the creator itself and devote your self to the source of creation. You belong here like all of us and that you will always be part of the same wheel of life. At times up and at times down, but we are all interconnected.

      To end with, I want you to remember that the greatest lessons you will learn in your life will be always come from the ones closest to you. Embrace them, except them as your gifts and do not be afraid to hug the cactus and on the embrace forgive them and the pain it sheds in you.


  5. I think I have ocd, I dwell on random words and thoughts.It all started with the first big conflict I had with my sons teacher. I am on Paxil and don’t want to be, please give any suggestions of affirmations I can use, thanks so much, greatly appreciated!! Dorothy

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