We live in a world that is regularly changing, growing and becoming more and more fast paced. Often life can feel so overwhelming that it can feel hard to catch your breath amidst the intensity of the daily demands placed upon us. Sometimes we can feel so anxious, down-hearted or stressed that these day to day tasks feel so big that we struggle to get through the day with much successfully completed. Does this sound like you? Whether it does or does not sound like you, this article is for you. None of us are immune to the effects of stress. Some of us may cope better or perhaps have better methods of stress management, however – we can all benefit from becoming more aware of what we can do now to cope better or do in the future should we encounter a time when we feel exceedingly anxious, stressed or upset.
This blog will be a short read identifying 3 tips and methods which I not only recommend to clients who may be experiencing poor mental health but also incorporate into all aspects of therapy. These tips are set out focussing upon negative thinking as negative thinking is often a core factor of poor mental health as a whole. Negative thinking can often be a driving/perpetuating factor of maladaptive behaviours and emotional distress, all elements which I will discuss in later features in our blog series.
Tips for dealing with negative thoughts
Identify the negative thought – Wouldn’t you agree that it is often easy to identify what we are feeling. “I feel scared”, “I feel hungry”, “I feel sad”. However, often we can overlook the fact that we may possibly be thinking negatively and this can be contributing to how we feel. Identifying our negative thoughts can help us in changing how we feel. For example, the thought may be “I really don’t fit in at school, everyone must think I am weird”. Identifying thoughts can take time and effort, however identifying our thoughts and developing an awareness of these thoughts is a key factor for the next step to be effective.
Challenge the negative thought – Next, we want to challenge the thought. We want to question and explore its validity. Is there significant evidence to suggest that what I am thinking is true? Is there a possibility that there may an alternative to this thought? What might be a more positive way to view this? We need to reality test the thought. In relation to the example used in the first step, here is a potential alternative way to look at things. You may feel like you do not fit in at school, however - people make effort to invite you to after school events and to sit with them at lunch, if they thought you were weird, maybe there would be evidence to suggest that they thought you were weird? In fact, there was for example maybe a time where someone said they think you are cool! Remember, your thoughts and feelings are not always based upon facts.
Replace the negative thought with a realistic one: Replacing the thought with one which is realistic and has a rational stance can be very helpful in combatting the initial negative thought. We want these thoughts to have an evidence based, based within facts. Often people may try to change their negative belief to the opposite extreme such as “I am the coolest person in the school and everyone else are the weird ones”, however, this is not the road we want to take here and ultimately this will fail the reality test, resulting in further potential upset or distress. Instead, we want to find a realistic thought that will pass a reality test and an example of this in our situation presented above may be “Just because I feel like I do not fit in at school does not mean that people see me as a weird person”
So, after reading the above, what is the take home message? Well to put it simply for the purpose of this blog – “You do not have to accept the negative thoughts which rule your life” and you can take confidence in the hope that change is possible. Perhaps take out a sheet of paper and do some exploration now with something which may be bothering you and see how exploring our thoughts and their validity can help how we feel.
You can take control of these thoughts – however, patience and persistence are essential and this will take time. I often say to clients - if you take for example a person who goes into the gym and on their first day comes out, looks in the mirror and flexes and sees no visible progress and may potentially become disheartened and give up, this is the same with working on your mental health – you may not see immediate results but do not let that put you off. All good things take time and good mental health is something we can all strive toward.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog and I look forward to writing more and sharing with you more in the coming weeks, months and beyond.