Day 20 – To sum it all up…

Down to the wire folks! Here’s a summary of what’s been covered in the Healthy Thinking series. We’ve gone over a lot and I hope everyone has been able to pull out to least a few tips to apply to your lives.

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Here goes:

1) Learn your ABC’s. What does this mean? Well, when a situation occurs and you feel your emotions sky-rocketed, think back to what just took place and identify the following:

  • A) Activitating Event: What was the situation? Describe it either on paper or in your mind.
  • B) Behavior: What did you do?
  • C) Consequences: What did you think and feel as a result?

See Day 2, Day 3,  Day 5 and Day 6 to review this concept.

2) Begin to recognize your Automatic Thoughts vs. Core Beliefs.

  • Automatic Thoughts: These are repetitive thoughts that pop into our minds all throughout the day. They can be either positive or negative and are essentially are knee-jerk reactions to whatever is going on.
  • Core Beliefs: These are deeply engrained, inflexible beliefs we have been holding onto since childhood. These are much harder to change and greatly influence everything we do.

See Day 7, Day 8,  Day 9 and Day 17 to review this concept.

3) Our thoughts have a massive impact on our struggles with anxiety, depression and anger. By understanding our thought processes we can gain a better handle on these other concerns.

4) It’s not always about us! Often times we personalize situations and make assumptions that other people’s problems are somehow related to us. Let their issues be their issues! If you think they have a problem with you, ask them. If they say no, move on! Don’t stew about it because eventually you will become resentful.

See Day 4 for more on personalization.

5) Be your own best friend.If you can’t accept yourself how will you ever expect others to? We are all a work-in-progress so cut yourself some slack for cryin’ out loud! :)

See Day 10 and Day 11 for more on self-acceptance.

See you tomorrow for the last day of the series!

Day 10 – Self-Acceptance

Hello! As we’ve discussed the past few days, Core Beliefs reveal a lot about a person’s self worth. If someone believes they are unlovable at their core, how much self esteem could they really have? I shared my own story a few days ago (Day 8) and when I was living and breathing the belief “I am unlovable” I considered myself a pretty low priority, both to myself and to others. I didn’t take care of myself very well and I accommodated as much as possible to the wants and needs of others, rather than considering my own desires.
So today’s topic is all about acceptance – acceptance of yourself and acceptance of others. This is different than simply telling yourself you’re great, believing it and moving on with your life. Self-acceptance and the stereotypical “rah rah” self-esteem boosters are two entirely different things. Self-acceptance is much deeper. It involves an intrinsic belief in yourself that is not easily swayed by external circumstances. People may disagree with you at times, disapprove of what you do and even cut you out for reasons unbeknownst to you. These types of interactions are difficult and can bring pain to even the most self-assured person! However, they do not change the fact that you are valuable and loved.
Here is the truth:
  • We are humans and therefore are NOT perfect!  We can’t expect ourselves to do everything right all the time. It is totally unrealistic!
  • We are always changing and developing. As time goes on, we encounter new situations and people that help us to grow.
  • Even our mistakes help shape us into the people we are meant to become. We may take the long, hard road instead of the easy one, but even the detours can be used for good… to teach and strengthen us.
  • We can’t “rate” ourselves in the same way we rate a movie or a product; we are far too complex.
Because we are always changing, aging, growing… we need to have a flexible attitude about who we are and about life. What may exist in your life today may not be here tomorrow. And possibilities that seem out of reach one day may not be the next. Remaining open and flexible allows us to embrace all kinds of opportunities that may come up.
There are a few different ways to approach self-acceptance and like I have stated many times, it is a process. You can’t simply tell yourself one time to be more self-accepting and suddenly feel completely different. Tomorrow I will get into some strategies to develop a more accepting attitude toward yourself. See you then!

Day 8 – “I am not good enough” etc.

I am back! So sorry about last week. I flat-out stopped blogging for the first time since I started! Sadly, I was in bed with a migraine but after a few days of rest, it finally broke and I am back up-and-running. We are on Day 8 of the series, continuing with what we’ve started regarding Core Beliefs. As promised, today we’re going to go over the types of Core Beliefs. Perhaps you’ll see yourself in some of these.

Quick disclaimer – To really process core beliefs it may be necessary to seek the help of a life coach or therapist (Cognitive Behavior Therapy deals specifically with thought processes). Becoming aware of Core Beliefs is a first step but for many of us it isn’t simply a matter of discovering them and instantly experiencing change. These beliefs have been engrained in us since we were kids (and for some of us that’s a long time)! It takes time, increased self-awareness and practice to really begin to live differently. It is highly possible though and we’re going to get started today!

Core Beliefs typically look like this:

  • “Others are…”
  • “The world is…”
  • “I am…”

“I am unlovable” – My story…

I spent many years of my life absolutely terrified of conflict. I felt that to disagree with someone would mean that I would no longer be loved or accepted by them. There were times when I would try to express a different point-of-view or go down a different path, but it always seemed to be met with great resistance from others. I began to believe that in order to be loved, I must be agreeable, compliant and try to avoid anything that could make waves. I even remember once in high school, being told by a friend that the best thing about me was how I would always go with the flow and just agree with people all the time. Well of course others would love this about me! I took this as a compliment back then, thinking, “Yeah that’s me. I get along with everyone, I agree with everyone” etc. But I had no idea who I was. It wasn’t until college that I began to realize I did not have my own opinions about hardly anything. Even if I wanted to debate an issue just for fun, most likely I had absolutely no idea what I thought about it. It hit me, I had been so agreeable for so long because at the core of who I was, I did not believe I was lovable as-is. I was only lovable if I was the person everyone else wanted me to be.

As time went on and I matured throughout my 20’s, I worked through this negative Core Belief. I began to figure out what I really thought about things and to “practice” disagreeing if the opportunity arose. Thanks to the help of therapists, a life coach, grad school and supportive relationships I no longer cling to the negative Core Belief of being unlovable.

Let’s look at another example. If someone had the Core Belief, “I am powerless” how might they respond?

  • They would probably be pretty anxious and afraid.
  • They might be dependant on others, feeling that they need people to be “okay.”
  • They may feel unable to deal with change or any other curve-ball life throws at them.
  • They might feel trapped, like others are trying to control them.

What about “I am inadequate?”

  • Most likely a perfectionist.
  • They might try to do, do, do in order to be loved.
  • They may seek after titles or fame in order feel good enough.

Let’s look at “The world is not safe.”

  • Might feel like they cannot depend on others. They must rely on themselves.
  • Might feel a lack of security in relationships and the world.
  • Might feel unsure, scared, anxious, depressed…

As you may have noticed, most Core Beliefs relate in some way to the individual’s sense of self worth; we are not good enough or we just can’t cut it in this scary world.

As I mentioned in Day 7 we live our lives, according to our beliefs (somewhat manipulated by them in fact). When we encounter certain situations or interact with people, we interpret them in such a way that will support our Core Beliefs. For example, if I believe I am powerless, I may interpret other people’s attempts to help me solve problems, as examples of them trying to control me. Or if I believe I am inadequate, I may interpret a B on a test as an example of how stupid I am.

What do your automatic thoughts say about your deeper, Core Beliefs? We’ll continue with this tomorrow!

See you then!

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.”

Catastrophizing:
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.

Forecasting:
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.

Mind-Reading:
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 11 – Irrational/Distorted/Faulty/Just plain BAD, pt. 2

What did you think of yesterday’s post? Did any of those thoughts resonate with you? Again, we all think these kinds of thoughts sometimes. It’s normal! Just because the thoughts are bad doesn’t mean YOU are! However, if we can prevent some unnecessary anxiety by improving our thought processes, we might as well, right?!

So on to more of those pesky beliefs:

Labeling:
Labeling is when we… well, label someone or something because we’re unhappy. For example, a teenage girl wants to stay out late on a date with her boyfriend but her parents say she has to stick to her curfew. She thinks to herself, “My parents are such dictators. I can’t stand them.”

Feelings are Facts:
Contrary to popular belief we do not have to be controlled by our feelings. Often times we think that because we feel a certain way, it’s reality. That is simply not true! Especially for women, this can be a huge struggle sometimes. An example of this is: You’re feeling lonely one weekend because you don’t have plans and you think to yourself “No one likes me. I must have a terrible personality because I have no friends”.

Forecasting:
Forecasting is when we predict that things will turn out badly. For example, you go to the doctor to get a biopsy and, before you get the results, think to yourself “it must be cancer.”

Judging:
Judging is when we are critical and often use such words as should, must, have to etc. For example, after writing a blog you think to yourself “I never should have written that. People are gonna stop following me now!” None of us ever do that right?! :)

Self-Blaming:
This is pretty self-explanatory. It’s when we blame ourselves for things that are not our responsibility. For example, a woman who is married to an alcoholic might think, “It’s all my fault. He wouldn’t drink if I was a better wife.”

Do any of these types of thinking make you go hmm? Don’t stress if you struggle with these! Information is power! Now you know!

What now though? Here is an exercise for you: Write down the 2 you struggle with most on a 3 x 5 card. Tape it to your bathroom mirror to remind yourself not to think like that! You are worth a lot more than your negative self talk leads you to believe! When you find yourself thinking one of those types of thoughts tell yourself “stop” and change your thought around to be something positive.

See you tomorrow!

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:
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 9 – More thoughts on thoughts

Like I said yesterday, our thoughts have a huge impact on our emotions, behavior etc. Many people think that circumstances or emotions control what we think but the reality is, it can be the other way around. Let me explain… I have a friend who has some serious road rage. We’ll be driving together sometimes and when a car cuts her off she gets really frustrated! Whereas I could care less (not sure why – it IS a frustrating thing to get cut off – but it’s never bothered me much), she cares a lot! She’ll say things like “what a jerk” and “why are people so rude?!” etc. I can see her countenance change and it is obvious that her temperature is rising! I tend to remain more calm and try to let it go. In both of our cases, the situation is the same. We were both driving and got cut off. But for her, the situation creates a great deal of anger and anxiety and can even keep her on edge long after the “cut-off” occurred. I can let it go and move on with my day with relatively little fluctuation in emotion.

Our perception of events and what we tell ourselves as a result has a huge impact on how we feel. For those of us who are prone to anxiety, it is crucial to begin to recognize when these negative thoughts come up and stop them from affecting our moods or even our whole day.

Here is the hard part: Many times these thoughts will come up and we won’t even realize it. They are actually known as “automatic thoughts” in the psych circles. So what we need to work on is stepping out of stressful situations (by taking some deep breaths or literally even stepping away) and carefully observing the thoughts we think, as well as the effect they are having on our anxiety levels. Is there something more positive we could think instead? Or at least something more balanced? Using the above example, we could think: “Yes I just got cut off and that really sucks. However, I don’t know that person’s story. Maybe they are on their way to something really important and are in a hurry. I am not going to let this ruin my morning.” Or something like that. You get the point. Notice the positive effect it has on your anxiety and emotions.

One final example… I have heard this story many times and it really makes me think. (I apologize if I butcher it. I don’t have it in front of me to quote exactly). There is a guy riding on the subway alone and he is next to another gentlemen with two young children. The kids are acting up and really getting on the nerves of  the guy who is by himself. Finally, he angrily says to the gentleman with the two children, “What’s wrong with your kids? Can’t you keep them under control?” (or something to that effect). The gentleman apologizes profusely and tells the man that his wife, the children’s mother, just died and they are on their way home from the hospital. They are absolutely devastated and don’t know what to do.

We never know what’s going on with other people or why they behave the way they do. Keep that in mind when you find yourself getting worked up and thinking negative thoughts about other people or situations!

See you 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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