Persevere – Life during coronavirus – Keep your mind in Check
B. KEEP YOUR MIND IN CHECK
Worries and negative thoughts focusing on the future, overestimating danger and underestimating our personal ability to cope are components of anxiety. Similarly, negative thoughts related to loss and our (exaggerated) negative qualities are a component of depression. Learning how to keep such thoughts at bay will have an immediate effect on our mood and our behaviour.
Below are presented two different techniques to help you take control of your worries and negative thoughts.
i. DEAL WITH YOUR WORRIES
We all have worrying thoughts at times. What is important to know is that worries come in two types: unproductive and productive.
Unproductive worries consist of issues we have no control over, such as whether we will get hit by a car, being made redundant or get caught up in an earthquake. In contrast, productive worries consist of issues we can turn into a problem to solve, such as whether we can get our work done on time, how to entertain wild toddlers or how to pay our bills.
Engaging with unproductive worries is distressing and exhausting as it leads nowhere but addressing productive worries results in resolving them and moving on.
Follow these steps to identify and deal with your worry:
First of all, it’s important you get your worry out of your head and on to a piece of paper where you can deal with it.
Now, write down in a brief and concise sentence:
What you are worrying about?
Is there anything you can do about it?
If the answer is No, then it’s likely what you are worrying about is an unproductive worry and holding on to it is of no benefit. A better strategy to address these worries is to Let go and distract yourself. You could do something you enjoy to take your mind off it, such as:
- Call a friend
- Watch a film
- Take part in a hobby
- . . .
- Can you think of anymore?
If the answer is Yes, then it’s likely what you are worrying about is a productive worry and you can resolve it. So take some time to Write down different ideas about what you could do to try to resolve your worry and when. If relevant, Cross out those that are impractical or too difficult to do and choose your preferred solution. Then ask yourself:
Is there anything you can do right now?
If No, then Let go and distract yourself (see some ideas above or come up with your own)
If Yes, great! Do it now!
Once you’ve done all you can it’s also time to Let go and distract yourself
ii. CHALLENGE YOUR NEGATIVE THOUGHTS
We are hardwired to think fast in most situations in order to keep up with the pace of our lives. While these unconscious mental shortcuts our brain relies can be useful, they tend to be biased and can result in negative thoughts. Sometimes these thoughts can be so persuasive and persistent they affect how we feel and behave.
By simply taking the time to ask ourselves if there is another, more helpful way to look at a situation, we adopt an approach that can counteract automatic and biased negative thoughts, and avoid their effects on us. This can positively affect our mood and help us make better choices about how to respond and behave towards ourselves and others.
To challenge a negative thought while you’re thinking it (or as soon as it is practically possible!) try the following:
Get it out – it’s important to get your negative thought out of your head and on to paper where you can deal with it.
So write the thought down and draw a vertical line next to it and then answer the questions below. Each time, at least one if not several will be relevant. You can record your answers to any chosen questions to the right of the vertical line.
- What are the exceptions to this thought?
- What might a more optimistic friend say about the situation?
- How important will this be to me in a year’s time?
- Am I thinking in black and white terms?
- Am I thinking in absolute terms such as “everything”, “nothing”, “no-one,” or “everybody”?
- Am I only paying attention to certain evidence and disregarding other relevant evidence?
- Am I discounting any positive aspects of the situation?
- Am I jumping to conclusions by attempting to read others’ minds or predict the future?
- Am I blowing things out of proportion?
- Am I thinking this just because I feel a certain way?
- Am I thinking about myself or others using critical and inflexible words like “should” or “must”?
- Am I assigning labels to myself or others?
- Am I blaming myself too much and ignoring the role of other people?
- Am I blaming others for something that was my fault?
NB: For more information on this technique, you can read here a relevant article.
B. KEEP YOUR MIND IN CHECK
NOTE: This guide will be updated as necessary, so please avoid quoting or summarising its content in case it changes; instead share a link to the page directly. If you are a colleague and wish to contribute to this guide, please get in touch. If you find this guide helpful, please send me your comments, questions or suggestions. I can update and add to this series of blogs accordingly.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr Patapia Tzotzoli founded My Psychology Clinic where she gained her reputation working as Clinical Psychologist with clients on one to one basis in London and worldwide via online therapy. She specialises in adult mental health and couples therapy. Studied at the universities of East London, Oxford and Cambridge and trained at the Institute of Psychiatry where she worked across world-renowned NHS Trusts.
Click here to book an online session or in person with Dr Patapia Tzotzoli at My Psychology Clinic.