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  • Writer's pictureStacy G. Smith, MS, LPC

Overcoming Anxiety: Tip #6

All or Nothing thinking is the process of seeing situations on either one end of the spectrum or the other - also called "Black and White" thinking. It is seeing something as either all good or all bad, with no in between.

Some examples of Black and White thinking include:

  • If I don't feel happy, I must be sad.

  • If something didn't go as planned, it means I had a bad day.

  • If there's rain in the forecast, it means the weekend is ruined.

  • If I can't give it my all at the gym, it means I shouldn't go.

  • If I did not receive an A on my exam, it means I'm a bad student.

  • If my boss found a small error in my work, it means I did not do a good job.

The problem with Black and White thinking is that the entire middle ground, otherwise known as the grey area, is lost. What happens is we put pressure on ourselves to make life go exactly according to plan, and when perfection is not reached, the plunge into sadness and anxiety takes over. By recognizing the grey area, we give ourselves the opportunity to experience the middle ground emotions, rather than the extremes. While it's great to have a so-called "perfect" day, the reality is, those days may not happen too frequently, if at all. We begin to chase perfection day in and day out, and fail to recognize that we can still be okay when experiencing anything less.

There's a well-known quote that states, "Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day." A good exercise to practice embracing the grey area is as follows:

At the end of each day, when you have a moment to yourself, reflect on all the good things that happened since the time you woke up - big or small. Very often, our days may be going pretty well, when all of a sudden, something unexpected happens, and BOOM! - we label the day as "bad." But, was the day really bad? or awful? Or did we magnify that one negative event, and minimize all the good?

Remember, to have a good day, nothing magical needs to happen. Maybe the sun was shining, you had a great lunch, caught up with a friend. Could you have accomplished more, felt more productive, and had an even better lunch? Sure. Does it mean you had a bad day because those things didn't happen? Of course not. Seeing the grey area means acknowledging that the situation could have been better, but it could have also been worse. As we practice seeing the middle ground, we'll begin to feel less pressure to reach perfection, and in turn, feel more calm, less anxious, and better about ourselves.


DISCLAIMER: The blog posts shared on contain the opinions of Stacy Smith, MS, LPC, and do not reflect the opinions of any organizations or affiliates. While Stacy is a licensed mental health professional, all blog posts on her site are for informational purposes only, and are never a substitute for professional advice catered to your individual needs. Stacy Smith is not liable for any diagnosis, treatment plans, or decisions made based on the information presented on this website. Furthermore, commenting on posts does not mean a treatment relationship has been established with Stacy Smith.​

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