…and other strategies to challenge wrong thinking and emotional overwhelm.
The first step is always to identify and name specific thoughts, cognitive distortions or biases. Before we can change a thought, we have to know it.
Above is a chart of common cognitive distortions and biases about…fruit. Specifically, apples. I’ve included ones that would be most relevant to current stressors. They are presented on the same page, but they are not the *same thing*. There is a relationship between some cognitive biases and cognitive distortions. Chances are, if a thought sounds like a distortion or a bias, it is a thought that should be looked at more closely. But we *all* get these sometimes; it’s just part of being human.
Step Two can be a lot of different things, depending on the issue and specifics of the situation. The following are a few examples.
- Play Out Worst Case Scenario: [example shown above: question progression is 1.what is my fear 2.how likely is it 3.How bad could it get 4.If it got that bad, what would I do?]
- Examine the Evidence: precisely what it sounds like. Look for the most objective and accurate information on the issue. When dealing with interpersonal relationships and similar, “evidence” will also include personal experience/history.
- Scale it: Locate the issue as it falls between two extremes. Try to prevent absolute thinking and judgments, especially applied to negative thoughts. I also scale my stress level throughout the day. Simply making a more precise assessment of how we feel about something can significantly alter how affected by it we are.
- Re-Scripting (psycholinguistics): Words are powerful. We often forget just how much emotional attachment we have for words, collectively and individually. Re-scripting is re-constructing the story or situation from a different perspective. Eliminate “absolute” phrases and any words with significant emotional undertones; replace with more neutral or positive language. Re-scripting is changing the way we talk about things to ourselves (and others).
- Positive Re-structuring: Positive restructuring goes beyond the language and focuses on the context and perspective. Social Distancing changes drastically with perspective: “we have to stay home” vs “I get to be a superhero without even needing to put pants on”.
- Attention Shift:
- Gratitude: Practicing gratitude is a simple habit that can help us naturally re-structure our thoughts daily and form the habit of seeing that alternate perspective in real time and avoid the “worrying for nothing”. A simple thing is: Each night before bed, make a list of 3-5 things about your day for which you are grateful.