Is It Signal or Noise?
Here’s a concept that might help you.
Reid Willson, Ph.D. talks about the concept of Signal vs. Noise in his book Stopping the Noise in Your Head a New Way to Overcome Anxiety. I really like this idea, because it helps one to distinguish between two types of worries.
Signals are worries about relevant matters (I have to be prepared for tomorrow’s exam), and for which there is a problem-solving approach and action which will solve this problem (I can study tonight and be prepared). Noise is a worry that is irrelevant (for which there is no problem-solving or action that will fix it (What if I fail that test? What if I didn’t understand the purpose of the essay? If I don’t get an A, I may not get into a good college! What if I write swear words on my test paper? (an OCD fear)) There is no way to remove these doubts.
You have to identify what can be solved (signal) and what is static, interfering, irritating, and irrelevant (noise)—like the static between clear radio signals. Dr. Reid says signals come with solutions, noise has no solution. OCD and anxiety try to distract you with irrelevant noise, masquerading as relevant signals.
So, before you give too much attention to a thought or thoughts, ask yourself this, “Is this thought a signal or noise?”