Day 3 – Bumps in the road…

You began to learn your ABC’s yesterday which is great! Becoming aware of the sequence of events that occurs when your emotions get out of hand is the first step. Keep practicing “coaching yourself” and becoming more and more aware of what takes place in those situations! Each of these posts will build on one another. They are not meant to be isolated but rather are designed specifically to be read in this order,  slowly but surely increasing your knowledge and self-awareness. It takes dedication to read these and courage to implement what you read, so I am proud of you!

For those of you who read my anxiety series, today’s content is going to be review (Day 10 & Day 11 from anxiety series). For the newbies out there this may be brand new information. Either way, as you read through this post, think of times you have fallen into some of the following traps. These are common thinking patterns and nothing to be ashamed of… however, they are important to note and grab hold of so that you are no longer controlled by unhealthy thoughts.

After that long introduction… today’s topic is Cognitive Distortions (aka Faulty Beliefs). There are a variety of thinking pitfalls we all fall into that can really mess us up emotionally. See you if you can relate to any of these:

Making Demands:

Must, Ought, Should, Has to, Need, Have to…
“I must have the approval of everyone I know.”
“People should always treat me fairly.”
“I need to do well all the time.”

Assuming the worst from a relatively minor situation.
Your husband says he’ll be home from work by 5:30pm. By 5:35pm, he hasn’t shown up yet and you start to get worried. By 5:40pm, you start wondering if he got in a car accident and by 5:45pm your heart is racing and you’re near tears.

All-or-nothing/Black & White Thinking:
There is no middle ground, just one extreme or another.
Either someone is completely to blame or responsibility-free in the situation.
Let’s say you’re on a diet during Girl Scout Cookie season. You get offered a Thin Mint and try to resist but end up eating one. You’re so upset that you just think to yourself “screw it” and eat the rest of the sleeve.

You’ve been feeling down lately and are in a bit of a “funk.” Friday night rolls around and you get invited to a party with some coworkers. You think to yourselfThis is probably going to be lame. I barely know these people. I doubt it will be any fun” and decide to just stay home alone, which adds to your depressed mood.

Making assumptions about what others are thinking.
You’re having a conversation with someone and they aren’t maintaining eye contact. They even yawn once. You figure they must be bored out of their mind and you discontinue the conversation immediately.

If you’re interested in reading a few more examples be sure to check out Day 10 & Day 11 from the anxiety series.

Let’s put a few things together. Yesterday’s ABC’s are:
  1. An activating event takes place.
  2. A thought runs through your head (perhaps one of the ones described today)
  3. An emotion or behavior results.

As you are either writing down or just thinking about when these situations occur in your life, get even more specific from now on regarding the category of thought that crossed your mind. Was it an “all or nothing/black or white” thought? Did you catastrophize a bit or attempt to read someone’s mind? Etc.

Keep working at this stuff. You really can get a handle on your thoughts, I promise!

See you soon!



Day 10 – Irrational/Distorted/Faulty/Just plain BAD, pt. 1

Today’s topic is Cognitive Distortions aka Faulty Beliefs aka Irrational Beliefs aka just plain bad thoughts. :) Have you ever heard of ’em? My guess is, even if you haven’t you’ve probably thought ’em!

Rather than defining these kinds of thoughts I’m gonna go straight to the examples. I think you’ll get the point. Think about which ones you find yourself struggling with the most. We ALL think these types of thoughts sometimes! Awareness is the first step in changing them!

Catastrophizing is imagining the worst possible scenarios in a given situation and allowing your thoughts to snowball, creating a lot of anxiety and fear! I’ve had this problem recently… What I’ll do is watch the news and lately we’ve been having some crazy weather here in the south! So I’ll listen to the weather reports and hear all about the snow and ice and how hazardous the roads can be if you’re not careful and get totally freaked out! Now the tough part is, there is some truth to my thoughts. The roads are dangerous but the thing is… we all need to be extra careful. And if the weather is bad enough businesses get shut down and we all stay home. I have a tendency to blow things completely out of proportion and imagine all of the worst case scenarios in my mind so I don’t even want to leave my house. Not good.

Black & White Thinking:
This is when we think in All or Nothing terms. Things are either Good or Bad, Black or White. There’s no middle ground. For example, let’s say you were up for a promotion but it ended up going to someone else. You think to yourself, “I’m never going to get promoted now.” Never?? Really??

Discounting the Positive:
Discounting is when we disregard anything positive about a given situation and focus only on the negative. For example, a student gets back a writing assignment with comments from the teacher. On the first page the teacher wrote, “Excellent work. Great points!” However, scattered throughout the paper are bits and pieces of constructive criticism so the student can improve his or her writing next time. The student neglects to focus on the overall comments in which the teacher praised the writing and only focuses on the fact that there were suggestions for improvement, which results in disappointment and anxiety about future assignments.

Mind Reading:
Mind Reading is when you make assumptions about what others are thinking based on arbitrary information. For example, let’s say you’re a mom and you try to schedule a play date with an acquaintance from church. The acquaintance turns you down and seems to be avoiding eye contact. You assume it must have something to do with you or your kids and starting racking your brain trying to figure out if you’ve ever done anything to upset or offend her. The truth is, she has marriage counseling during the time you suggested and felt uncomfortable because she and her husband have decided to keep it a secret for now.

Do any of these ring a bell so far? More tomorrow!

Day 8 – I think therefore I am

Do you have any idea how big an impact our thoughts have on our bodies, behavior and emotions? A lot! Let me give you an example. Maybe you’ve done this… I haven’t but I know people who have. (wink, wink).  :)

Let me set the stage… you wake up one day with a headache. It’s not horrible but it’s a definite annoyance all day. You don’t think much of it. The next day you wake up and the headache’s still there. “Hmm,” you think, “Oh well. Maybe I’m a tad under the weather.” This goes on for days. The headache gets worse. You feel tired. You begin stressing about this. “Why hasn’t it gone away?” You go on the internet and look at one of the diagnosing-type websites and learn about all the possible causes for your headache. “Oh no” you think, “This could be serious”. Anything from PMS to cancer! The thought is too much to bear! You notice your heart start racing. You cancel plans that night because you’re just not up for it. You find yourself feeling emotional and stressed out.

Some circumstances warrant a great deal of concern. Illness can be serious sometimes. But I use that as an example to illustrate how things can snowball.

When was the last time you let your mind run away from you? I’ll give you an example from my life. My husband and I moved about six months ago from Newport Beach, CA to Durham, NC. The two places couldn’t be more different. I am not someone who enjoys change by nature. It tends to be hard for me. My dad told me that my first year of preschool I cried every day and begged him not to leave me. My second year, I was like “See ya dad, I’ve got friends to go play with!” (Not sure why I was in preschool for two years but anywho)… For as long as I can remember, I have been someone that takes a bit longer than the average Joe to adjust to new things. So needlessness to say, my impending move caused great stress and worry last year. What’s funny though is that for all the time I spent worrying, this has ended up being one of the smoothest transitions I have ever dealt with. You just never know and worrying isn’t going to do a thing but add gray hairs to your head!

Have you been stressing out and worrying about anything lately? Have you experienced any benefit from it? Have you noticed anything negative that’s come out of it (physically, mentally, emotionally or behaviorally)?

Think about it!

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